As the team gathered for the final formal training weekend before the tour with 85 days to go, it was only the hardy and (some would say) foolish who braved the range on the Friday. A very wet and cold day for the team; however, there was still important training to be done at long range and short, and the final few tweaks and tests for the ammunition. The late afternoon and evening saw productive coaching discussion, lots of ammo pushing and three different takeaway meals shared by team members.
Saturday morning saw the rest of the team assemble. The wet weather from the Friday was replaced by some extremely cold but drier conditions, making it more of a test of grit than of shooting ability. Just to up the pressure, the team were pitted against each other in the Great Britain Palma Team Open Championships 2018.
Team training was switched out for some individual shooting in order to get used to the target rotation and string shooting that will be the norm in New Zealand. The shoots were about the only thing that will be similar to New Zealand in January as the frost and numb fingers certainly will not be present at the World Championships. Run over two shoots at 1000 yards out of a total 125, there was some extremely close scoring, including several shoots decided on countback. By lunchtime everyone was absolutely frozen so the team retired to Canada House where a lovely warm fire was most welcome.
In the afternoon the firers rolled back into team mentality in order to put in a “best effort” score as a team under match conditions.
The match, in a slightly warped way, was shot against the GB Veterans who had shot the same match the previous weekend under totally different (and much warmer) conditions. This was the first time that everything about the shoot felt wholly professional, with every team member doing their bit. After 900 yards the Palma team were lagging behind the fantastic score set by the Vets, who had benefited from very benign wind at that range whereas the Palma coaches were put to the test. The team were fully into their rhythm by 1000 yards and a slight increase in temperature meant the scores reflected all the rigorous training that the team has undergone over the last few months.
The evening meal included prizegiving for the individual competition and the announcement of the team match result. Top prize in the first shoot of the morning was taken by James Watson by two Vs from Matt Charlton and Rick Shouler, and the second shoot had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd also separated by only two Vs but Tom Drysdale pipped Jon Underwood on countback for first place. Underwood did get his own back by winning the morning overall, with Drysdale coming second and Matt Purdy third. Prizes were also awarded to the team top scorer Tom Drysdale (148.13) and his coach Matt Charlton, with special mentions for Rick Shouler (148.12) and David Luckman (147.20). And the result of the team match against the Veterans was a win… but only just!
Sunday morning, despite being marginally warmer, was distinctly wetter. Team warm-up, thankfully, was conducted in the relative warmth of Canada House. But a band of weather meant that the team captain made the well-received decision to delay the start of shooting. A discussion took place of how to stay focussed and other considerations for the Christmas break, with some pearls of wisdom offered by some of the more experienced shooters, particularly those who have shot in the Southern Hemisphere before.
But the final few checks on the ammunition needed to take place so a slightly refined practice went ahead at 1000 yards. The team got down in comparatively dry conditions to fire one sighter and five to count with one batch and one sighter and fifteen to count with another. With team drills being so well rehearsed, the shoot was over with plenty of time to spare and, as a result of the adjustment to the training plan, plenty of ammunition to spare too. So each target team was instructed to choose their champion and put them forward for a final one and ten to decide the Champion of Champions. Jon Underwood, Rick Shouler, Matt Millar, and Matt Purdy all got down to shoot. The final scores saw victory, by a single V-Bull, for Matt Purdy coached by Matt Charlton. Once again, it seems that the reserves do their best to make management’s decisions that much harder.
A quick debrief took place on the range and an informal team photo in the brand new kit before the Captain had his closing address in Canada House. A lot of work has gone into tour preparation by all the officers and many of the others, and the team as a whole is hugely appreciative of it.
83 Days to go…