Monday, October 5, 2009

MAAC Team - The South Africa Experience .

South Africa Photo Album

Monday 21st September 2009

D-Day is here, the team meets up at the Malta International Airport destination South Africa. Still a long way to reach South Africa. Check in and equipment clearance procedures go smooth, air rifles are escorted by Police to the customs office. Each gun case is opened and serials are compared to the PC permit to export out of the island and import back. Each shooter is given a Customs receipt for their air rifle. The police escorts the air rifles to the plane loading bay. We stroll inside the terminal until its time to depart on Emirates flight. The plane leaves on schedule 1st destination is Lancara. The plane lands in Lancara, 1 hour waiting until new passengers are boarded for the next destination Dubai International Airport.

Tuesday 22nd September 2009

Arrival at Dubai International Airport the time is 00.15am. Everyone is excited but tired, now we have to wait for 4 long hours, before we start our flight straight to Johannesburg International airport. The guys split and stroll around Dubai terminal until its time board the flight to our final destination - South Africa. On board every one is sleepy, but the excitement does not let you lie down. Thanks to the on board entertainment systems on Emirates flights, travel time flies like a breeze. From on board flight cameras we could already see the vast landscapes of South Africa rolling beneath us. The aircraft lands according to schedule, a short trip by bus from the aircraft to the main terminal building. Passports are checked and stamped, the team shirts are easily identified by airport personnel who give us priority in check out. Now straight to the carousel, the baggage is already there. Trolleys loaded then we head out of customs and straight to the police office to get our air rifles as instructed by security officers. The police officer in charge greet us, checks our paper work and invitations and ask us to wait for a few minutes until the gun cases are delivered to their office. Fifteen minutes later the gun cases are next to the officer. She checks the cases and the paper work and she clears us. We can go to start this adventure.

While the group waits with loaded trolleys in the arrivals lounge for our South African friends Nick and Gerrie, James and myself head for Avis to collect our transport van and the GPS equipment. In no time the rest of the group is also at AVIS with Nick and Gerrie. We load the luggage on our Mercedes Van and head for the road, whist Nick and Gerrie together with Mario and Carmel load the air rifles in Gerrie's trailer. Off we go, destination Mutango lodge. Half way we make a stop, someone was feeling hungry. First stop Wimpy for some fast food. Soon after we continue for Mutango. We arrive there at 3pm. Mutango is in the middle of nowhere deep in the South African Bush. The landscape is beautiful and the Mutango Lodge layout is excellent. On arrival we head to the reception bungalow were we meet Kobus the site manager and his staff. Keys for the Fish Eagle Bungalow are handed to us and we drive to the spot. We start to unload the equipment hoist the Maltese Flag, then we meet our neighbors the German Team and members of the UK team. Then everyone finds his living quarters and settle down. Some decide to take a rest, others to have a walk around the area and others to splash in a freezing pool or to have a beer at the bar. A quick tour of the shooting zones to see what to expect in the coming days was also possible on some zones. That evening the team eats a typical African meal prepared by Mutango Lodge staff, this is called the braai (BBQ equivalent),nice meal. We meet other Mutango Lodge residents all competitors in the WFTF 2009 edition. After dinner most chillout at the bar to exchange ideas about each other countries, customs and of course talk about our favorite sport.

Wednesday 23rd September 2009

Most of the team members wake up very early. A walk at this time reveals the wild beauty of this place. Birds of all types with vibrant colors can seen and heard everywhere. Other strange sound are also heard. The mountain bush behind the lodge is territory for Baboons. We are not used to these types of animals so at first the sound scared the hell out of us. Some one managed to spot the baboons then returned back to safe ground. Breakfast was served. The WFTF organizers handed over an air cylinder for filling up of PCP's. There was some problems with filling adapters but thanks to Garrie Ferreira from South Africa the right adapter was available for refills. The Germans also helped to find a suitable filling adapter for the Styer air rifle, so sharing had to work for these initial days. Shooting in Mutango could only start on Thursday 24th September 2009. Hence the only possibility to check and shoot our air rifles was to go to a range. Some teams decided to go to indoor ranges. We decided to go to Krocodilespuit Range which is an out door 500 m range about 3.5 miles down the road to Pretoria. We took a pistol range cubicle and started to set up the equipment. The PCP air rifles were up and running in very short time some required a slight adjustments to keep them within 780 to 800 ft/sec. However we had problems with all spring air rifles. Two spring air rifles had POI shift and power loss, one spring air rifle had a bad power loss and was running at 660 ft/sec the fourth springer was shifting POI after a number of shots. The guns were dismounted a number of times, all sorts of adjustments were done. Washers, seals, and spring were changed and tested until the muzzle velocities and trajectories were correct. But we still had 2 guns with big problems. David's TX 200 SR had problems with the breach seals and James HW97 was still loosing POI and the problem was not identified yet. The light was giving away, we needed to continue 2 morrow. Back to the Mutango Lodge for a shower and then back to the Krocodilespuit Range we were hosted for a braai by Nick, Gerrie and friends. The hospitably was excellent and the food was fantastic. We exchanged thoughts and experiences and made good friends. Back to Mutango for a good night rest.

