At Gariep Dam
President’s Trophy Air Race which will take place at Gariep Dam Airfield from the 29th May until the 1 June 2014 and is hosted by the Hans Potgieter & Sharon Malcolm of Air Show & Events..
This Air Race, one of the most prestigious events on the aviation calendar, has a long and wonderful history. It was originally known as the Governor General’s Air Race and was first held in 1937. The cup was originally presented by the then Governor General of South Africa, His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Patrick Duncan.
The trophy, which is still in the possession of Aero Club, was manufactured in Sheffield, England by Mapfin & Webbs Ltd at a cost of approximately 750 Pounds Sterling.
The event was organised to coincide with the opening of Durban’s new airport at Stamford Hill. The winner was R Coul,l flying WN Hulett’s Hornet Moth and the route being from Durban via Ladysmith to Rand for an overnight stop before returning to Durban via Bloemfontein and Bethlehem.
The war unfortunately put a stop to the race and it was not until 1954 that the Governor General’s Cup Race was held again. It was won by a young SAAF pilot 2nd Lt BM Fletcher with an average speed of 194 mph in a SAAF Harvard, Lt Flethcer was killed a week later when the Vampire Jet aircraft in which he was practicing aerobatics immediately prior to the opening of Louis Botha Airport, crashed.
P Nieman is technically still the holder of the Governor General’s Cup as it was he who won the last race for that trophy held in 1961. In 1962 President Swart, the new head of State, presented the State Presidents Trophy to the Aero Club. This trophy has become a much sought after piece of hardware in the flying community. The race was affectionately known as the “SP” has been held all around the country with aircraft flying to points right across South Africa. Apart from a few breaks the Race has been held on an annual basis, normally in May or early June of each year. A list of winners is maintained on the SAPFA website.
The format of the race has changed over the years. When it started it was run over a period of two days covering 1000 statute miles (1 600 km or 863 nautical miles) and all of the four provinces ( Cape, Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal).
In 1983 the format was changed and the race consisted of two triangular routes starting and finishing in Vanderbijlpark. The routes were approximately 400nm and took the competitors to Volksrust and Bothaville on day one and to Warrenton and Delareyville on day two.
Since 1983 this format has been maintained but the distance has been shortened to between approximately 300 nm and 350 nm per day for safely reasons. When possible, on the second day, the course forms a bow-tie shape so that the aircraft pass the start/finish halfway through the race to add spectator value.
While there are a number of pilots that have been part of the winning crew more than once, only one team has won the event twice. Mike and Jean van Ginkel won the event in 1969 and 1971 in their Piper PA-30 Twin Commanche, ZS-EVB.
In 1994 the race was renamed the President’s Trophy Air Race so that the title of the head of state is in line with the new Constitution of the country. Technology is making it’s presence felt with the GPS loggers and computers making the technical aspects of scoring and timekeeping more accurate and easier.
All else remains the same, the excitement, the camaraderie, the spirit and the excitement around the country is a feeling that is very special and difficult to explain to someone who has not yet done it.
Next year, we are estimating to once again have a full field of approximately 100-110 aircraft , each with pilot, navigator and joining families. Including SAFPA, the hosts and all the parties involved in making the event possible, we normally have 350 plus people attending. Surrounding towns in the area shall be used as turning points, but cannot be disclosed before the race.
This year we have the great opportunity to come fly and enjoy a beautiful part of South Africa. The local flying fraternity as well as local community have been great in their support. We as SAPFA believe it is going to be a great success once again.