Air Racing on Alderney 
– Action All The Way

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

After two year of not being able to get into the air; once for technical reasons and once for atrocious weather, the top pilots in the field of air racing finally got their chance to try out Alderney’s brand new, spectator-friendly course. And did they enjoy it! All the way round our coastline, plus an excursion to Les Casquets made it the most beautiful course in the air race calendar.

Planes of all shapes and sizes can take part, so to make the ‘playing field’ as level as possible, it is flown to a handicap system, whereby the slowest aircraft get airborne first and the fastest last. If the handicapper gets it right they all approach the newly positioned finish line at the breakwater at about the same time.

Having completed their compulsory course practice, the first race was for the Aurigny Air Services Trophy, the winner being rewarded with a splendid award produced from the propeller from a Trislander aircraft.

Crossing the line in first place was the Van’s RV6 (G-TANGO) flown by Jonathan Willis, with Gurcharan Bhoday as navigator. Second across the line was Dan Pangbourne in his Van’s RV7 (G-DANP) with Matt Summers and Sean Roberson in their Van’s RV8 G-RVPL) a very close third behind him.

New for this year was an invitation extended to anyone who was interested in Air Racing and perhaps needed to know more, to come to an open house 'Meet the Racers‘ evening at the Moorings. A great success, where good food and a jar or two of ‘gyro toppling fluid‘ provided everyone with a very congenial ending to a perfect day. Then home to bed, as there was another great day of racing to come.

Day two did not look quite so good, as opening one’s curtains provided the depressing sight of heavy rain, a somewhat overly fresh breeze, topped off by some annoyingly low cloud. Back to bed? Not a bit of it. Racers are, if nothing else, eternal optimists and a good look at the weather charts indicated that if all went according to plan, the weather would clear through by the time that the race was due to start and as the preparations and race brief take a couple of hours to complete, the general opinion was, “let’s be positive and get started“.

For once both we and the man of seaweed (aka the met man) got it right and almost on cue, the day turned into another great day for racing. Sunday was the ‘big one‘, The Schneider Trophy‘ created by Jacques Schneider and originally known as the Coupe d'Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider. It was originally flown by floatplanes and in 2016 Hamish Mitchel became the first floatplane to win the trophy since 1931. Would he do it again – sadly not, because the winners of this year’s Schneider were pilot Ian Harding and navigator Roger Scholes in their Van’s RV7 (G-KAOS), closely followed by the Matt Summers and Sean Roberson duo in their Van’s RV8, with solo pilot Dan Pangbourne finishing a very creditable third.

What a fantastic time was had by all, especially by the spectators, who were very liberal with their compliments about just how good the new course was for viewing.

In addition to the main events, several other cups and trophies were given out, notably:

The Reynards ‘Special Award‘, given to Matt Summers, who achieved the best aggregate score over the two races. 

The AEL ‘Les Casquets Salver‘, presented to Bill Tollett in a Cessna 180 (G-ASIT), for his overall achievements in his first year of racing.

The newly introduced, ‘Sprit of Air Racing‘ Cup, donated by the Alderney Flying Club and dedicated to Thomas ‘Tommy’ Rose - WW1 Flying Ace - Resident of Alderney & Winner of the 1935 ‘Kings Cup’ Air Race, was presented to Guy Hook, who had been selected by the Royal Aero Club as the person who they considered had gone that ‘extra mile’ and was a true ambassador of the sport.

As Alderney is the location of the final race of the year, last but certainly not least, was the announcement that Jonathan Willis had achieved the title of British Air Racing Champion of 2019. Congratulations all round and as a bonus, he now has the privilege of being able to use the number 1 as his race number for the coming 2020 season.

Other confirmed awards were:

Mitel Sword (Best military pilot)                                                           Hamish Mitchell

Gaelic Hunter Trophy (Navigator Champion)                                     Gurcharan Bhoday

Sonic Challenge                                                                                   Matt Summers

ABC Homebuilt                                                                                    Matt Summers

Mossey Preston Trophy                                                 
Matt Summers

Outram Trophy                                                                                   
Bill Tollett

It is easy to overlook those who are not necessarily seen, but without whose help the whole event could so easily fall apart.

First and foremost, the negotiating team from the Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association. It was only due to their enthusiasm and doggedness in the face of adversity that negotiations to hold the races were successful.

In addition, we would also like to recognise the input from both Alderney & Guernsey ATC Units, the Alderney Airport Fire & Rescue Service. Colin Le Ray Airport Director, Leah Jeffreys, Manager ATC Guernsey, Ross Coppolo, Guernsey Airport Safety Manager and Dominic Lazarus, the newly appointed Director of Civil Aviation for organising all of the paperwork and issuing all of the exemptions that allows us to race in the first place.   

To allow these races to happen, it is necessary to close the airport for certain periods over the weekend. We therefore owe an immense debt of gratitude to Aurigny Air Services who make adjustments to their schedules and agree to these closures. Without this co-operation we wouldn’t have an airfield from which to operate.

What more could a race pilot want? Good weather, a superb course and the best place in the world to race. Not my words, but those of the racers themselves. So, if you don’t want to miss the fun and excitement next year, put the dates of the 26th and 27th September 2020 in your diary right now.

For a full photo gallery of the Alderney Races 2019, click on the following flicker link:                                              https://www.flickr.com/photos/flyalderney/albums/72157710989877107

Ralph Burridge – Alderney Flying Club - Air Race Co-ordinator                           28th September 2019

For more general information about air racing, visit:                      www.royalaeroclubrrra.co.uk 

For general information about Alderney, visit:                                          www.visitalderney.com

For information about private flying to Alderney, visit:                                www.flyalderney.com

For information about commercial flights to Alderney, visit:                            www.aurigny.com

Archive film about the Schneider Trophy:          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve6563ACr-0

 The new course is here


The 2018 Race report written by Ralph is now here


The 2015 Alderney Air Races were filmed as part of a new six, one-hour episode observational documentary series, which has been commissioned by BBC 2, to be broadcast in a primetime slot in early 2016.  It is expected to be one of the biggest BBC documentary series of year, taking as it will, a fresh look at Britain's air space, bringing to life the invisible and largely unknown infrastructure of our skies through a broad range of characters and situations, including, we are glad to say, Air Racing.


The 2016 Race report written by Ralph is now here

Pictures of the 2016 race weekend can now be seen here

Further Information

Course of the Annual 'Island Air Races

www.royalaeroclubrrra.co.uk