22.08.10 The America Match

This was it. This was the BIG ONE. This was the day for which the team had been preparing for over a year. This was the one that really mattered: the America Match

This was it. This was the BIG ONE. This was the day for which the team had been preparing for over a year. This was the one that really mattered: the America Match.

The day was overcast with plenty of wind to lift the flags off their fat poles, and a forecast of rain – all factors that should be to the GB team’s advantage, particularly with a strong coaching team of Main Coach Martin and target coaches Jane and Dom. Conditions for the match are similar to an Australia (Empire) Match – teams of 8 shooting at 300 & 600 yds and 800 & 900 metres but with 15 shots rather than 10 at each range.

After particularly good motivational briefs by Match Captain Archie and Tour Vice, that old hand Nigel, the Match started at 0830. As with the Canada Match, for which we were seeking revenge, the GB team led off by Lucky and Milko quickly settled into the process of hitting the middle in an effort to establish a lead. Once again we were on the right hand side of Connaught’s A Range. This time, despite the longer course of fire, the team only dropped one point, compared with 8 dropped by Canada and the USA. As well as the 7 point advantage, we had also built up a healthy lead in V bulls with 86 compared to 68 and 59 for the USA and Canada respectively.

At 600 yds the teams once again moved to the extreme left side of the range. The light rain that had accompanied the start of 300 yds had quickly stopped, and continued to hold off through 600 yds. The wind, though around 3-4 minutes, was fairly steady and Canada moved up a gear to post a 599.79 but were left wondering what they had to do to catch GB who had a superb shoot, going clean to post 600.89. The USA had also improved, but still lost 6 points to trail Canada by 5 and GB by 13 as the teams broke for lunch.

After further motivating and inspiring briefing from Jane and Nigel, Team GB came out very hard at 800m posting 599.76. The USA had clearly also received some effective motivation over their lunchtime sandwiches as they went clean with the same number of Vs, to claw back a point on GB. Canada posted the highest number of Vs, with 86, but lost a further 2 points. Going into the final range, scores were finely poised at GB 2 off, Canada 11 off and USA 14 off, by no means a safe margin at this longest and most difficult range.

Nigel’s motivational brief at the team huddle drew on a number of references and ended with a rousing adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V inspiring speech before the Battle of Agincourt with Jane substituted in for St George. Fired up for the final push with reinvigorated determination, the GB team set to work and were quickly posting steady high scores. So too were both Canada and the USA in relatively steady wind conditions, but with plenty there to take you away from the bull if you did not take care. By the end of the range, it became apparent that all three teams had posted the same score, 9 off, with only 2 Vs between top and bottom score. The final scores were thus GB 2389.315, Canada 2380.287 and USA 2377.280. Yet another very close and hard fought match and one that GB were delighted to win, this having been the Captain’s prime shooting objective throughout.

The Captain’s bold selection of two new caps for the match team, Henry Day and Steph Ward, might have surprised a few, given that neither had shot in the Canada Match and only Henry had shot in the Commonwealth match. They had, however, both shot very well in team matches over the whole tour and in the winning GB Under 25 short range team, where Steph had posted a superb 150. They both rose to the occasion in the America match, fully justifying the Captain’s faith in their ability to shoot well as quality gun platforms under pressure, with excellent 299s, each losing a single shot to wind. Clearly both are talented shooters to watch in the future. Mention must also be made of the David Armstrong’s 300.42 and Paul Sykes who shot superbly throughout, including a 75.15 at 600.

Chris Haley, disappointed at not being part of the America Match team, had the compensating role of Butt Scrutineer. In other circumstances this role may not hold many attractions; however, at Connaught, the butt markers are all bright young things aged 17 to 19, from one of the local girls’ schools. This was therefore a much coveted role, but Chris had been specially selected by the Captain as a person who would be able to focus on the appointed task, despite the potential distractions. Nevertheless, Chris’s smile at the end of the match was as broad as those of the winning match team members.

Throughout the match, the whole team remained focussed on its goal, including the ‘back room’ team ably led by Archie and Simon who supported the firing point so ably and to whom so much credit is due for our success. However, the debrief revealed that not everything had gone quite to plan. Perhaps due to it being the end of a long hard few weeks on tour, or maybe the distress of discovering that for the first time he now featured in the older half of the team, Lucky had managed to get to the firing point without his shooting jacket. Nigel had gone one better, turning up without his rifle. Lucky had also forgotten his driving licence and shooting sweatshirts on the outbound journey, and it is rumoured that the concerned Captain has now appointed a Lucky minder for the return trip to ensure that he is returned, with all his baggage, into Susie’s care. Archie, clearly under the strain of match captaincy had, after four weeks of driving in Canada, got into the right hand front seat, put his hands up and wondered for quite a while where the steering wheel had gone...

It had been a day for motivational thinking, but Chris Haley came up with possibly the finest suggestion for future touring, endorsed by all, that Martin might improve his tally of possibles during the meeting (1) if his lobster consumption were to be limited to one per highest possible score.

Following the match prize giving and farewells to our Canadian and American friends, the team retired to a private room in Mama Theresa’s Italian restaurant in downtown Ottawa for a celebratory dinner, at which each team member made a speech to varying degrees of hilarity and various tour awards were posted. However, all had a strong central theme of congratulations to Jane for being such a fine team captain and role model and gratitude for having been selected to join such a well integrated, happy and successful team. Most then retired back to the hotel while an intrepid group continued the celebrations in downtown Hull.

Team Doctor’s Medical Tip of the Day: It’s important that you remember to breathe – thanks Doc, we had never realised it mattered.