Throughout last week an anxious GB team studied the weather forecast and the progress of Storm Doris. Trees were uprooted, lorries blown over and rearsight windage arms oiled in anticipation. Happily the forecast gales and heavy rain went elsewhere-ish.
On Saturday, after a 7am roll-call at the North London Rifle Club for breakfast and a briefing by team management (less the vice-captain, whose car had broken down ten minutes from his home), we moved out to the 900yard firing point for our first long range shoot of the year.
Toby acquitted himself admirably as leader of the warm up routine prescribed by Jackie Davies, the team physio. Little did he know the video being taken of said warmup was about to be sent to Jackie to help her evaluate his performance. Apparently he did well. For a novice.
Despite the weather being warmer than during our January weekend, a steadily strengthening wind soon cut through our eclectic mix of waterproofs, shooting gear and repurposed skiwear. We didn’t stay warm for long. After two shoots in team order we were all grateful to get back to the North London for lunch and some warming soup.
Saturday afternoon was devoted to individual shooting practice. With three shooters to a target we took it in turns to fire shots across 4 details, with our range officers trying to provide ‘authentic’ South African range commands. The intention had been that all should shoot twice. At 3.55pm and just as the 4th detail were preparing to start their shoot, we realised that the range winter timetable was in operation and shooting would need to stop at 4pm. Team management had planned for a 4:30pm finish so half the team were unable to complete their shoots. We are still not sure which half got the better deal.
As darkness fell the team retired to the clubhouse to collect what the Captain terms our ‘stash’: team polo shirts, sweatshirts, fleeces, socks and a specially designed team tie with African theme (some readers will know that the Captain has a penchant for designing vibrant ties for touring teams). Trem is determinedly keeping the official tie design under wraps until the day we depart. Perhaps he is worried about our reaction/withdrawal from the tour if he unveils it too early? We await with interest – and even trepidation – as Trem’s ties are not for the shy or faint of heart!
After a break to change for dinner, during which many took the opportunity to catch up with Home countries’ progress in the Six Nations rugby matches, the team reconvened at the North London for dinner and team quiz games, organised again by Kelvin Ramsey.
Sunday morning on Stickledown range was bright and sunny with dark clouds providing a spectacular view but also a warning of the rain to come. For our first shoot, again in team order, many complaints were heard about the murky sight picture caused by the driving drizzle. The rain passed over but with clearing skies came more variable wind to keep the coaches on their toes. Despite these challenges the shooters managed to hold good groups with Paul Lanigan and David Luckman both scoring 149 out of 150.
Over an excellent, warming curry lunch the team was briefed on travel plans, given packing instructions and admonished by the captain to avoid catching anymore coughs and colds to pass onto fellow team members. Team members headed home, encouraged by thoughts of South African sun, steak and of course shooting with our international friends; due to start in less than three weeks.