November 2004

Nigel represented South Africa in the World Precision Flying Championships and World Rally Flying Championships held in Denmark in 2004. He finished 5th in the Precision competition with only 161 penalty points and with his navigator was 4th in the Rally competition.

Earlier in the year Nigel had entered the Danish National Precision Competition as practice for the World Championships which he won.

Nigel’s achievements assisted the Protea Flying Team in obtaining a 4th and 7th position in the team results in the World Rally and Precision Championships respectively.



Port Elizabeth 20 November 2004

By Roger Thomas

For weeks leading up to the EC Rally, the question on one teams mind was – should we be looking to make the jump to open from the sportsman class?

Hans Schwebel
Hans Schwebel reading the news after landing

As navigator, I had got used to sprawling instruments, map and myself over a nice comfortable, stationary table in the briefing room. Now enclose me in a tin can with no comfortable desk and turn us onto spin cycle. It was a worrying consideration.

We had some reasonable success in the sportsman class and had built up some great friendly rivalry over the last few rallies with another team being Tony van Vliet at the controls and the human GPS – Mark Snelgar. Also entered into the rivalry at the last Ritchie Rally was Paul Ferreira. We were wondering what these teams were going to do.

A few days before the event and in walks the navigator with a large piece of cardboard (from a Rotax engine box) to be used as a template to see how big a desk could be constructed in the back of a C172. Two days later a plywood kneeboard spanning the entire width of the ‘172 was ready. Hardly a kneeboard being that size! More like a lap board.

Following the desk fitment, the decision was made – Open Class it will be. Now that we had the desk bit sorted out, we just weren’t sure what would happen when we were put onto spin cycle and contend with a desk that would be bouncing around. That would equate closer to a lap dance – well we can wish can’t we?

Rod Crews and Jack Wiehahn
Winners of Sportsman Class – Rod and Jack. Trophy handed over by Dave Perelson and Denise Booysen

We had prepared ourselves for getting used to not appearing at the top section of the results list – after all this was a provincial competition and there was going to be some serious competitors entering. Names like Ron Stirk and Barry de Groot were being spoken (and others that had represented SA in the recent World’s competition), so we had to know what we were up against. We were going to be happy with being somewhere from midfield onwards toward the bottom.

Jan Hanekom had arrived in PE about three days before the event. I am not sure if he came down early to take a break from work, or whether it was to orientate himself. At supper the evening before the rally, Jan indicated to me that whilst driving around in a part of our countryside, that the farm fence lines were pretty accurate on our maps. Now I was scared – these guys are really serious!

I then heard that Mary de Klerk was not going to be coming down to PE – something about her or Barry being ill. Pity really – I needed to get re-current again with my map coloring-in skills that she had taught us a few years back at the same provincial rally. I can’t remember if it was yellow highlighter for Trig Beacons, or if that was for power lines. 😉

Friday night and it was briefing time. Dave Perelson, our competition director, went through the normal type briefing, and then gave us a bit of insight to some of the new rules. This was to be the first Rally in SA under the new regulations. Something about flying in circles and arcs and following features. This was going to be interesting. Added to this, there were some points we were not going to receive clue sheets for until we had passed a certain point on route.

Roger Thomas and Tracey Simms
Roger Thomas and Tracey Simms – overall winners

Saturday morning arrived and “lovely” South Westerly was doing it’s number. I had checked the TAF’s and upper air wind charts before departing for the club – 17 knots on the ground and 30 knots at 3000 feet. They only knot I was worrying about after that was the one in my stomach!

On arriving at the club, Dave had indicated that they had re-calculated our times with a wind correction of 15 knots.

A quick call to my team mate and pilot Tracy Simms to ensure he was on his way. I then scampered to the aircraft and proceeded to set up. A neat trick I had seen at the 2003 World Championships was to use prestik and stick every instrument to the window for easy access. No having to scramble around to find your tools.

