WFTF FT Championships 2009 South Africa
It's a difficult task to put into words what my experience of shooting the worlds was like. But I think if you talk to those that attended, they will all perhaps all struggle to convey the experience adequately as compared to their own memories. I can't really separate the shoot from the whole experience of the trip, so here's a belt and braces report.
The journey really began at Heathrow, Terminal 5. Mentioning to the check-in staff that you're taking a gun with you is a really good way to queue jump, even 5 hours ahead of takeoff. Come this way sir... visions of a marigold glove flashed across my mind... I guess I'll have to wait for that. It was pretty much a breeze, no paperwork was asked for, but in any case we had the backup of the paperwork supplied from Walther. It was so relaxed that we ended up behind the glass taking shots of the x-ray scanner's impressive view of our guns' internals. With them now on board we could then relax.
At the other end it was just as easy, our guns had made it safe and sound, and a finger poke (at the gun), and a cursory, but obviously bemused, glance in the airport's police station, was all that was needed to convince them that we didn't need a license. So we went our separate ways to our accommodation, some electing to stay at the shoot venue, myself taking advantage of Dale Foster's kind offer to stay with a friend.This was Nic Roets, Training Manager at the SA Hunters and Conservation Association... a small affair, they only have about 63,500 members! Nic also was one of the founding members of FT in South Africa... and I was assured that my carnivorous appetite and occasional shandy thirst would also go down well. It also meant I had easy access to a 50m indoor range, and a 100m outdoor facility right on my doorstep. Can't really land more on your feet can you?
The next few days were a whirlwind of hospitality. Within 24 hours of leaving the UK, I had met the founding members of FT in SA, the ex-chairman of Saafta, Ziggy, had several beers, come 3rd in a Buck Poop spitting comp (yes, as it sounds), eaten the rare Fresh Water Abalone (or Ox bollock as it's more commonly known) and fed Wotsits to an Ostrich, and been on a game drive. As I watched the sunset, we tucked into a bush meat Braai (BBQ to you) The next day was spent spying on the SA team practicing and finding the venue, which looked awesome, and some more socialising and pre-match relaxation. It wasn't until Wednesday the gun even came out of the case. It was still in one piece. (Many thanks to Jimmer for the loan of his 1720 case... worked a treat)
So we opened up the indoor 50m range to the Uk shooters, which proved valuable, James Woodhead finding his scope pointing 3 & 1/2 MOA leftwards. We also tested the guns in the afternoon's 30 degree heat to see if they would shift speed, but thankfully they all stayed stable. The indoor range allowed us to explore the new trajectory that the 4000ft altitude created. Most found that their shots were lifting past the zero point, flying flatter through the thinner air, and consequently staying up to 1 MOA higher at 55yds than they would in the UK. I decided it was too hot indoors and I elected to do my ranges back at the farm in the cool evening shade... I didn't feel to bad, Calps, Ozzy, Page P.James & Noon couldn't even be prised away from the pool. (I didn't have a pool)
My confidence obviously exuding, Dale felt it safe to introduce me to Ronnie, Nic's brother. He was a hospitality expert, running the local tavern and accommodation for passing hunters and miners. He also, ahem, allegedly, distilled Granny's Cough Syrup... a local specialty. 80% by volume. The next thing I knew it was Thursday, and I was registering and chronoing the gun, muttering something about a headache. The temperature at the shoot venue was still 30 degrees in the shade. It wasn't the conditions to be playing with dehydration any further I decided. I got no sympathy from the other team members... so,I figured they had done the same. We stuck to tea that night. The next day was the big event.
Switching my competition brain on, I knew we were in for a fight. There was no doubt about that. Before the event there were several official announcements on rules and some unofficial leaks about the course. We knew were would be up against it. The WFTF has minimal core rules, which allows a large amount of flavouring by the host nation. SAAFTA's rules are largely based around SWEFTA's rules, but they ramped them up for the international event and mixed them into the WFTF's. 70% reducers were allowed and 30% positionals also. And they weren't mutually exclusive.
Sitting 30mm's went out to 44yds (40m), 20mm's go out to 33yds (30m), Sitting 13mm's go out to 22yds (20m)
Kneeling/standing 20mm's went out to 22yds (20m), 30mm's out to 33yds (30m). They also went all the way out to 55yds with 40mm's..
There was also the timing to deal with. Not the 2 mins after the eye goes to scope, nope, 3 mins from when your bum hits the mat (each lane had one) and you time yourself... chrono'ing was also a bit of a worry, as SAAFTA had elected to test first with a standard pellet... I think it escaped someone that 12ft-lb with one pellet isn't the same as with another. I was glad that I hadn't used the Falcons at 860 fps.
