Nationals 2022 held at Wings Park, East London.
All I can say is WOW! What a great event!
I spent the last few months agonizing over how to handle the decisions involved in hosting the nationals; should we postpone, should we push through, what if it is a total disaster in terms of attendance, etc. Exhausting! Anyway, consensus was reached and thankfully we decided to hold nationals regardless!
Most of us wanted to arrive on Tuesday but the weather was terrible so we decided to leave on Wednesday. I took off from Klerksdorp in freezing weather an hour and a half late as a result of carb icing. I first thought the fuel we put in was off, so we drained it all out and refilled with fresh fuel. On start I realized that it must have been carb icing because the motor ran perfectly. The carb iced up whilst idling with the temp sitting at minus 3 degrees C!
Anyway, I got into the aircraft looking like the proverbial Michelin Man, couldn’t feel anything because of the cold, battled like anything to strap myself in, and off I went. Quick stop at Tempe for fuel and then the long haul for Wings Park. The closer I got to WP, the stronger the wind was becoming and a downwind runway inspection showed the YAK doing 180 knots! Did a teardrop and hovered on to bowling green 27. Eventually I managed to squirm out of the YAK and stumbled over to the clubhouse where I spent a half an hour thawing out in front of a very welcoming fire!
The wind was howling at about 30 knots on the ground and freezing cold. I stood there wondering where all the heat comes from in the summer in the cockpit that leaves me sweating like a Blue Bull supporter at the finals last Saturday.
Practice slots were being braved unsuccessfully in the wind but at least we could get an idea of the much improved sea level performance and box orientation.
Wednesday evening and we were treated to a lovely supper and live entertainment and the usual drinks and kuier.
Thursday weather proved much better and briefing was done and the comp started with the entire field finishing program one before sundown. As usual, our judges were the best, bravely sitting outside exposed to the elements, frozen to the core, just for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Quintin had his hand full as chief judge and scorer but with the help of his fellow judges and Annie had the final scores out in no time.
At 18:00 we started the AGM and this occurred without any problems but lively and enthusiastic discussion over various proposals and rule amendments. The last year’s committee was re-elected with addition of Jason and Patrick as new committee members.
Figure choosing was next and then the usual party time, lovely food and live music again! As usual Gary du Randt knew all the words to all the songs and sang along merrily! I have always wondered whether a couple beers improved one’s ability to remember song lyrics?
By now I am getting used to the 31km drive back to the guest house. One of the WP members, Steve Onion, owns this beautiful guest house, “The White House”, situated right on the beach in Gonubie, with two marvelous sea views!
Friday morning’s wind was a little better but still above limits but promising to ease a little later in the morning. Briefing was held in the usual efficient manner and first flight was at 10:15. The flights were incident free and by 17:30 we were all done. Party time again but this time we had a two piece country and western group to keep the feet tapping. Scores were finalized by about seven. We drew figures for program four having drawn program two and three the previous evening. After being treated to some fine fare and ‘kak praat’ it was off to bed.
I woke up Saturday morning to a fresh breeze which slowly developed into an out of limits blow by eight. Briefings were held every couple of hours and first flight eventually happened at 14:30. There was enough time for all classes to fly but unfortunately the late start put paid to flying program four. The day ended off with a marvelous freestyle flown by Patrick in honour of Sammy.
Sixty two kilometers later and we are back, after a shower and the donning of the appropriate attire, for our gala dinner and prize giving. This was held in the WP wedding venue and is really a classy joint conveniently placed right next to the WP club house. The evening started with snacks and cocktails with all the men looking unusually smart and clean, and the ladies, at their most beautiful.
We were then all seated at exquisitely set tables and treated to a fine evening of excellent dining, fine wines and entertainment. The MC for the evening, Greg Ritz, in his own words, Paddy’s bitch, had us rolling in the isles with his quick wit and soft insults. ( he claims Quintin is Elton John’s double! ). Sorry Greg, but you have been co-opted onto the committee, your portfolio being entertainment manager and media liaison officer. Thank you!
After prize giving it was off to the club house for the after party with live entertainment provided by Jakkie Louw. He had everyone jumping around with his unique style of Afrikaans music. Darren really worried me as I saw him dancing and singing along word for word! I thought he was a rooinek?
As a responsible tea totaller, I left at a decent hour but the party carried on into the wee early hours and was really enjoyed and in some cases, overjoyed, by all!
Some words from participants:
Helm: “I think it was great and it’s a great venue the only shortcoming is the need for an alternative judging position and this is for the pilots, not for the judges. The only other issue I have is that I think we should have a separate space to finish off all the competition stuff, ie, scoring, figure selection, AGM, protests, video viewing etc, free of noise and distractions.”
Oeloe: “The most awesome week of my life! I have never enjoyed so much camaraderie and I learnt volumes in respect of aerobatic flying, all the contestants and organizers were very helpful, the venue was flippin absolutely great full stop! My only negative comment would be the lack of support from our aerobatic community.”
Gary: “In my opinion there was nothing negative at the nationals , it was well organized , I think Annie used the term ‘Gees’ and I don’t think it gets better than that. There was an amazing vibe amongst all the people involved that I have never experienced at any other venue, it was just good all round. I love the runway, very soft on the tyres and smooth. I would go back anytime”
Mitch: “I think it was a fantastic event, everybody was saying, considering the circumstances, it was well attended with good feedback from all. From the WP side it was first big event at the new clubhouse which went down thoroughly well, the community loved it and only had good things to say and we look forward to hosting another comp in the next few years.”
Quintin: ” It was a fantastic well organized event, mainly by the Hosts, WP, despite them not having too much experience in organizing a nationals but they were helped by all. Unfortunately the event was not that well supported by our members but we managed to put it together, the discipline was to a large extent maintained leading to a very successful and safe event, which is the most important thing at the end of the day”.
Patrick: I really enjoyed it! I think the venue, the people, the hospitality was proper, I mean, in my opinion probably one of the best nationals, bar the wind, that we have had in a long time, an awesome contest! The only negative comment I would have is the lack of support from the club members. On the positive side the camaraderie, the good food, the live music all added up to make this a great comp”
After all is said and done, the people that missed out on this nationals , really missed a great event but I am convinced that circumstances played a large role and that things can only get better from now on. I look forward to seeing a resurgence in participation in the future to the point where we need more days to complete a comp.
Thanks once again to Mitch and his team for accommodating the nationals in such a professional and hospitable manner! Thanks to Annie for all the effort you put in, where you get all the energy from, I would love to know?
See detailed Results here