Thursday 24th September 2009

Rise and shine was very early for most. Today is practice day at Mutango Lodge. Today all shooters must chrono their air rifles and register the team entries. Part of the group decided to go to the sight in range with other international shooters to sight in their scopes and start experiencing the conditions next to the marsh. The springer group still required set up and some spares to complete the tuning. After registration and chronographs the springer group left to the Krocodilespuit range to continue their settings. Again long hours of set up though not 100% satisfied especially with James air rifle we seemed to have found the root cause of the problem. The action was moving inside the stock hence the POI shift. After dinner and the guys chilled out playing some snooker. A heavy thunderstorm broke out lightning was impressive followed by heavy rain fall. The lodge suddenly became too quite hence all went to bed. Tomorrow is the h-hour the WFTF worlds will start, rain and thunder continued through the night.

Friday 25th September 2009

The sighting range opens from 7am till 8.30am today. The Marshal briefing began at 9am. The marshals explained the procedures regarding safety and the shooting course. The day started a bit chilly and damp, sometimes there was drizzle but nothing too serious. We were warned of slippery rocks in the mountain shooting zones and snakes in the area to keep a watch out. After the briefing shooters were paired up. Each had to follow one of the 3 courses according to the assigned color coded cards. The black course the green course and the blue course all of then had various degrees of difficulties. Each course had 25 lanes with 2 targets per lane. The targets are color coded, a white target can be engaged in freestyle, a yellow target is a kneeling positional shot and a red target is a standing shot. Shooters started to wish luck to each other then everyone stated to move to his zone and lane. There were 4 zones. Zone 1 was nicknamed Valley of death due to the strong wind currents circling in the area. The zone is also full of dead burned tree stumps which give an scary effect to the landscape. Zone 2 was the plain grass land behind a marsh. This plain had strong winds sweeping from various directions and some protection in certain zones from marsh read. Zone 3 was next to a large pond in the mouth of a valley between two mountains. In this are targets were a considerable long range at various heights. Zone 4 was up hill the targets were positioned at incredible positions opposite on the ravine cliffs. The targets were difficult here and added to this was the fact that shooters were climbing the mountain hill while approaching these targets. Zone 5 was then on the top part of the mountain most targets here were hidden in the bush though sheltered from wind the targets stood in award potions facing up hill or down hill. Finding the correct shooting position was at times tricky. The start signal came at 11am. The WFTF World Championship is on. By 3.30pm all the shooter completed their course and came down to the reception hall to hand over the scoring cards. The atmosphere was tense as everyone is trying to figure out how was the performance of the top shooters. Lunch was served at the main hall and shooters from all countries discussed the course layout and its difficulties. Later in the evening the results were posted and England and was in the lead, some said that it was the weather that was in favor to the English, all was said but in a friendly environment. The top shooter in the open class James Woodhead scored 46 out of 50 the highest score of the day. In previous editions of the WFTF World Championships high scores are normally 49's and 50's. The course is looking like a tough one the toughest ever according to WFTF world champions of previous editions.

Form the Malta group the top shooters were Dr. Mario Spiteri with scored 16 targets in the Veterans group, Kris Debattista scored 15 in the springer group and Gordon Gouder scored 14 in the Open group. Some of the team members were shocked buy the scores but as statistics rolled out on 50 shooters mostly in the open class managed to surpass 50% of the total score. Words of encouragement and suggestions came from South African , English and German shooters who understood the Maltese shooters first time experience in the world championships and the fact that we are not accustomed to shoot in inclined positional shots. The evening was long but day 2 of the event was near.