So that was the course... but then we also had the environment. 30 degrees in the shade was expected, we were at 4000ft, and would climb another 400ft over the length of the largely unshaded 2km long course. And it started at 11am and finished at 3pm.
We also knew the SA team had been practicing out there several times within the past couple of months. We were assured though that the course had changed... and there was an embargo on shooting the course a week before. Like I said, we were in for a fight.
Quite how much of a fight only became apparent on the course. I had taken the approach that walking the course beforehand would do little to help, so I took it head on. My first lane was a 50yd kneeler and 55yd sitter. It didn't get better the next lane, 30yd 30mm stander, reduced 40yd sitter. And the next lane, 50yd stander (on an uneven rock hanging over a small lake) and a 55yd sitter. Next lane, no positionals... phew... just a 50 and 55yd... and it went on.. and on. Not one single target was a given. The targets were maxed to the rules, and in every single lane. No rest, no respite, reduced stander, reduced kneeler, reducer, long target, long reducer, long stander, and each time you took a little step higher up the hill.
We are getting hold of the spread sheet of all the target lengths and sizes, so you'll be able see what were were up against. Toughest course I've seen, by a very long way. We may try and replicate it, but it will involve you wearing ski clothes, midsummer, and you need to climb up and down a ladder between each lane.
At least the weather was being kind the first day. 27 degrees in the shade, cloudy, but humid, we even had a spot of rain to make us feel home.
As you worked your way up the mountain and into the bush, the long targets changed to shorter ones, typically 15-30yds with a few 40's thrown in. But none were gimme's... a lot of 13mm's, and if they weren't then they were standers, or kneelers, or just larger reducers, or both. I did see the easiest target, a 20yd 45mm stander, and missed it... I think due to shock! Coming back down and off the hill, you were presented with two open fields, one strewn with dead wood (and by now several suicidal FT shooters) and another just short cut grass. Both exposed to a strong breeze that flicked and moved with the convection currents that drove it. Both exposed to the sun, or on this day, cloud.
They hadn't been soft there either immediately throwing a 50'yd ish yd stander, or kneeler, depending on what course you were on after the long walk down. Missing breakfast my legs were jelly and I missed all of them before the field... but by somehow I'd gotten used to it by the time I got to them, and then took the next 3 standers that came to make them my first standing hits... 55, 50, 45 yds... nothing like doing it the hard way. I had heard Calps had made it through the first part of the field with just 1 hit... I faired only slightly better.
So at the end of the day we gathered our scores. My 33 wasn't my best effort, lack of energy, stress from unfamiliar conditions and approach took their tool. But I was proud to see that other team members hadn't buckled, and we had strong team scores and James Woodhead had put in the top score of the day with a 46 ex 50. Later I learned that this was the course record, and that the course designers had been wholly surprised at his achievement. The SA team also put in a strong 1st day, and although they were behind, we by no means had a comfortable lead. There were some grumblings, we had found the day tough, there was no doubt about that... but ******** doesn't down targets, and we made sure we were in the right mood to attack the course the next day.
The next day brought a change in the weather. 30 degrees in the shade, sun. No cloud. A light breeze and stronger convection winds moved around the course. Anyone familiar with the Nefta's bowl will understand the winds that moved through the open areas. I started right at the top of the hill, but I donned the jacket on beforehand, sunk water till I could take no more and set about the course. We all felt better that day, and although the scores might not reflect it, we all shot better. We were in good spirits as well. I watched Andy burn a minute up giggling like a schoolgirl after his hampster fell off, before going on and dropping two high exposed 50+'ers. But the wind was tougher, and this perhaps bit into the SA's advantages perhaps more than they realised, whereas most of our team forged ahead. On the latter section I was plagues by a perplexing shift of POI to the right when I got back up the mountain, which hadn't affected the cooler but longer targets lower down. Whether it was laying the gun on it's side in the 42 degree heat (as noted by my scope's temp strips) , or what, but others saw the same problems, and those 13mm's took their toll as I bounce off reducer ring after reducer ring. It wasn't the breeze up there, as there was barely enough to shift ciggy smoke. Again we came off the course with strong team scores... we didn't have the top of the day, but we had 10 shots ahead. It then dawned on us that the teams would be settled from the best 4 scores of the day, rather than the best 4 scores over the 3 days (it was 4 scores as this was the smallest team entered by another country). Nevermind, we'll take it as it comes.
I checked the zero back at my accommodation the next morning and found nothing unusual. I put it down to unseen breeze.
We were marginally pleased to see that the SA shooters also seemed to suffer in the heat. they were mostly in light t-shirts etc. We kept our jackets on though, and I was later to learn that the SA SF lads do the same, as it reduces dehydration by stopping the wind taking sweat away, and also keeps the sun off the skin. You just need to down lots of water. Sarah was taken aside by a 12 year old and told to do so when he recognised early signs of heat stroke.
