The team is on the way home from a very challenging week at the Connaught Ranges, near Ottawa, Ontario. The highlight of the week our victory in the America Match on Saturday. The Dominion of Canada Rifle Association matches are some of the best organized in the world. Our hosts, especially Scott Bissett and Kath Corcoran, were very gracious and welcoming as always.
We spent the first couple days training and then began the DCRA National Matches. After two days of shooting at 700-900 Meters, eleven of our team members finished in the top twenty. Special recognition is due to our Canadian friend, Kevin Chou who won the National Championship by a 17 point margin over our top shooter, Dan Lentz, in third place. Kevin’s brother Will, was his only real competition, finishing only four points lower for the Silver.
Our own Mitch Fitzpatrick finished as the top U25 competitor. For the Open Rifle team, Shiraz Balolia took home his third Gold from Connaught.
In the first team event on Friday, we entered one team in the “International Match” to compete against teams from Canada and South Africa. The International is a two squad match with eight shooters per team. On a somewhat inclement day, the South Africans took Gold in a well deserved victory, finishing eight points ahead of us. At the same time the International teams were competing, we entered three teams in the “Lum Match”. The course of fire was the same, the only difference being that the Lum teams are made up of four shooters, rather than eight. The US finished well, taking two of the top three places in the event. Team ‘USA Schwartzkopf’, coached by Matt Schwartzkopf, took top honors by one point over second place team, “’USA Reeve’.
On Saturday, we competed in the America Match. This would be the first America Match fired under F-class rules to be contested by more than two teams. Again we faced off against the teams from Canada and South Africa. The America Match is an international match fired every two years and hosted alternatively by the Canadians or the Americans. In 2012, it was hosted by South Africans.
Several other teams also entered the match as ‘Alongside’ teams. In international level matches, only one team per country may enter the official event. However it is common practice to allow alongside teams to compete if there is space available on the range. Both the US Rifle Team and Canadian Rifle Team entered an alongside team and one other private team made up of both Canadians and Americans, entered as well.
The forecast was for ¾” of rain with temps in the low sixties and windy all day. Earlier in the week the temperatures had been in the high 90’s (f). The match started off in heavy rains at 500 meters. With all the rain we had some rifle issues that delayed us and finished the stage with only seconds to spare. Due to the weather, the team Captains met and decided to move directly to the 900M line for the next stage. The worry was that due to even worse weather moving our way we would not get the entire match in and it was felt that shortened match should be contested at the longest distance.
We worked our way back to 900M as the pit crew changed over targets and then proceeded with the second stage. All the teams were experiencing difficulties of one sort or another due to the weather. The target markers had it the worst, trying to keep the soggy targets properly scored while still providing relatively quick target operation.
As we broke for lunch the captains had more conversations on whether to continue or call the match. Again, we decided to continue. The time limit for the next stage was 80 minutes and the radar showed strong storms would reach us in 60 minutes. That proved quite motivational for all.
We called the match after the third stage and huddled under our canopies to total the scores for the day. As noted all the teams suffered a few difficulties due to the weather and we left the range not knowing who had won. Several hours later as we assembled for the award ceremony, Mias Nieuwoudt, Adjutant of the SA team, let the cat out of the bag a little by privately congratulating us as we walked in to the Pavilion. We had won the day by a healthy margin.
As a team, we had managed to perform well in the conditions and as importantly, handle the rifle and target problems that occurred without letting them sidetrack us. All of the teams who finished out the day, deserve high praise for the mental toughness required to shoot and perform well under the conditions and not give up.
We were lucky to have Kelly McMillan, of McMillan Riflestocks, fly into to town for the latter part of the week to spend time with the team and many of the other foreign competitors attending. Kelly has been a big promoter of the shooting sports throughout his career. His new stocks designed for F-class competition are taking over the sport.
John Pierce of Pierce Engineering is also a big supporter of the shooting sports and a member of our team. His actions are being used all over the world by top competitive shooters.
75% of our team is either using Kelly’s stocks or John’s actions and many are using both.
A special thanks also goes out to Sinclair International and Brownell's for their support of this year’s tour to Canada. We are all using products from Sinclair because they have what we need to stay competitive at the international level.