Saturday 26th September 2009

Early morning breakfast followed by some time down at the sighting range. Today the weather was opposite of yesterday. A nice but hot and humid day, the wind seems to be the order of the day here.

As per procedure safety briefing followed by score cards issue. Shooters find their assigned buddy and head to their lane some place along the 5 km course. At 11.00 am the Range officers signal the start of the games and within a few seconds you will hear the fist shoots echoing between the ravine walls. The heat takes its toll on the shooters climbing the mountain trying to catch up their breath before attempting a shot. The weather does not help as the hours pass, shooters are exhausted and water is a necessity in this African bush. Adding to this is hundreds of flying insects that buzz through your ears as you attempt to take a shot. No wonder some were wearing ear muffs. By 3.30pm shooters were handing over their score cards back to the marshals. Faces looked perplexed but still the atmosphere was friendly and enjoyable. Some shooters already knew that they were not there for the top title but wanted to enjoy ever second of this event. The results were out the highest score was 40 out of 50 for Petrus Breedt from South Africa. David Giardina was our top shooter with 15 scores in the springer class. Problems were the order of the day for James Bugeja with the action problem shifting POI. The Malta team made a request to the Match director to buddy up James Bugeja with a member of the Maltese group so as to share the same type of air rifle in case of persisting problems. This request was granted for day 3 of the competition.

Thanks to Gerrie Ferreira and his daughter Marguitte we had a night tour in the suburban Pretoria shopping centers which are of the highest standards one can imagine and then deep inside the city center of Pretoria to understand and to see with our own eyes all that we heard about the major cities centers in South Africa. I do not wish to comment further, but I started to understand that there is something wrong or going out of control. I do not wish to give a bad impression of South Africa because like all big cities around the world there are hot zones, however the wild beauty of this country makes you forget the realities of certain areas. Following this tour the group then dined in a splendid restaurant. The food and wine was excellent and the service was superb. Then back to our lodge to confront the last day of the WFTF worlds.

Sunday 27th September 2009

Today quick breakfast and we had down to the sighting range. The event starts at 10am, one hour earlier. Briefing at 9am and off we go for our last leg. Every shooter finds his buddy as rush to the starting lanes. The day is nice little less hot the the previous day since the humidity is lower. Shooting commence on time and finishes on time. Some shooter experience equipment failures such as leaking regulators , broken scopes or mounts. I happen to be one of them. First lane 1 hit at 45 and 1 miss at 40 kneeling with 30mm reducer. Second lane 1 hit at 18 meters with 13mm reducer the second target at 30 meter complete miss not even face plate.??? The next target again not even face plate. What the hell is happening !!!. Then the next lane I discover broken dampa mount the scope is moving left, right up and down. Oh hell. The Range officer allows me to take of the scope mount and inspect. The mount is broken I tighten the dam mount on the scope literally welding the screws with torque but it does not help. Scope needs to be zeroed again. I do sacrificial shots to try and zero but then major disaster happens the side wheel jams and locks. Some over pressure followed by a crack. My buddy tells me “this does not sound so good my friend”. In fact that was the end of my adventure I could not shoot my last day, but although disappointed I was quite happy with the experience gained from this event. The our course was fast I scored my buddy score card and withing 1,5 hrs we fished the course.

Shooters started to bring in there cards. Everyone was trying to find out how won the over all and the categories. The officials were not going to release the scores till every one settled all cards.At around 4.15pm names were being called, the shooters were enjoying lunch and cold drinks by the pool side. The names were called for shoot offs. Sudden death is applied in shoot offs a target set at approx 22 meters with a 20mm reducer was placed about 1meter above ground. The other shooters gathered to watch these tense moments. There was absolute silence only frogs and birds could be heard. You could feel the tension in the air.

