And so it begins… Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th January

Saturday 19th January

The GB Palma team had been instructed not to be late for the 09:00 gathering this morning to weigh and pack all the luggage for our departure. But we had also been told by baggage master Matt Millar not to be early, so everyone was bang on time.

Some good delegation had gone on, so the process ran as smoothly as this diarist has ever seen it. There was plenty of opportunity for most team members to get out of the way as the baggage team ensured everything was ship-shape.

At 11:30 the coach was in place and quickly loaded so that the team could depart swiftly for an early arrival at Heathrow, well in advance of the 16:50 flight. There, trolleys were quickly sourced and everyone engaged “sheep mode” as requested by the adjutant.

With certain Cathay Pacific check-in desks set aside for the Palma team and separate ones for the Veterans and the U21s, who were all on the same flight, the check-in process was remarkably smooth and everyone was soon waiting for customs to come and do some rifle checks before the teams were allowed through into security twenty people at a time. Initially we thought this was to smooth our passage, but it seems it was more so that we wouldn’t hold everyone else up! Smooth progress nonetheless.

Different groups went to various lounges, shops and the seafood bar; one of the team doctors was summoned back out of the lounge, though, to help one of the Veterans team, who had had an allergic reaction and would now be following on a later flight. We all boarded the plane for what turned out to be a pleasant and quiet flight to Hong Kong, where the most distressing thing to occur was the captain accidentally asking for there to be no ice in the diarist’s glass. Smooth and uneventful is how we like our flights. Next stop Hong Kong, for a 2.5 hour layover before continuing onto Auckland.

On this day in 2003, believe it or not, GB shot in the “mini-Palma” match against New Zealand – the very last activity of that year’s tour, which had started just after Christmas. On that day, 800 yards had seen a gentle breeze, 900 yards a stiffer but manageable wind, and then 1000 yards after lunch turned into an astonishing set of conditions. As that year’s diary states, “we’ve seen some interesting wind during our time in Trentham, but this is farcical! When the flags on your left are showing 8 right and the ones to your right are showing 6 left and you’re halfway between them, there’s not much more you can do but guess. We did our best…” but with trips out into the white of the target being frequent (as were the variations across the full range of that bracket in a rear fishtail), the Kiwis’ local knowledge proved valuable and GB were trounced. It didn’t help that we had unwired headsets back then, and couldn’t hear each other because of wind noise. Here’s hoping our improved communication and skills honed through substantial collective training lead to a much stronger performance in the Palma Match in three weeks’ time.

Sunday 20th January

Sunday comprised lots more time on planes and a two hour stop-over in Hong Kong, where some went to the shops and others to some very busy lounges. Lots of duty free purchase plans were dashed by the realisation that Hong Kong prices on the essential items no longer represent anything like good value. That’s OK though – less to carry on the second flight.

And just like that, Sunday was gone. I am pleased to report that we all arrived safely at Auckland Airport, where immigration was a marvel of technological efficiency, and the only long wait was for rifles and NZ firearms licences to be checked and issued respectively. But that’s part of Monday’s offering.


  1. MAJ

    Wonderful to read yoir commentary. Best of breed. Look fwd to following your journey

  2. Paul Lambert

    As an original pom but now living in Upper Hutt ( been here 41 years from Surrey ) it is great to see such a large contingent of Brits here for the comps – I am helping out at the champs and look forward to making your visit enjoyable-


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