Thursday, August 09, 2012

AirVenture Cup Air Race

On the Sunday right before Oshkosh, for the last sixteen years, the AirVenture Cup Air Race has been held. The starting point alternates between Mitchell, SD and Dayton, OH, making the race around 450-500 miles long. It used to finish at Oshkosh but the finish line has been moved out to nearby airfields since Oshkosh gets so busy. This year, the finish line was set to be at West Bend, about an hour's drive south of Oshkosh. It is also the first year that the Sport Air Racing League was in control of the race, which meant that it was open to production aircraft for the first time - previously it had been for Experimental aircraft only.

I was lucky enough to hitch a ride with Sam down to West Bend. We got there in time to be told there was a big lump of weather moving in from the south, and the finish line was therefore being moved to Waupaca, about 40 minutes drive north of Oshkosh! So after a quick refreshment break, a bunch of people piled into their cars and we headed back up the road. I did manage to take a picture of this cool sign at West Bend before we left:

About an hour and 40 later, we arrived at Waupaca. The race start had been delayed to allow the timers to move, so we were in plenty of time before racers started coming through. A tent canopy was set up with some tables for the timers, and some bright orange tarpaulins were laid out either side of the taxiway to mark the finish line.

Eventually we started to hear radio calls from incoming racers. First in were all the speedy Lancairs, Questaires, SX300s and similar. This is a Questaire Venture:

There were around forty aircraft in the race, and quite a wide variety of aircraft types. However, this is something I did not expect to see looming in my lens!

What a treat to see the one-of-a-kind Rutan Boomerang being wrung out across the finish line! It truly is as asymmetric as the pictures show; it was designed to be a very safe twin; if one engine fails there is no yaw due to the difference in shape either side.

Here's Team Ely, who are currently in the points lead for this SARL racing season:

Three twin-engined Defiants entered the race, so they made a new race class for them. They move along pretty fast, and have that curious rudder underneath next to the nose gear. The vertical surfaces on the wings do not move. This is another Rutan design.

Nice to see the Polen Special out again, I haven't seen it in a couple of years.

Low finish pass of the Day award goes to Race 83; zooooom!

There was a bit of a line for the gas pump afterwards.

I took a few moments to look at the aircraft on the ramp once they were parked. Here's the inside of the Boomerang. It is cool how the door moves inside and down, it is more of a hatch then a door.

Later on, I was delighted when the race staff threw me into the back of this Cirrus for the journey back to Oshkosh!

Waupaca Airfield from the air. The finish line was over the taxiway on the left, where there is a 4-way junction with the smaller taxiway leading to the ramp.

The glass panel inside the Cirrus shows clearly the route through Ripon and Fisk into Oshkosh. This time, I got to experience the higher, faster version since we would fly at 2300 feet and 135 knots. We got routed further along the railroad tracks to join the circuit for 27.

Entering the downwind for 27, you get a great view of the North 40, which is pretty packed with aircraft already. The gap on the left would fill up quickly.

Getting into line for the final for 27 takes you over the lake and back in. There are at least five aircraft ahead of us in this shot! One is far left, over the trees. The next is about 1/3 in to the image from the left, again over the trees. The next is up and right a bit, at the top edge of the trees. There's one about to cross the runway threshold; from our point of view he is over the grass on the left. And the last is hard to spot, but he's between the orange and green dots on the runway. Click on the image below to see them better, but that's a typical day at Oshkosh.

Later that day, I was walking past the race tent and got collared by Linda, who said I should go with her and the other racers to the awards dinner! We all got into a school bus which took us to Wendt's On The Lake; a fish restaurant located a little ways past the seaplane base on the shores of Lake Winnebago. The dock that runs out into the lake used to be the finish line for the race; tradition has seen the awards dinner held here ever since. It was obviously a popular spot since it was heaving! Eventually everyone got settled under a huge marquee and enjoyed some dinner (and free beer; woo-hoo!).

The awards were duly presented; for the individual recipients click here for the photos, but here's a picture of the awards they were all racing for:

I think everyone enjoyed themselves; they certainly all seemed to have very large smiles at the end of a long and competitive race.

Sport Air Racing League
Full AVC photo gallery