“Air Race History is made on Alderney”
An amazing piece of history occurred at the 20th Alderney Island Air Races. The most prestigious air race in the world, the Schneider Trophy, was won by an amphibian. This is the first time since 1931 that a waterborne aircraft had been awarded the Trophy. To add more excitement to the event, the second place aircraft was also a floatplane. Just like buses, you don’t get one for 85 years and along come two at once.
For many years, Alderney has been the location for the last races of the season and is where both the British Air Racing Champion and the European Air Racing Champion have been decided. This year was no different, with the main races being for the Aurigny Air Services Trophy and the prestigious Schneider Trophy. Both races carried Championship points, so the scene was set for an exciting finale
It is always nice to receive visitors from far afield, who come to Alderney especially to watch the races. Local interest was however concentrated on Alderney Air Traffic Controller Al Paton and navigator Roberta Sargent, in his Piper PA32-260 Cherokee Six, who decided to celebrate his aircraft’s 50th birthday by proudly holding the Alderney flag aloft.
Being as we are, surrounded by water, a visit by the Channel Air Search interim SAR aircraft is always welcome. Many visitors took the opportunity to view it close up, although the crew were quick to point out that this particular aircraft was not fitted with the full range of equipment that would be fitted to their replacement aircraft, due for delivery in early 2017.
On Friday, pre-race arrival day, a ‘Yorkshire Night’, had been arranged at the Georgian with traditional fare of Giant Yorkshire Pudding and Beef, or Fish & Chips wi Mushy Peas. Ehup luv, it were a grand night out! A round of Bingo also raised nearly £500, to be donated to local charities.
Saturday morning came and Alderney’s weather certainly proved to be interesting, excellent visibility, but with a fair old Alderney ‘breeze’ from the South, meaning, that for the first time in the history of the event, the grass runway was put to good use. Practice completed, the scene was set for the Aurigny Air Services Trophy. This being a most handsome award, formed as it is, by mounting part of a Trislander propeller onto a wood base. Unique and much sought after.
Although by no means an easy task, if the handicappers have done well, all of the aircraft should cross the finishing line at the same time. Because no system is perfect, it seldom happens quite that way, but that’s the theory anyway.
The race got under way and being a handicap race, the slowest aircraft, the Cessna 172F Floatplane, with Hamish Mitchell at the controls was dispatched first. Credited with a speed of just, 106 kts, he took off some 20 minutes ahead of the fastest aircraft, the 180 kts Van’s RV8 aircraft, competitively piloted by John Bate.
The winner of the Aurigny Air Services Trophy was the twelfth man away flying a Van’s RV6 (which, with due deference to the advertisement, was painted bright orange and carried the registration GTNGO), Jonathan Willis. Second to cross the finish line was Mark Turner (Van’s RV6), with Derryn McMaster (Robin R2160) taking third place.
The venue for our ‘End of Season Bash’ was again the Braye Beach Hotel, where Manager, Richard Proctor did everything to ensure that everyone had a wonderful evening. All who attended were provided with a superb array of food, offered within the ambient surroundings for which the Hotel is famed.
As had been predicted after the Saturday race, the expected passage of a weather front meant that a change of runway would be necessary. Although it seldom happens, when it does, it generates its own specific problems. In this instance, it was the need for all race pilots to fly that part of the course which had to be modified, within a limited time band. Fortunately, following some amazing co-operation by Alderney Air Traffic, arrangements were made to fit in the extra circuits needed to satisfy our stringent safety legislation and still be able to start the race on time.
The Schneider Trophy is another handicap race, but as with all forms of handicapping, every time an aircraft races, its performance data becomes part of an overall performance database, so that the start times of the aircraft are under constant review. For this race, although some of the middle runners’ start times had changed, the slowest and the fastest aircraft remained unchanged from the Saturday Race.
Winner of the Schneider Trophy race was Roderick Morton (Lake LA4 Buccaneer Amphibian), followed by Hamish Mitchell (Cessna FR172F Floatplane). Third place was taken by Mark Turner (Van’s RV6).
The results always have to be checked and re-checked and then posted as ‘Provisional’ in order to give pilots the ability to raise any ‘Protests’. This gives ample time for everyone to relax and await the ‘Final’ results, after which the presentation of prizes gets under way.