One thing I had noted that the courses were extremely well matched. Intermingled, it meant you gained no advantage in shooting one course in one area in conditions that could change to something else another day.
And so he final day had come. Everyone looked tired. James and John held strong 1st and 2nd positions respectively, four shots separating them, with Berty tied for 3rd. We had 10 points in hand, but despite Calp's reassurance that it was in safe hands, I didn't want to think about the consequences of butter fingers, especially seeing as I could not lift my game. I started low down in the fields, and got off to a good start... game on. I struggled a little in the mid section across the lakes, but held my own... but again the reducers hit hard, and the 45 degree sun seemed to once again show a POI shift right. I was sure it wasn't me misreading the wind, but there was no way I was going to dial out 10mm of shift at 20yds... even if Ozzy had done the same the day before mid course. But I was tired, and I just held onto what I had as best I could. I hoped the team wouldn't need my score, and I knew a top 10 had slipped away the day before. Putting the gun in a small patch of shade and getting her down below 40 degrees stopped the strangeness. However a stock bolt still burnt my kneecap... the ripped jeans only failing.
As we got off the course, the scores came in. John Costello had raised his game to put in the best score of the day with a 42. Superb. James W had dropped back by 4 to 38. His Anschutz's breach seal had popped and he had to replace it twice with fresh ones. By the end of the course only holdover would cure the dropping shots. He had also mooted before the day the laughable possibility of a shoot-off. Berty was also in the same boat, having dropped his last target and letting the whole mountain know that he was ready for any shootoff necessary. James however was tipping iced water over the gun to get it cold and sealing again.
So on we went to the shoot-off lane. I knew what it was. 13mm. 21yds. Standing. Sudden death. If it didn't fall after a couple of goes, it would be done kneeling. My partner from day 2, Lynn Strydom had to drop it to take her position in the ladies. Despite a good stance, she hadn't faired well on the standers on the course, but she didn't mess with this, and put her S400 to good use to drop it with the first shot. Crikey.
Berty was up next, and him, Henne and Dave all went through a round... but we wanted it down for him, and Berty looked like he wasn't accepting another miss and dropped it standing after the other two missed it on their second attempt. (I don't think he could be outdone my a girl) As anyone would expect with the modest Berty, he turned to the crowd and gave it a fine roar of "Come on!" after taking 3rd place.
So it was down to separate John and James. The team was divided on which they wanted to win, but no-one wanted to see either lose. They put us through hell as they went at it shot after shot standing, but it remained up. But dropping down to kneelers James dropped it on his first attempt and it was all over. John said given the way he was moving it would have taken two weeks to drop it. James said he would have struggled to hit a 50mm let alone a 15mm on the day.
So that was it.
Afterwards as we were provided with a post match dinner, speeches and dancing entertainment, the likes of which some of the south Africans hadn't even seen. We saw the end result of 3 days of competition completed in a manner which will simply be the benchmark for the Worlds for the future. It will be the no.1 defacto reference for any comparison, and SAAFTA should be extremely proud of this.
Thoughts of scores and placings disappeared as we chatted as friends rather than competitors. As we watched the Zulu dancers it became apparent what we had experienced as a shoot. We were the visitors to their home ground, and we had been besieged by the best they had using all their home knowledge. All we could do was what we knew how to do, which was to shoot as best as we can and come what may. It had been a battle, but we'd both come away from it with mutual respect for each other. It wasn't the result they wanted for themselves so very dearly, and for us it was so much tougher and closer than we expected. We got our medals and trophies, but I think we'll all treasure our South African experience just as dearly, I hope we can repay the effort one day.
I left the farm with little Nic (Nic's son) shooting nockover's in the garden with his S200 at 55yds... Oh go on then Nic, one last shot... missed... ok I see what's happening, next shot, down she goes. Good time to leave.
Yeh, the post is a bit of a saga, but for 7 days it was a real adventure... and I'd like to thank Dale and Nic for their hospitality and SAAFTA for the whole experience. It's going to be very hard to top it.
Oh, I forgot the scores... http://www.ft-worlds2009.co.za/world...all_scores.pdf Well done to all those
BFTA/NSRA County Coach
CSFTA Chairman/BFTA Rep
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Great post Rob And thanks for taking the time to write it. Sounds like those of us at home missed something very very special indeed.
A brilliant write up, took me right there, I'm not sure I could have handled that hill in that heat! I'm not missing another one though, I'll attend all of them from '10 onwards.
The bar has definitely been set now, excellant effort from South Africa on both their shooting & their organisational skills.
I've said it before in other places but congratulations to James, John & Mark. Well done also to all the Britons who competed down there. I for one want to hear ALL the stories from the event.
What happened to Lyndeen's final result?
"The Past is a Foreign Country, they do things differently there".