VK National Rally at Springfield Christchurch S.I -
A little while a go there was a bit of a discussion amongst the Vintage Kiwi team as to ‘where to from here’ as far as Rally venues were concerned. By tradition we have generally chosen to go to both Taupo and Inglewood in the North Island and support those two clubs, but it was felt it was now time for a change. Taumarunui in the North Island’s King Country was one of the chosen possibilities and that’s where Vintage Kiwi went in February 2015, which made for the highest attended rally ever. So then why not now go ahead and plan for a Vintage Kiwi southern assault to the South Island of New Zealand. If the English can ‘pop across the channel’ to attend and fly in Vintage Rallies in all parts of Europe why can’t we do the same? Cross our Cook Strait and do a similar ‘mass invasion’, and meet up and fly with some of our South Island members. And so we did just that. The plan was to spend nine days at Springfield [Christchurch], and a further five days flying at Nelson Lakes on the way home.
Seven gliders from all parts of the North Island, all securely tucked up in their trailers decided to make the big journey south. Not since the 1970s very active competition scene that so many gliders had journeyed in mass from the North Island down to the South Island. From Alexander John Robinson and his PIK 20 traveled north to join our VK rally. Chris Richards from Blenheim trailered the Discus down and joined in as well. A surprise visitor was Frank Saxton who flew from Nelson Lakes to Springfield. A day later he returned to Nelson Lakes using the Big Wave.
Our host club for the first nine days was the Canterbury Gliding Club who are based at their Springfield property which is a drive of about 45 minutes from Christchurch towards the mountains and the west coast of the South Island. Several of their senior members took a week away from work and family to support our stay as an Instructor and tow pilot, so that we could fly every day. Most of the VK attendees stayed in the very comfortable converted farm house that was the original residence when the land was acquired some years ago.
A meet and greet BBQ was arranged by the local club on the second evening which really helped to set the scene for the very active flying days that were to follow. The Canterbury Gliding Club now aero tow with a couple of LSA [light sport aviation] designated aircraft, their big powerful Piper Pawnee now having been retired and sold on. Most of the Vintage Kiwi team had never towed behind a ‘microlight’ before but had no issues in doing so. We all experienced their famous North West Wave, great thermals with a small amount of limited ridge flying as and when that was required as the conditions changed. The Vintage Kiwi syndicated KA 8 landed out on the first day, at a airstrip in the Porters Pass. Some very good hours were put up by everyone with only two days lost because of weather related issues. The South Island weather gods were obviously kind to us on this trip. One none flying day the mountain winds turned on a spectacular display of wind gusts up to 40 knots plus at the airfield, that required a couple of cars to be used as a wind break to stop a tent from being bowled over by the conditions that lasted some 14 hours or so. The gliders and the trailers were very well secured [south island style] and survived. Max gust was some 50 knots according to the locals. Amazing. On the last Saturday night we all went out with some of our new Canterbury friends to the local Springfield Pub for a ‘bit of a session’. The following day we reluctantly all headed off.
And so onto Nelson Lakes. This was a very scenic road journey through the mountains via the famous Lewis Pass. This is a winching only club which was a good change both in venue and launching system. We flew five days out of five, which was very satisfying for the Vintage Kiwi group. Again we experienced their wave, thermals and ridges in a potpourri of conditions. We all had a number of social get together’s down at the local pub after flying which again created a great atmosphere for the week. Nelson Lakes has a great winch site and is a club well worth a visit.
The Saturday saw us all journey off to Picton and the ferry to take us all back home to the North Island with some great memories. It was a big trip and a great scenic road trip of NZ for some but certainly with a lot of very good flying involved. Next year? It’s back to Taumarunui in the North Island it seems. However, now that Cook Strait has been ‘reconquered’ by the North Islanders it will be interesting to see if we might be able to prise some of our South Island members out of the security of their mountains and join us on the ‘rolling flats’ of the King Country as it were.