John Kelsall of the Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association led the presentation party, ably assisted by Phil Marsden. After a few words of welcome John called upon Maggie Burridge (wife of Air Race Event Co-ordinator Ralph) to present, on behalf of Mark Darby the CEO of Aurigny Air Services, the Aurigny Air Services Trophy, together with cup and salver, to winning pilot Jonathan Willis, from Harpenden, Herts. She then presented cups and salvers to second place pilot Mark Turner, from Worksop, Notts and Darryn McMaster, from North London, who came third.
The next award was the Schneider Trophy, with Ralph Burridge (Event Organiser - Alderney Flying Club) making the presentations. The winner Roderick Moreton from Stebbing, Essex, who was presented with a replica of the Trophy (the original is on permanent display in the Science Museum), together with a cup and salver. Cups and Salvers were also presented to runner-up Hamish Mitchell, from Ayr, Ayrshire, as well as third place pilot, Mark Turner.
The AEL AvGas ‘Les Casquets’ Plate, was the next award to be presented. This is a much appreciated award amongst the race pilots, as it recognises the performance throughout the season of a pilot who is new to air racing. This year the plate was won by Mark Hanson from Padiham, Lancashire and presented by Alan Graca the Technical Director of Alderney Electricity.
The Reynards, Special Awards were the next prizes to be presented. These awards are presented annually by Jeff Roff, proprietor of Reynards Jewellers and are awarded to the three pilots who achieve the best aggregate score over both races. Jeff was able to attend this year, so took great pleasure in presenting the first prize salver to Mark & Johanne Turner. Second and third place pilots, Roderick Moreton and John Bates, also received handsome engraved salvers,
The British Air Racing Champion of 2016 was announced as being Mark Turner, flying the season in his homebuilt Van’s RV6.
If that wasn’t enough success for the weekend, Mark and his navigator wife Johanne were also declared European Air Racing Champion 2016.
As always, our thanks must go to all who helped to make the event such a success. This includes our own Club Members and friends who did all of the pushing, shoving, lifting and moving, necessary to have everything in place on the day (with special mention being earned by Mick Phelps, Al Paton and Jon Symonds) and Roberta for carrying out a difficult ‘time management’ exercise dealing with not only our cash box, but being Al’s navigator during the races. To Phil Andrews, Tim Langmead and Dave Bougourd (Boogie), who so willingly give up their time to come up from Guernsey, to help pilots to park, rather than just ‘abandon’ their aircraft.
To Krys Page for her all-day ‘Little Rock (Willow Tree Café)’ catering facility in the hangar, together with the alternative catering and ‘duty free’ sales assistance offered by ‘The Aviator Cafe’ in the airport terminal. To AEL Avgas, who managed to service a lot of aircraft with very little time to spare and to The Alderney Flying Club and Basil Blumberg (Rose & Crown) for sponsoring the landing fees of Air Race and Race Support aircraft. Finally of course, to the States of Alderney who have, by way of a grant, always been supportive of the event since its inception?
It is easy to overlook those who are not necessarily seen, but without whose help the whole event could so easily fall apart. These include both Alderney & Guernsey ATC Units and the Alderney Airport Fire & Rescue Service. Colin Le Ray Airport Director, Frank McMeiken, Manager ATC Guernsey and Gus Patterson, 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. In this day and age, we all know that it is becoming more and more difficult to hold an event like this and still be able to have public presence in the hangar, but thanks to the co-operation of the Border Force, Special Branch and G4S Security, this popular facility was again made available to us.
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.
One further point of interest is that when we started this event, the competitors didn’t know Alderney and took a bit of time to get used to our ‘laid back’ ways. It is interesting to note that every year, an ever increasing number of our race pilots, families and supporters are making Alderney not only the finale of the race season, but are securing accommodation and arriving at least a week or more in advance of the races and adding a mini holiday to their adventure. Every little helps!
The ’Island Air Races’ are organised jointly by the Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association and the Alderney Flying Club, with the financial support of the States of Alderney.
For more general information about air racing, visit: www.britishairracing.com
(Check the ‘Video’ and ‘Pictures’ tabs whilst you are there.)
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 21st Anniversary of the Annual Alderney ‘Island Air Races’
is due to take place over the weekend of
Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th September 2017.
How about putting those dates in your diary right now?