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South African National Skydiving Championships (Canopy Piloting) : 26 to 28 June 2009
By Kelly Helfrich

Every skydiver knows that the safety briefing that comes before the start of any competition is really a rain dance. The moment the competitors are ready, both mentally and physically, the heavens part and the rains come down.

This year, we thought we could beat the gods at their own game and hold our CP Nationals in the middle of winter. It was a great idea ‘cos it didn't rain, but what we got was worse then rain - perfect blue skies and a howling wind that put the air temperature at about 0° Celsius.

That meant that day one was almost blown out, but not before we managed to squeeze in one beautiful, freezing, sunset load, getting through the first round of accuracy.

Saturday was a much better day, weather wise. Even though the temperature was about 5 degrees lower then it had been on Friday (yes, that meant we were sitting at –5°!), we had gentle winds and clear skies.  This meant we were able to complete 7 rounds on Saturday, with only one incident. Fortunately, it wasn't a serious one, albeit seriously spectacular! The last round was completed on Sunday morning with the Awards Lunch held shortly thereafter.

The competitors from top left:
Nicolaos Karagiannakis, Alexis McNaughton, Marais Badenhorst,
Dian Kemp, Robert Kruger, Bertus de Beer, Christopher Teague,
Selwyn Johnson, Attie Fourie, Timothy Mace, Brendon van Niekerk,
Jasper Williams and Pottie Potgieter

We had a great turnout in the Intermediate Event with four competitors taking part. For each of these guys, it was their first CP competition, and they all fought bravely for the top spot, although it was Alexis McNaughton who cleaned up, coming first in both distance and accuracy to take home the overall gold medal for 1st place. He was followed by Attie Fourie in 2nd place and Nicolaos Karagiannakis in 3rd. Our 4th competitor, Pottie Potgieter missed out on an overall placing, but did take a bronze medal in the Accuracy.

From left to right: Attie Fourie (Silver), Alexis McNaughton (Gold) and Nicolaos Karagiannakis (Bronze)

The Open Event showed the culmination of speed, skill and just plain guts as round after round, the guys showed just what they were capable of. For many of them, JSC wasn't their home turf, and the lack of training due to the weather was not making it any easier.

The medals for the opens event were hotly contested throughout the three days. Although no records were broken during this event, we did see some spectacular swoops.

Chris Teague, Rob Kruger and Selwyn Johnson proved themselves the best of the rest, taking home almost all the medals between the three of them, with only the 3rd place in Speed going to Dian Kemp. It was, however, Christopher who proved himself the best of the best and took home the Peter Lawson Trophy for 1st place in the overall standings.

From left to right: Selwyn Johnson (Silver), Christopher Teague (Gold) and Robert Kruger (Bronze)

The entertainment section was covered by Attie Fourie who took home the Academy Award for Best Drama with Gone with the Wind, and Pottie Potgieter who beat out Jasper Williams in the WWA Division (Water Wings Award) for showing us again … and again how the breaststroke is done!

This competition was a success on many levels. Firstly, the grounds committee achieved the impossible in the months leading up to the competition with the endless preparation of the landing areas, turning it from the “bush” it was two years ago, to a beautifully prepared area. The laser timing systems, the course markers, the scoring and judging software, the camera lookout, the list goes on.

But even the best planned course needs to be changed from accuracy and distance to speed, so a big thank you goes to Justice, who braved the frozen waters of the pond to move the markers around. A big thank you to the competitors for enduring the ice cold and tricky wind conditions to put on a truly memorable competition.

A big thank you to the competitors for enduring the ice cold and tricky wind conditions to put on a truly memorable competition.

The last thank you goes to the people involved behind the scenes, and goodness knows there were enough of you! From the marketing ladies that arranged the website and clothing in record time, to the canteen and Monica for arranging and providing food, to the judges and the course guys for ensuring everything ran smoothly. We did not have one electrical malfunction throughout the competition, which I think must be a record!

It was such a long road to a very small target, that every person’s contribution, no matter how big or how small, made each step of that road just a little bit easier. The work for us has just begun though, as we march down the last of that road towards the biggest goal of all – the 5th FAI World Cup in Canopy Piloting to be held this December in Carletonville.  We hope you will be there with us to witness this great event.