Day 22 – Palma Match Day 2

Rosanne Furniss

Day two of the 2024 Palma dawned cooler than almost any on the tour so far, following a spectacular thunderstorm overnight. For the final time, target teams made their way to their respective vans for the drive to the General de Wet range. With just two points separating ourselves and Australia after day one, it effectively came down to a three range shootout against the reigning World Champions.

As we arrived at the range it was clear that the wind was (initially) fresher than yesterday, with flags horizontal to the ground from their usual 7 or 8 o’clock angle. Fresh, but also steady, allowing us to pursue our pre-agreed strategy of shooting quickly, posting a score, and moving back to the next range, conscious of the threat of rain arriving later in the day. A strong team performance saw us drop two points at 700m, good enough to eliminate Australia’s overnight two point lead as they lost four points. We were reminded of why a two day match is so exciting though; although behind overnight the USA went clean to win the 700m Day 2 and South Africa were only one point off…anything was possible.

As teams dressed back to 800m, there was nothing to separate ourselves from Australia: we were tied on both gun score and vee-bulls with 4776.650v. Remarkable.

Conditions at 800m remained steady, and we once again shot quickly and built a solid score. Bullseye followed vee followed vee followed bullseye, until eventually our final firer, Rick Shouler, was done. A cheer from the scoreboard confirmed that we had broken the range record set yesterday, posting a highest possible score of 1200 ex 1200. You might think that was enough to take a lead, but the Australians, shooting to our right hand side, responded magnificently and posted a 1200 of their own, with under 25 World Champion Mitch Bailey topping the pile with a perfect 75.15, his second of the match and yet another individual record in what was turning out to be surely the greatest match of all time. South Africa dropped 4, and the USA 2 points meaning that all the medal positions were being hotly contested.

And so with five out of the six ranges completed, GB and Australia remained almost inseparable, with the two sides tied on gun score, but GB leading by just four vees. Scores as we broke for lunch were GB and Australia on 5976 points each, GB 838 vee bulls to Australia’s 834. South Africa were third with 5957.729v, followed by the USA only 11 points further back, then New Zealand, Canada and Germany. So, after 6000 points and with the flags hanging limply down the poles, the destiny of the 2024 Palma trophy would be decided by a sixteen firer, sudden death shoot-off at 900m.

As we had at 700 and 800m, GB started strongly. The Australians lost four points early on, while we lost just a couple. With our third firers down, we had a lead of of two points and vees over the Australians, with the outcome of the match in our control. Nervous viewers at the range and watching the BBBBBBC feed online were crowded round the GB and Australian scoreboards as not enough points were being dropped to allow South Africa or the USA to fight back for pole position. Shot by shot, the Australians kept posting Vs and 5s, and whilst GB had more vee bulls coming in, the odd 4 was creeping in too. Records were being broken and rebroken across the range. As we levelled again on points, Australia only had one firer to go and we had three.

After a titanic battle, with the destiny of the Palma trophy not known until the very last shots of the final distance, it was the Australians who emerged triumphant, retaining the trophy that they had won in Trentham five years ago. Congratulations to Australia, and to Brett McCauley – and his coach Jim Bailey – for setting a new individual record for the Palma match: 450.73v, or just seventeen vees “dropped” across the six ranges and two days of intense competition.

10 firers from the USA, South Africa, GB and Australia shot 450s, with Brett McCauley’s the best. Theo Dodds (GB) set a new day record with 225.40v, only 5 vee bulls dropped all day. Australian Mitch Bailey’s 75.15v at 800m and American Curtis Gordon’s 75.14v at 900m set new individual range records. Matthew Ensor and Australian Hamish Pollock’s targets set a new 900m record of 300.46v. Jim Bailey (Aus) set both a new day record of 900.134v and a new target record of 1798.264v. GB’s 1200.188v at 800m and Australia’s 1196.161v at 900m were records. And of course, Australia’s winning day score of 3592.521v and total score of 7172.995v were new, and we suspect hard to beat, records.

A truly outstanding performance from so many shooters and coaches and an unforgettable and record breaking day. Although silver medals were not our goal, the Australian’s performance was truly spectacular, and their win well deserved.

With a bittersweet mixture of disappointment in the result but pride in our performance we headed to the final prizegiving of the tour, decked out in our Hawaiian shirts. After collecting our medals and enjoying dinner with our fellow competitors, we started to prepare for our packing day tomorrow as we recover from an exhausting few weeks.

Thank you all for your support over the past three weeks. We have broken records, got 5 of the top 7 individual shooters in the world, supported our Under 25 World Champions, gained a State President winner, a SABU Grand winner, won the Protea Match, and had an awful lot of fun along the way.

As we look forward to 2028, the work, preparation, technological steps forward and the friendships we have built will be an amazing building block for us to regain the Palma trophy at home. The fightback begins…