Our tour to South Africa officially ended in the early hours of Monday morning when we touched down at Heathrow. Much of the 48 hours since has been spent unpacking, sleeping and spending time with families (and work) and for most of us has been somewhat of a blur. Co-incidentally, today marks exactly 1 year to go until the 2024 Palma Long Range World Championship match, and as such it seems an appropriate time to pause and reflect on our tour.
This morning saw the second of our two team matches, the Protea match, and is considered the most prestigious match in South Africa. GB Teams have competed in various international ‘test matches’ in South Africa from the first overseas tour to visit in 1921 but the first time a GB team competed in the Protea Match, as it is now named, was in 1998. This will be GB’s 15th appearance in the Protea match, and it is well known to be hard to win against South Africa on their home soil.
State President II
With the conclusion of the Grand Agg yesterday afternoon, our readers might be forgiven for thinking that the main event for individual shooting was complete. However, in South Africa, there is still the State Presidents 2nd and 3rd stages, the former of which was to be shot this morning.
State President I
Thursday is a long day of individual shooting; 5 distances, and then tie-shoots for those lucky enough to make them! First order of business is the 1st stage of the State President’s. This is the South African Bisley Union’s equivalent of HM the Kings Prize back home in the UK. With 7 scoring shots each at 300, 500 and 600m.
RSA International Match
This morning was brimming with anticipation as our first international match, the RSA International, was scheduled for the afternoon. With the team announced yesterday, our armourers had spent yesterday evening making the required ammunition tuned to each of the shooters rifles.
Free State Championships
Friday signalled the start of individual competition shooting in the Free State Championships, the traditional warm-up to the South African Champs (or SA Bisley as they call it). Course of fire was to be 2 sighters and 10 to count at 300m and 800m, and 2 sighters and 11 to count at 600m and 900m, shot in distance order.
After the excitement and stresses of traveling, and an impressive thunderstorm overnight, Wednesday was set to be a day of rest and preparation.
Some squad members started the morning in the gym or the pool, others opted to take advantage of one of a very small number of lie in days on the tour.
Back in 2020, around 100 hopefuls submitted an application to be a part of the 2023 Palma Squad, with a pre-tour in 2022. One global pandemic later, and the schedule slipping by a year, today marks 883 days since the 4th October 2020 when the initial squad was selected. This is the day we’ve all had circled in our calendars for a very, very long time.
The team met early for breakfast on Saturday for the start of our training weekend. The excitement that might usually accompany the first training weekend now we are an official GB touring team was noticeably and appropriately dampened by the sombre national events of the preceding days; the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, not only our Queen but also our Patron.