The first shoot of was for the 2nd and 3rd place in the ladies class. Lynn Strydom against Natali Terblanche both from South Africa. Standing shot Lynn ranges, dials in. concentrates, pulls the trigger and drops the target big applause by the audience. Natali was next to shoot , she take position , dials in, concentrate, pulls the trigger, the pellet hits the face plate, still big applause for Natali. Then followed 3 shooters for the 3rd , 4th and 5th positions in the Veteran class. David Gauge (Wales) , Tommie Liebenburg (RSA) and Martin Muller (Germany) classify respectively after some rounds. Then the big shoot off for the 1st and 2nd position in the open class. James Woodhead and John Costello bought from the England team battle the shoot off. 3 rounds standing shots still no winner, tension grows but the England team is already celebrating WFTF 2009 World Champions. On the second round of the kneeling shot John Woodhead knocks down the target. John Costello hits the face plate. John Woodhead (England) is WFTF FT world champion for 2009 with a total score over 3 days of 123 points. Following is John Costello (England) with 123 points and Mark Bassett (Wales) with 113 points.

All the shooters retire to there quarters but the party is on England and Wales celebrating. With these guys everyone celebrates friendship and fraternity at its best. At 5.30 the shooters start to fill up the reception hall for the award presentation. Johan Janssen addresses and host the evening. He tanks all the participants for their success he also welcomes Malta and New Zealand as two new member countries present in the Worlds. The other countries welcome the new comers with an applause.

Then starts an African dance show the highlight of the evening. Followed by an address by the Major representative of the city of Tiswanne. Soon after awards were presented to the top 3 teams followed by the awards to the top 10 shooter of each class. It was good to see David and Kris on the podium receiving medals for the 7th and 8th positions in the springer class .Finally the presentation of the top prizes for the top shooter in the spring class Sean Orsmond (RS) aka “Bloodlust“ who is presented a Diana Spring Air Rifle and James Woodhead (England) who is presented an with an EV2 air rifle.

Dinner was then served and the party begun. Shooters were exchanging shirts and other motifs to remember this day. Group photos, and salutes were the order of that evening. It was a memorable event for all. The WFTF world championship is over. Next year Hungary.We saluted our new friends from all participating countries then everyone headed home or to their quarters. Some shooters were leaving the next day others were going to other places in South Africa, most South African shooters had to work the next day. We had another event.

Monday 28th September 2009

Today we head off to Krocodilespuit Range that hosted the WC 10 world championship this year also in South Africa. Here we meet the Free State Bench rest Shooting Association members led by Nick Schoonwinkel. This was a planned event head to head Tri Nation event between RSA, New Zealand and Malta in air rifle and rim fire bench rest. New Zealand pulled out last minute due to technical problems.

The event consisted of 3 BR cards for each competitor in air rifle and rim fire. The Range officer did the safety briefing and called out the shooters for the air rifle rounds. The day was cool the wind was force 4-5 with gusts up to force 6. The landscape around the range makes the spinners and wind flags go mad. As the day progressed the wind became more strong the nice day was turning into a storm but shooting continued. In the air rifle round the South Africans dominated the first 3 positions Natali Terblanche scored 726-15x followed by Renier Mostert who scored 725-15x and Pieter van Der Merwe who scored 722-7x. David Gairdina and James Bugeja were 8th and 9th with 703-7x and 702-13 respectively.

Then came the Rim fire round. For us this was the first time ever shooting BR in rim fire. The guns and ammo were given to us by the RSA shooters. Some of our shooter had no experience at all in shooting these types of guns so they were instructed and brief by RSA shooters. The RSA shooter gave us a challenge to score minimum of 230 with rim fire in these conditions. I must say the majority was there or above the 230 score. The top 3 shooters were from RSA. 1st was Toinette Bernard JR with an impressive score of 749-52X ( max score can be 750-75x) this girl is still 16 years old and will certainly make it in the RSA BR team in the near future. Her dad is the RSA champion for center fire BR. 2nd place goes to Pieter van Der Merwe with 748-36x and 3rd place goes to Natali Terblanche with 747-44x. Dr. Mario Spiteri and Nazzareno Scorfna rank 6th and 7th respectively with 739-23x and 738-23x. Both were awarded for the top 10 ranking of the rim fire class. In the over all points Rim fire and air rife BR, David Gardina ranked 4th and was awarded. During the presentation of awards by Nick and Stanley the Malta group had 3 special awards which were given to the top 3 shooters in the over all ranking. These were special trophies of Maltese Knights hand carried from Malta for the occasion.

Natali Terblanche received the first price, Niel Terblanche got second and Pieter van der Merwe received the 3rd price. A special trophy was also presented to Nick the president of FSBSA to commemorate this event.

