We awoke today to a still lake beyond our balconies, although the slight swell was in a new direction. Looking out to the east we saw the power station’s cooling stack cloud drifting North East at a good angle. It was going to be windy, this was good.
Last night our team broke out to dine in ‘target teams’ (each coach with their four firers) as a bonding activity to keep in the groove for the match. Some steam was let off, healthy food eaten and a cheeky glass of wine had as a group tightener. Many went to bed weary from the busy day, conscious that much was still to be done in this monster match.
Arriving at the range, the wind was indeed coming from over the left shoulder and looking about at the assembled international shooters, there were some determined game faces set ready for the match. Their minds focussed, conscious of the hard work to be done, either for GB to hold and build their lead, or for the chasing teams to claw back every point and vee possible. Our warm up was just as the day before, an expert mix of meticulous physiological preparation and horseplay. But it was what was needed and with minds steeled, GB set up for 800 yards.
After yesterday’s very close 800 yard shoot, the team was keen to put down a top score and make their mark on the second day. 1200 points was what we were after and 1200 points was certainly a score that our opponents were capable of. GB ran like clockwork, with shot after shot gracing the vee or bull, though we were not the only ones; further up the range the Aussies and USA were making good work of it. More and more vees thundered in at a confident pace and eventually, relieved, we withdrew from the firing point with a full 1200 points, a feat only matched by Australia (who were only three vees off our score). New Zealand had lost only two, South Africa three, and the USA seven, so nobody is too far off the pace. Four ranges down and four ranges won; GB were on target but the fat lady hadn’t sung yet… Indeed as our vice-captain said, “she was barely out of bed yet”.
Moving back to 900yards, we headed further right on the range, giving us a slightly greater wind as it flowed over the range (this principal is generally true of ranges across the world that have trees along the side, the lee of the trees has weaker wind but little warning of change, further downwind it has a stronger effect but with greater warning of change as it passes along the flags). This range position was potentially harder work for our coaches, any fickle changes in the wind would need disciplined deployment of fire to not be caught out. Our key opponents made a strong score out of their positions nearer the lee of the trees, particularly the USA (9 down), SA (15 down) and Australia (12 down) – a generally better job than their results the previous day. GB made careful use of shot deployment (not letting firers shoot when the wind was tricky) and managed to leave the range remarkably unscathed at 9 off. Again, GB clinched range victory through vee bulls alone (9 more than the USA). Five down, five won… one to go.
Heading into the last range of a match is a nerve-racking time for any team. Shooters need calming and focussing, coaches need to strategise (and have their lunch) and physios become inundated with requests for ‘a quick rub’ by hypochondriacs. This is the time for a great team talk. GB had just such a team talk from both the captain and the vice-captain. I won’t divulge the highly confidential nature of the talk but the result was a driven and focussed team stirred with a sense of pride in their achievement and duty for the last range combined with a comment from the vice-captain that had us roaring with laughter. My lips are sealed…
No doubt other teams had similar chats as even at this late point in the match, the fat lady was not out of her dressing room. GB were only 40 points in the lead – it would only take a few points per man to catch us up in the tricky winds still coming over our left shoulder. Your scribe is but a mere shooter in this team so the events that led to the result at 1000 yards may miss some of the finer technical points of team shooting in its description. I know only the following things. The sixteen firers deployed shot after shot of great shooting – after two days of tense contest, the odd high and low shot from the occasional firer is acceptable, particularly when the rest of the group holds so tight (great ammo). The adjutant and reserves performed brilliantly – the firing point was slick, supplies and messages relayed well and Henry Day supported Reg’s target superbly by plotting and relieving the target of workload. The supporters (GBU25s, Veterans, general passers by) were fantastic – the web page showing virtually live scoreboard information was alive with followers globally and was being kept up to date by a plethora of enthusiastic runners. Now in the tricky conditions, quite what the coaches were up to is beyond me. Elsewhere on the range, inners and magpies were cropping up so all I can say is that witchcraft must have been occurring in our locality. An awesome demonstration of GB shooting and coaching was made – superb use of the wind and the firers to not just hold our lead, but to win the range by a stonking 33 points. Credit to South Africa for being the only team to make more vee bulls than us at 1000 yards today. Records fell. The USA beat the previous team score record (from 2011) by 8 points. David Luckman beat the individual record score (of 446.44) for about 35 minutes when he posted a 446.57 as first man down. This was not to last though as Toby – our glorious tour loving adjutant – followed up his thus far clean score with a mighty 74 (we won’t say where that shot went but it doesn’t matter) to finish 449.59 with a new record score, indeed one that will unlikely be broken for a while. With records falling like narcoleptics at a free-climbing contest, it seems easiest if we list them.
- Match record beaten by 79 points – 7106.827 (176 v-bulls more than last time)
- Individual record beaten by 3 points – 449.59 (Toby Raincock)
- Highest 900 yard aggregate score – 2384.276
- Most consecutive Palma matches won – fourth in a row
- First team ever to win all six ranges
- First female Palma Captain – certainly first victorious Female Captain
It was a glorious day for GB and more statistical analysis would tell you more of the depth of our victory but I shan’t bore you with that here. We won big and we were justly proud of years of hard work. The celebrations immediately after the match were wonderful and full of the beauty of our sport. All the teams gathered and shook hands. The runners up USA and South Africa were valiant fighters and all teams showed their appreciation for not only a great match but also a great win. Prize giving was well attended and all the teams were deservedly applauded for their efforts. Toby collected the Fulton trophy for his high score and Colin Cheshire presented the Arthur Clarke memorial prize to Matthew Ensor as top coach. It is sadly beyond the remit of this diary, and indeed in contravention of the first and second rules of touring, to confide in you the events that followed us from the range that evening, but let me just say that it involved a ferry, a pool party, very little sleep for some and the assistance of four police cars, most of the aforementioned involved our glorious leader! As the Americans would say, “Go figure”.