For the first time in this cycle the 2024 Palma team met early on a Friday at Bisley for a 3-day training camp. The team and reserves had been allocated into 4 target families which, whilst not set in stone for the next 9 months, will aim to foster closer working relationships as the team work towards the Palma match.
This weekend was the first opportunity for these families to shoot together and, with the benefit of a quieter range template on a Friday, the first chance to shoot a full Palma match day in one go.
For the unfamiliar, the Palma Match comprises two days of team shooting, with 2 sighting shots and then 15 shots to count at 700, 800 and 900 metres (or 800, 900 and 1000 yards). The day started with team stretches before message one was passed in hot and very sunny conditions, accompanied by a light breeze from the left.
James Watson was top score for the range, being the best of 10 scores of 75, in his case with 12 V bulls.
Back to 900 yards and the coaches had their fingers full as the wind conditions picked up. This was reflected in the scoring, Jack Alexander (and his coach Seth Dowley) returning the only HPS of 75 across the whole team. There followed a brief stop for lunch in the North London RC to allow for rehydration and the reapplication of sunscreen before a far more challenging shoot at 1000 yards. Scoring reflected the difficult conditions (up to a 7-minute wind bracket at times). Scores starting with a 6 were not unheard of. Rosanne Furniss combining excellently with her coach Matthew Ensor for the only 75 (with 3 vee bulls) at 1000 yards, and she also took top score of the day with 222.19.
The Friday evening was a social affair, with the North London Rifle Club hosting us for a 2023 touring team reunion dinner, reflecting and celebrating our recent tour of South Africa and the very competitive shooting we encountered in Bloemfontein.
Saturday dawned slightly cooler, but dry, and would be a full day of team shooting in a ‘friendly’ match against Andrew Lothian’s GB team set for Canada this August. Several members of the Palma team are also on the Canada touring team, and negotiations during the week between managements resulted in two separate and distinct teams and promised a strong match.
The course of fire was that of a reverse Australia Match. Range allocations meant that 900 and 1000 yards (10 scoring shots per firer) were to be shot in the morning whilst 300 and 600 yards were timetabled for the afternoon. As it happened, the wind for the day almost completely disappeared in the afternoon, and so it was rather fortuitous that we got to compete in the more difficult conditions at long range in the morning. And they were difficult!
Scoring at 900 yards was strong for most (notwithstanding one unfortunate team member with a rifle failure) with 9 HPS scores of 50 and 4 further scores of 49. David Armstrong (coached by Derek Lowe) topped the team scores with a 50.7.
Back to 1000 yards and the wind had fully woken up, still from the left but also a slight headwind – this would test the coaches and the ammunition fully. No one on the Palma team managed to score a 50, with 4 team members scoring 49 – Chloë Evans with 49.2 and David Armstrong, Glyn Barnett and Parag Patel all scoring 49.4.
With it being only 10 scoring shots per person, the team found itself with over and hour of spare range time before lunch. This was used in varying ways, with some of the coaches opting to get some trigger time, and other squad members running some ammunition testing or trying out new equipment too.
Another excellent lunch at the North was spoiled slightly by the news that, under the pre-defined match conditions (lowest 10 scores from each team to count), we were 1 point behind our opposition moving into short range.
Conditions in the afternoon remained hot and humid, but bizarrely there was almost no wind. Short range therefore became a real test of marksmanship on the ICFRA target. 11 team members scored 50s, with Seth Dowley’s target leading the way with 248.33 (ex 250.50). The Palma team won the 300-yard distance by 3 points, taking a vital 2 point lead back to 600 yards.
600 yards yielded 13 scores of 50, with James Watson hitting the vee bull 8 out of ten times. Hats off to Derek Lowe’s target for not dropping a single point.
The Canada 2023 team also shot very well at 600 yards, with only 1 vee bull separating the two teams at that distance.
Ultimately therefore, 300 yards appeared to be the pivotal range with the Palma team running out eventual winners. Congratulations must go to Jon Underwood (even though he was shooting with the opposition for this match) for his near-perfect score of 200.16, coached by Jane Messer.
In the evening the match was celebrated between the two teams with an excellent meal hosted by the Canada 2023 team in the Surrey Rifle Association.
Sunday’s training did not require rifles but did require the engagement of brains and bodies in a number of team ‘classroom’ sessions looking at training plans, fundraising, equipment updates and a practical training session with our team physiotherapist Zoe Stirling. Fully stretched and with aching cores, we retired after a long weekend eager to perform at our best during the Imperial Meeting in a few short weeks.