Tracy and I kept on assuring each other that nothing had changed. Since our first rally together our motto has been – “Let us go and have some fun!”

15 Minutes to go before take off time, and instructions were handed to us. The game was on!

There was one positive about plotting in the cockpit – No sign of Glen Meyburgh to fluster me! (Sorry Glen had to get this one in). Glen was Chief of Jury for this provincial rally. I do believe he popped his head past to see how we were doing, but being under this unfamiliar pressure of open class, I was concentrating and the outside world simply did not exist.

Jan Hanekom
Jan Hanekom – First “Solo Pilot”

There were some silly mistakes I made in the plotting, for instance between CP4 and 5 was an arc we had to fly. The arc had been provided on a map in the instructions with both points marked. I however wasted some time in plotting CP4 before I realized this. One of the other mistakes was so ridiculous I am not even going to share it.

I managed to have the 2 maps plotted before we went over the start, and was able to complete the headings by end of leg 1. Thank goodness, as with that wind, it was quite bumpy and I needed to get my head out of the cockpit before the knot in my stomach gained some altitude and made a non standard arrival.

The route was very different to past rallies. For one leg we had to follow a railway line – being the feature, which made it interesting – up until now all rallies consisted of was straight tracks. Once we identified one of the sidings on the railway track, we were able to plot the missing points that were not provided in the original set of instructions.

For the arc, I think my head should have been outside, as I think the additional workload on the pilot made it a little busier than normal and we did not do too well at identifying some of the en route photographs that were surely to be on the arc. The additional plots could have waited a little later.

A single check point eluded us as we flew straight over it, but as we were far too early for it, we discounted it as the correct spot. Later we found, as did many others (about 90% of the field), we had over flown the point and into the neighboring Addo Elephant park and below the minima for national parks. Eina! In our analysis later, we concluded that the wind had not been as strong as had been factored in, and thus made us ‘early’ to the point – being an into wind and a very short leg.

Roger Thomas and Tracey Simms
Winners of Open Class – Roger and Tracey. Trophy handed over by Dave Perelson and Denise Booysen

On returning Hans Schwebel was at the clubhouse, and we asked him how things had gone. He had found all the en route photos – and he had been flying alone! This confirmed our feelings as to where we would be placed in the competition. Later Jan Hanekom returned and also had found all the en-route photographs.

It was a real treat to see and compete against some of South Africa’s finest. It also demonstrated that rally flying is much about practice making perfect. This is shown very much by our own team of Brett Williams and his daughter, Christine, who improve with every single rally they have entered.

I think later that night in the pub, Tony van Vliet suggested that we should end our rivalry and for both teams to work together on taking on some of the other rallies held around the country. A great thought – watch out Eastern Cape may make a charge!

Final results were divided into three categories as a number of the pilots qualifying for open class either did not have navigators or, in the case of Anton janse van Vuuren and Walter Walle, had brand new navigators that had never flown before.

Open Class

  • 1st Place T Simms & Roger Thomas
  • 2nd Place T van Vliet & M Snelgar
  • 3rd Place P Ferreira & B Manthe
  • 4th Place B & C Williams

“Special” Class

  • 1st Place J Hanekom
  • 2nd Place H Schwebel
  • 3rd Place R Phillips
  • 4th Place W Walle & J Onderstall
  • 5th Place A janse van Vuuren (father and son team)

Sportsmans Class

  • 1st Place J Wiehahn & R Crews (England)
  • 2nd Place M Coutinho & S Mandel
  • 3rd Place R Parmar & P Sutton
  • 4th Place J Oates & G van Eeden
  • 5th Place P Puren & G Wiggins
  • 6th Place B Pilarczyk & K Seii

Thanks to Dave Perelson, Glen Meyburgh, Chris Booysen and all the marshals and helpers for a great day. Also a big thanks to all the pilots from outside of the PE area for taking the effort to attend one of our events.