22/10 Palma Match Day 2

Martin rei(g)ned as wind twisted and pearled
SA threatened as long range unfurled
But we queued in a snake
For an all-team handshake
As the new champions of the world.

The night between the two days of the Palma Match was a tense one. Many of the team reported having had disturbed sleep and strange dreams; although that could just have been the result of the cheese course at dinner. Still, most of the team were up and about early to depart for the range by 07:45, with a few early risers leaving by 07:30 to put the kettle on in the Natives. Breakfast was fairly minimal for most of the shooters and one or two of the team looked slightly queasy going into the final day, with only a slim insurance policy of 25 points.

Heading out to the range in the vans for the target draw, GB found themselves on the far left of the range at 800 yards. With the prevailing wind coming from the left and up the range, this led to a sense of foreboding of what could happen when the shooting would move to the longer ranges and GB would be on the less sheltered right-hand side of the range. Shooting kicked off at 09:30 and most teams launched into 800 yards with abandon, being the shortest (and therefore easiest) of the three distances, which are all shot on the same targets. It rapidly became clear that conditions were slightly easier than yesterday and the scores were going to be high; however they were again not going to equal the 2007 Palma Match, where GB cleaned both 800 yard shoots. All teams finished in just over an hour, well within the 100 minute time limit. GB dropped just 5 points to win the range, followed by South Africa a point behind, with the USA dropping 7.

All teams moved swiftly back to 900 yards to prepare for the next shoot, which was to follow immediately after the finish of 900. Unlike the previous day, where there was very little cloud cover, day 2 of the Palma Match was quite overcast, producing a softer, flatter light. A few spots of rain were even felt, but these soon dried up before the start of the range. Teams started more cautiously than at the previous range, owing to the strengthening and more variable winds. Significant drop-offs waited to catch the unwary, and many teams elected to take long breaks during turbulent patches of wind. Despite the tricky conditions and being in the middle of the range, GB’s superb wind coaching and strong tactics allowed the team to drop just 18 points at 900 yards; ten points clear of the next team, New Zealand. USA dropped 31, South Africa and Australia dropped 32, and Canada dropped 33.

The teams broke for a very tense lunch, with many shooters heading back as soon as they had completed their shoot or plotting stints to give themselves some time to digest before the final range. Great Britain had extended their lead to a total of 40 points over South Africa, with the USA in third not far behind; however in the difficult conditions on Belmont ranges, such a lead could evaporate in only a few shoots if the team were to lose its grasp of the wind or make a tactical misjudgement. Having eaten, Webbie addressed the assembled team in the Natives hut for one last time, giving encouragement to the troops. The team left the Natives and drove with purpose to the right-hand end of the 1000 yards firing point for the final range of the World Long Range Championship for the Palma Trophy.

As on previous days, the wind after lunch was quite vicious; there were some big pick-ups and even bigger drop-offs during the first few shooters. All teams took long breaks to ride out the choppier passages of wind; however the shoots slowly progressed and scores were posted on the boards for all to see. Great Britain was clearly doing well and one or two of the other teams were clearly faring less well, but over on the sheltered left-hand side of the range the South Africans were making an extremely strong showing also, with very few scores under 70. Was it possible for them to catch up enough points to threaten GB, who were over on the exposed right-hand side of the range?

The scores for the third and fourth shooters on each of the targets started to come through after a number of long waits to allow the wind to settle. The South Africans were still posting good scores in the harsh winds, but it was not going to be enough to overturn the lead that GB had amassed over the preceding five ranges. At the end of the range, South Africa had won the range on 44 off and eroded the lead, but GB had held fast to drop just 49 points. After two years of training and six ranges of fiercely hard work, the Great Britain Rifle Team had retained the Palma Trophy, dropping 173 points and beating the previous record of 200 points dropped set in 2007.  South Africa were also just 8 points off this record despite the tricky wind conditions. The celebrations for GB and commiserations for the other teams were going to last long into the night and well into the early hours of the next morning for some of the team.

  1. Great Britain, 7027.651
  2. South Africa, 6992.651
  3. United States of America, 6980.655
  4. Australia, 6966.603
  5. Canada, 6910.563
  6. New Zealand, 6894.533