MUCH more than just a GREAT shoot!
Little by little, FT Team USA is coalescing into a better team with more communication, more cooperation and, while we all hold our own ideas, more and more I appreciate an "Esprit de Corps" that will undoubtedly bring better and better results down the road.
With this I also want to thank ALL my Teammates for a memorable experience!
Having said this, I have to admit that this is the year I have, personally, been less/worst prepared for what undoubtedly has been the best organized WFTC's in my short 4 year International FT experience.
But, we'll come to that later, let's start at the begining:
For Norway, we used the Troll, which is, more or less, the National Mascot. You find them everywhere!
For Germany, because the town that hosted the event played such an important role, we decided to make the logo specific to the town of Ebern, and so we used the wild boar that is part of the local legend and lore.
Then for New Zealand, there was no question: a Kiwi bird!
For Lithuania, we had a little bit more of a problem.
Lithuania has a complicated history, from being THE European Power of the 13th century to becoming an occupied state tossed between Russian, then Soviet, then German, and then Soviet dominion back again, it regained its independence scarcely 33 months after President Reagan's famous challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. So, Lithuania is old and new, young and ancient, and not all is happy history. Quite the contrary. But Lithuanians are a strong, resourceful, people and one legend stands, perhaps more in relation to the western culture than others: that of the Vilnius Iron Wolf.
According to legend Grand Duke Gediminas, one of the first rulers of a unified Lithuania had a dream where an Iron Wolf was howling atop a hill. When he awoke, his main adviser (then a pagan priest, as Lithuania was one of the last European countries to completely Christianize) told him that the dream meant that he should raise a castle and city in that hill, and that the noise and success of the people living in the city would resound around the world like the howling of a pack of wolves.
And so, Vilnius was formed around the defensive works of the castle, walls and towers.
Bearing a strong resemblance to the Roman Capitoline Wolf legend, we decided it would be a good idea to honor the city that has been the heart and soul of a country that survived many and varied attacks on its national identity over the last 800 years.
As time passed and different issues (health, family, etc) creeped into the season, it was hard to get all the proverbial ducks in a single row. It was more like herding cats.
Time is unforgiving, and when the time was REALLY close, I only had a couple of months shooting with what was to be my World's rig for the year. Not smart, but we did the best we could with what we had.
After two successful shoots in the US (and only one with the Nautilus sidewheel), it was already time to leave.
Some last minute packing and we were off!
Here I need to thank ALL the Match Directors in the Nation, as without their efforts, the sport would not exist. Thank you all!
Going through Customs was formal, but not hard; they took all the papers, stamped, signed, sealed, filled up another two forms and in proper form released us to the City.
We took a cab into town and met with our two Venezuelan friends (José Pérez Luna and Luis Nevett) and started to tour the city for a few days.
The city is centered around the fortress, and views from atop are quite dramatic:
The city, especially the Old City is small, so small, that we met with Harold and Tarrow Rushton while enjoying a coffee and pastry in one of the numerous and excellent bakeries.
After two days of touring the old town, we decided to go to the other side of the country (Vilnius is to the east of the country, the Baltic/Curonian Spit was to the west of the country).
It took a little less over 3 hours drive to reach Klaipéda, on the coast.
Just like Vilnius, Klaipéda is a mixture of old and new.
Particularly interesting is the Curonian Spit, a sandbar that for now houses the tourist section of the town, you need to cross by ferry.
The local environment is a fragile one, the sand bar could erode at any time that the currents and the tides changed so, it was very nice to see it firsthand.
Upon our return, Mr. Pérez Luna decided he wanted to take a peek into our stuff only to find it . . . GONE!
A little bit of havoc, a few muffled shouts later, it turned out that the guy that transported all the cyclist's gear had also taken our gear.
We asked if we should go in persecution of the luggage van, but the front desk girl said she would get the guy to come back.
We adjourned to the hotel's restaurant to wait for the van and 25 minutes later, while we were in the middle of our lunch, the van arrived.
We sprung into action and selected the pieces that were ours.
Afterwards we had a laugh but on the moment, we were more than "disquieted".
After lunch we drove to Moletai region, arriving into Dubingiai just before sunset.
Next morning was the first official sight-in day, and the number of shooters grew drastically.
Next day the shoot began, I was squadded for the first two days with Audrius Azukas (Lithuania), and Ingrid Reinu (Estonia). We had a jolly good time.
This is the shooters' point of view:
As I shot, I saw the faceplate move back, but then suddenly stop. There was clear blue sky in lieu of the paddle, so clearly the paddle had moved enough to let us see the clouds. When I called the Marshall, he simply stated it was a split and declined the hit. But all in all, it was not a bad day for me, ending with 37 points.
Watching them try to get the manouvers right without shooting the guy in front's head was really funny and at the end of the presentation we got to handle real period weapons and realize that fights in those days must have been bloody, gory and very personal.
Still, we did the best we could and ended the day with a 30. But there was a very important and happy milestone to celebrate,
At 18:00 hrs. a BUNCH of friends got together to share an apple crumb cake that is typical of Lithuania and sing "Happy Birthday" to Veronika.
Sadly, nothing could be discovered and so, I went for the third day, squadded with Brian Samson and Audrius Abromavicius:
Ah, well, it was what it was.
As I said at the beginning, this is the World's to which I have gone least prepared. And it showed.
Yes the courses were long, the best numbers I can put forward for the layout are as follows:
Tough shoot, no doubt.
BUT, what's done is done and after all the shooting, came the time to celebrate; celebrate that it was over, LOL!
But also celebrate the friends and Teammates that had done well.
This year's best placed shooter from FT Team USA was, again, a springer:
Paul Plauche also placed among the top 10:
It was also time to celebrate the crew of Marshalls, organizers, clerical staff, medical staff and, as they termed themselves: "Organizators" (I think I would like to copyright that!):
You can see the weight of the world on the shoulders of the Head Marshall:
Stanislav (president of the Lithuanian Field Target Shooting Association-LFTSA) acted as Master of Ceremonies.
They took one of the WFTF flags and had it signed by all shooters present, he then placed Andy Kays (Norway) on the podium and gave him the signed flag.
There is a travelling WFTF flag, that has been present in ALL the WFTF shoots since about 2007, this flag was signed by Stanislav in representation of Lithuania and then handed to Sergio Rita (Portugal), now taking over from Andy Kays as WFTF President for three years and in charge of organizing the 2016 WFTC's at Lisbon, Portugal.
Stay tuned to the progress of the organization of the 2016 WFTC's!
On our way back we spent some hours in Frankfurt
Upon inspection of the rifle, it was noted that the harmonics barrel tuner was loose. The ONLY commercially made piece and it had to fail. Anyway, at least I think I know what went wrong and will be modifying and improving the part so that it will not fail again. More time, practice and more shooting/preparedness would have prevented this, but then, sometimes the whole situation simply does not allow.
FT is a demanding sport, but the places and people you meet are worth all the efforts you put into it.
If you are interested in International competition and/or Field Target, do log on to the FT Forum and connect on a basic level with the community.
In time you will find your way around and ¿who knows?, we may see you in Lisbon!
Keep well and shoot straight!