The Vintage & Classic Glider Club of New Zealand Inc


National Rally - Waipukurau 2020

After more weeks than one could remember of superb, fine, drought conditions, the NZ Met Service suddenly issued a warning of a possible tropical cyclone forming in Vanuatu, which could have the potential to come down to New Zealand bringing with it a lot of wind and rain having now probably reformed as a tropical depression.

Images of our Taumarunui rally having to be aborted a few years ago due to a depression that popped up out of nowhere in the Tasman Sea after only three days of flying certainly had left a haunting memory with the V.K. team. Really?! Not again!

However, in the end a persistent, very large ridge of high pressure that was giving the country some difficult drought conditions, held the cyclone at bay. Instead, it drifted towards Australia. Now downgraded to a tropical depression, it moved on, ending up as a very weak front that never made it to the middle of Cook Strait before it faded into oblivion. Yeah!!! And so the Waipukurau 2020 Rally began, with great expectations for what Waipukurau is generally noted - very strong thermals, high cloud base and wave.

Initially, 14 sailplanes attended with several others arriving later in the week to get in some early practice for the following week’s Central District Champs. The rally attendees came from as far afield as Whenuapai to the north and Wellington to the south and all points in between, including the Taranaki area. This year there were also a number of newer members. Everyone was looking forward to the week ahead. After a couple of very ‘soft days’, the conditions became better and better, culminating on the last day with an exceedingly high 7000-foot cloud base. With some very strong conditions that included thermals that ‘took no prisoners’, there was plenty of scope to search out those old and forgotten turn points of the 1970s. They certainly did look somewhat different now.

Like our Taumarunui rally a couple of years earlier, we used the LSA Fox Bat, ZK-LFD as our tow-plane, and, like our previous experience with this aircraft, she towed faultlessly. However, it is a Light Sport Aircraft (microlight) and for some of our newer members, towing behind Lima Foxtrot Delta was a new experience. On the upside, she certainly showed you where the thermals were! These types of tow-planes do remind us all how spoiled we have become using our more accepted high-powered wonders.  Getting back to basics is not such a bad idea of course. Lima Foxtrot Delta finished the rally with 51 tows to her credit.

Waipukurau Airfield is owned by the Central Hawke’s Bay Aero Club, and consequently Vintage Kiwi negotiated a fee to help support the general upkeep of the airfield and clubrooms. Little did we know that fee included a barman who arrived promptly at 6.00pm every evening so we could all ‘rehydrate’, and their cleaner also. Wow! What a bargain!

No local gliding club operates from the airfield since the Waipukurau Gliding Club was amalgamated with the Hawke’s Bay Gliding Club several years ago. The amalgamated club now fly from the very busy Bridge Pa Aerodrome, near Hastings. WYPUK, as it was affectionately known, was an excellent competition site back in the late sixties through seventies and a few NZ Nationals were held there before it lost favour. In more recent years, regional contests have been run there with great success, and a satisfying number of competitors. Thirty entries for the most recent 2020 contest, which is an excellent turnout for the starting grid.

Only two land outs occurred over the week of the rally. Luckily, both gliders landed out just across the river in the Waipawa area. The paddocks in this region are often bigger than the actual airfield if you spot them early enough.

Humorous moments there always are!

Dropping off one of your team at the immensely popular Elton John concert in Hastings whilst enroute to the airfield from Auckland must be high on the laugh-o-meter. Let’s not forget that the glider trailer was still attached to the car, so after disgorging Rocketman’s admirer just shy of the main gates no less, the now solo driver had to negotiate not only the HUGE number of concert goers but also roads in the immediate vicinity congested with cars, side streets temporarily coned into narrow lanes for traffic control and vehicles parked in every available space. If only Elton realised the commitment at least one fan made to be at his ‘World Farewell’ show!

Ignorance is bliss, and the tow-pilot is happily ferrying the Fox Bat from the north Waikato region when he suddenly realises, 30 minutes into the journey, that he has left the tow rope behind.

The ‘Elton John’ glider that refused to come out of its trailer due to a very discreet retaining bolt being somewhat uncooperative. Serious talk of attempting a farming type ‘breech birth’ process to dislodge the fuselage took place, as it must be the first piece out. Foiling hopes of seeing this mechanical maternal mischief though, the fuselage eventually released itself, with no aviation obstetric surgery required.

Our musical member literally ‘blew his own horn’, in this case a pocket trumpet, serenading the herd of cows grazing over the fence. Cows are clearly great appreciators of music, and skill, as they all came to watch and listen, while chewing contentedly.

They must have wanted an encore, because shortly afterwards, towpilot Jim had to dust off his farming expertise, and with another glider pilot acting in the role of The Dog, herded the cows back to their paddock after they strayed onto the runway through a mysteriously opened gate. Imagination was running wild with the potential of a stampede through the tied-down gliders!

So keen to get to WYPUK, someone left all his camping gear back in a hangar after de-rigging the glider and securing it into the trailer for the trip. Luckily, his wallet did not suffer the same fate!

Thus ends the tale of another great Vintage Kiwi rally, which concluded with a sold out dinner at a local restaurant. Great staff, great meal and a great end to a highly successful camp where a lot of good flying was achieved. For some participants, revisiting some of the old 1970s turn points was a personal highlight. Flying in the various sea breezes that slowly penetrated the area was also very special.

Vintage Kiwi rallies are always based around everybody enjoying their own flying environment and that was obviously achieved in spades from observing the many sunburnt grins appearing at the ‘rehydration sessions’ once flying for the day had concluded.

So, where to next year? Shh! That’s still a secret, I’m told.

V.K. Scribe