Nick said that this was a day to remember a shoot off head to head with the Maltese friends. He said that this trophy will be a floating trophy to commemorate this event every year in a special competition that will be held every 28th September the Malta Knight Trophy. This fills us with honor.

The event closed down with a typical Braai, "wow" stakes and typical South African food – Lekker..

To really close down the event a thunderstorm and heavy rain followed. Every one was happy well feed and now it was time to rest. Tomorrow our must an African Safari.

Tuesday 29th September 2009

Most of us wake up late to day shooting is over the pressure is off. Today we take breakfast and wait for the Safari guide to pick us up. At 9am sharp the Safari van is at the lodge. Off we go armed with our cameras for something we used to read in our child hood. We drive direction Johannesburg for about 2 hrs then we arrive to a reserve call The Lion and Rino reserve. At the gate the ranger tells the guide not to go off the vehicle at any time one inside the reserve. The driver goes around the reserve spotting wild animals, Ostrich, Rhinos, Zebras , Kudu , Springbok ,Wildebeest, Wild dogs, Lions ,Cheetahs, you name it its there. Cameras shoots 100's of pictures of these creatures in their natural habitat whilst we are inside our metal cage. After a long drive inside the reserve we head out to the check point again. Here we are told that we have to opportunity to touch lions , cheetahs and tigers. At first every one is a bit uncomfortable but slowly the guide shows us the animals and invites us to approach these wild cats. We enter into the fenced areas with a 4 year old cheetah. This impressive beast cuddles like a domestic cat though some times it opens its jaws and you can see some one sweating or turning whiter then white. Then we entered another area were it was full of lion cubs these played like cats but they are as big as large dogs. Very powerful still at this age but we were relaxed and enjoyed every minute of this experience. We saw other wide live and birds in this area from close quarters and then headed back to Pretoria and Mutango Lodge a quick snack then rest. In the evening we head down to one of the largest malls in Pretoria for some pizzas and beers then back to the lodge.

Wednesday 30th September 2009

This is the last day of our stay in South Africa. Some of the team members are already packing up their suitcases. We then drive to the Hunters Association of South Africa to see one of the largest collections of Wild animal trophies. The place is huge and the collection is vast from all over the world. After this its time to get some gifts for the families back home we head to the shopping malls on Zambezi drive. By 3 pm we head back to the lodge and chill out until its time for us to drive to some place for dinner. No idea were to go but the general consensus is to get some good food. We hit the GPS and look for an Italian restaurant, seem like everyone is missing the taste of our local food. We drive around 35 km and reach a restaurant area, however the Italian restaurant no longer exits. This was not a problem as other fine restaurants were in the lot. We enter one of the taverns for a great last dinner. Then head back to the lodge. Out of 8 persons in the van only 2 were awake all the others were sleeping, it seemed like being in the theater hearing a symphony.

Thursday 1st October 2009

Every one wakes up early, packing is a must. Breakfast is served at 7.30am. By 9 am every one was ready. We waited until it was 12am to head to Johannesburg International airport for our flight back. After a long drive we were at the airport. The van was returned to AVIS and we approached the check in. The luggage was checked in and the air rifle cases were handled by security. The rifles were registered and took by security to be loaded on the aircraft. A quick meal at the airport then every one was roaming in duty free on schedule we left South Africa direction Dubai. There we landed on time. Four hours waiting at Dubai for our flight to Lancara then Malta.

Friday 2nd October 2009

We landed at Malta International airport at 14:00 hrs. There we found our relatives waiting. The air rifles did not arrive the reason was that they were offloaded in Lancara and the authorities had no time to clear them. Not a big problem all was insured we will return to pick them up tomorrow. All arrived the next day in good condition.

This is our adventure as we share it with you. We learned a lot from this world championship. FT is a nice sport and needs dedication and the right equipment and the correct training. As a result of this experience we will now work hard to move a step forward. We want to give a Worlds FT experience to our members who want to seriously practice this sport, so that we are better prepared for other world championships. We are intended to participate in the coming years this is the beginning. We would like to thank all those who supported us in this adventure, our families and friends. We made a lot of new friends and contacts. All countries are eager that some day this world championship will be held in Malta. We will work for that aim with your support.

Stanley Shaw