15th Annual 'Island Air Races' Report24-25 September 2011
What a Cracking Weekend!
So said Peter Earp, of the Royal Aero Club Racing Team, and he was right.
With the weather over the ‘Summer’ period not being very reliable, the likelihood of three days of good weather seemed doubtful. We were lucky, just at the right time, light winds and good visibility appeared and the scene was set for a good weekends racing.
For many years, Alderney has been the location for the last races of the season and is where the British Air Racing Champion and the European Air Racing Champion are both decided. This year was no exception.
The number of racing aircraft was about the average for the event, but as it was the biggest turnout of the whole season, it was another ‘feather in the cap’ for Alderney. With race aircraft arriving from France, Ireland and Majorca, the event is obviously maintaining its international reputation. And with recessive times upon us, all these visitors with nothing other than two feet and money to spend are a welcome boost to the Island’s economy.
Saturday morning is given over to the serious business of To make sure that both pilot and navigator were totally familiar with the course (nobody is allowed to race unless they have actually flown it), the Saturday morning is given over to both practicing the course, as well as carrying out a flight routine that is monitored by the aircraft’s GPS system to set the handicaps. With aircraft flying at speeds between 100 and 240 mph, the job of the handicappers is not an easy one.
The first actual event of the weekend took place in the afternoon, when the single engine aircraft race for the 'Eagle Airways' Cup, whilst the multi-engine aircraft were competing for the ‘Flightline’ Cup. The little Cessna 152 was the first away, with all of the others joining the race at intervals pre-determined by the handicappers.
The ‘Eagle Airways’ Cup was won by its present holder, Neil Cooper flying his North Weald based SA3 Bulldog at an average speed of 144 mph. Peter Earp from Gloucester became the winner of the ‘Flightline’ Cup, piloting his Beech G58 Baron round the course at an average speed of 242 mph.
The most important race of the weekend is the ‘Aurigny Air Services’ Trophy, held on Sunday morning. This is not only the last race of year, but is also the last race in which pilots can gain points for the two main championships and win the title of British Air Racing Champion (BARC) and the European Air Racing Champion (EARC). Although the winner of the BARC was almost a foregone conclusion, two race pilots were both in with a chance of claiming the title of EARC. It really was down to the wire. Geoffrey Boot clinched the title in his Siai Machetti SF260W, just 10 seconds ahead of Neil Cooper in his Bulldog.
The culmination of the weekend is of course the presentation of the various awards and trophies. Peter Cunningham, Operations Manager of Aurigny Air Services, was on hand to present the ‘Aurigny Air Services’ Trophy to the winner.
Jeff Roff of Reynards Jewellers was unable to attend, so his awards were presented by Ralph Burridge, event co-ordinator. Jeff has always been a keen supporter of private aviation in general and the ‘Island Air Races’ in particular. The ‘Reynards Special Awards’ are presented to the three pilots who gained the highest aggregate points in both races. This year’s joint first place winners were Neil Cooper and Geoffry Boot, with Mark Turner taking third place.
The ‘Les Casquets Plate’, donated by AEL Avgas, is unique because it gives new race pilots an opportunity to receive an award in recognition of their efforts. It is presented to the pilot who has the best aggregate point score over the two races, but and it is a big but, to qualify for consideration for this plate, the pilot must only have a maximum of two consecutive year’s race experience, the second of those two years being the current season. The winner of this award was Martin Gosling who received the plate from Alan Graca – AvGas Manager
As always, our thanks must go to all who helped make the event such a success. This includes our own members and friends who did all the pushing, shoving, lifting and moving, the marshallers from Guernsey and Krys Kelley-Page for the amazing hangar catering facility. To all of those who sponsored the cups and trophies, Alan and his team from AEL Avgas for a great refuelling job and of course, Alderney Airport ATC and Fire Service. Special thanks must go to both Frank McMeiken, Manager ATC Guernsey, for organising all of the necessary paperwork and Colin Le Ray, Airport Director. As we all know, it is becoming more and more difficult to hold an event like this and still be able to have public presence in the hangar. Thanks to the co-operation and understanding and help of both Customs & Immigration and Special Branch. Last, but certainly not least, to the States of Alderney, whose support ensured that the event could take place.
To allow these races to happen, it is necessary to close the airport for certain periods over the weekend. We are therefore indebted to both Aurigny Air Services who make adjustments to its schedules and agreed to these closures. Without this co-operation we wouldn’t have an airfield from which to operate.
The ’Island Air Races’ are organised by the Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association and run jointly by both them and the Alderney Flying Club. To see the full results and information on air racing, log on to www.airraceuk.co.uk