Jul 1985

10thWestern Province Air Rally

Held in Fisantekraal – 1985

By Mike Seymour

Ten years ago a then ten years younger Di Marshall was asked to represent the Aero Club of South Africa in the Western Cape. In those days Aero Club was not as streamlined as it is today and poor Di not only looked after power flying but also hang gliding, parachuting, ballooning, etc. It was also Di who brought us the lst Western Province Air Rally.

Mike Seymour
Mike Seymour

What a Rally that was! It was going to be the biggest flying do the Western Cape had ever seen. Plans were well on the way to making it a real humdinger of an air display cum rally and a great deal of money was being spent on the strength of the committee’s dreams and visions. Then the law struck – fuel restrictions! The axe fell. Dreams and visions do not put money in the bank. The Controller of Petroleum Products said no air show, no gate money and no public. Somehow or another the show went on without the public and gate fee which we needed to bail us out of the mire.

The whole world came to that rally, including Sheila Scott from the U.K. The day dawned and true to Cape Town weather form, it was foul and the alternate route had to be flown. All 45 aircraft did a two leg trip to Oudtshoorn and a two leg trip back to Fisantekraal. There were no secret check points, no ground markers and no photographs. We had not yet thought of such nasties. Our timing devices – Pidgeon Clocks! When the clocks came home they all read different times – what a calculation. However, help was at hand, Nigel Forrester had a real live digital watch and he kindly loaned it to us to time the aircraft on the home leg. By the way the master clock also got heat stroke!

The flying side of the rally was a little unexciting but the function went according to plan. A Friday night pre-rally party was held in Rondebosch, most of the pilots and navigators were still there in the early hours of the next morning. The wine always tastes better in the Cape. The, lunch at Oudtsboorn, was smashing and the gala dinner at Fisantekraal in a marquee was a party that few people will ever forget.

Di had to face the Aero Club Central Committee and ask to be bailed out of a debt amounting to R 1 500 and that was a heap of bread way back in 1974. In 1975 we repaid our debt.

Some things never seem to change. You still have to get permission from the Controller of Petroleum Products to host a rally and Di Marshall still helps with the Western Province Air Rally.

Today, I feel that our Rally is very close to world class. We still have excellent rally parties (also world class) both before and after the event. This year’s pre-rally party was a winner and Stellenbosch Farmers’ Wineries were not shy in helping us make it a sparkling affair.

On the flying side we try to make it as challenging as possible. The crew have become so expert at time keeping that if there were no photographs or ground markers, the winner would be extremely difficult to find.

As this was our tenth year, I tried to make the route as scenic as possible and took the risk of crossing the mountains. Once in a while we are lucky with the weather, this was it, our gamble paid off.

Leg 1 and 2 took the competitors towards the west coast and up past Darling. By the time check point 2 had been reached they were timed three times and should have seen three ground markers and two photographs. Leg 3 was an unrestricted leg – there were seven railway stations circled on the maps and two carefully taken photographs of two of the stations. On this leg circling etc. was allowed, all that was required was that the photographs should be matched with the correct stations and that check point 3 should be reached on time. This leg went across from the west through the Gouda Gap and down the valley to Worcester. Leg 4 was straight on down the valley. Leg 5 was a 105 nm curve on out of the valley over Stormsviei over Stanford and the Hermanus lagoon, along the Hermanus coast line, over the Botrivierviei lagoon through the Botriver valley, over the Threewaterskloof Dam and ended at the top of the Franschhoek Pass – the most scenic curve ever flown. (Some competitors forgot that it was a rally and opted for a scenic drive.) Leg 6 down the Franschhoek valley to an intersection 5 nm east of Fisantekraal. Leg 7 – 5 nm long back to Fisantekraal, just to sort the men from the boys.

When they landed back at Fisantekraal our intrepid aviators should have seen 10 photographs, seven ground markers and had been timed at seven points. Finally the pilots had to land in a demarcated box for bonus points.

This year’s rally was won by the superb team of Eric Stratford and Colin Jordaan from the Transvaal. Second were Jury Steyn and Frans Grotepass, local pilots, and third place went to an old guest of ours Malcolm Spence and Tony Downs from the Eastern Cape.

At the end of the day and through all the post mortems we always say how grand it is to be able to meet with our old flying friends and to welcome the new. It is my hope that come what may we will always be able to conjure up something new and a little different and that our rallies will go on and on and on, and that we shall in some small way be able to contribute to aviation by setting a high standard for all pilots who love flying.

See you next time.