Hello from the Canadian FT Springer team – George Harde, Joel Goodwin, Jeff Hemming and Zach Harde. We thought we’d share some of our experiences from the 2018 WFTC (World Field Target Championship) in Poland.
All of us felt very privileged to again represent Canada at the World Championship held in Łazy, Poland. It seems each year somehow the match grows more impressive and educational than the last. This year was no exception. It afforded us amazing scenery, trips through history (14th century castles, ancient cities and lots of WWII), awesome adventures, wonderful camaraderie, and wicked competition.
As is becoming the norm, Joel made it to Toronto the day before the flight to plan out our approach, have a couple hours of field target related discussion and entertain the neighbours with the sonorous sound of his hot rod Challenger. Seriously, we never have to wonder if we will know when Joel is near by, we just wait for the sound of rolling thunder!
This year Tom Peretti (shout out to Tom) did the honours of getting Joel and Jeff to Pearson where we met up with George and Zach. We all had an uneventful check-in and made our way to security. Air Canada was very gracious, recognized we were representing Canada and waived the fire arm handling fee, saving us $50 each.
There things got a bit more interesting, after almost making it through security, Joel was stopped by Air Canada because of the spare internals (spring, piston and compression chamber) that he had in his carry-on bag. After a brief conversation with the security manager, it was determined that these are parts of “a weapon” and were not allowed in the passenger section of the plane.
This required a report to the police and a potentially lengthy detour. Thankfully the police did not see the manager’s cause for alarm and were very helpful in getting Joel squared away. After the obligatory fact gathering and exit through the security doors, they helped get Joel’s carry on checked in. Bonus, it was checked in for free!
After this minor speed-bump we regrouped in the Maple Leaf lounge, relaxing over a few drinks and some food. We were enjoying it so much that we lost track of time and sauntered up to the gate just as they were making the last call; we almost missed the flight!!! Disaster averted, we boarded and had a smooth, uneventful flight – just the way you want to fly.
We landed in Warsaw the following morning and after a bit of search / wait for our guns, we got all the gear rounded up and made our way over to customs. There the agents had Joel open his hardcase so that they could inspect his rifle. They also went through his papers to confirm the rifle was compliant. Thanks to the PFTA for the invite letter; it proved helpful because it stated the energy levels and was in Polish!
Once everything was understood we were quickly on our way, after clearing customs we needed to pick up our rental vehicle which was supposed to be a minivan, but we ended up with a nine-seater Ford Transit – a mini-bus. It left Jeff a bit unnerved as he was driving and was used to a Mazda 3. The compensation was it was a 6-speed stick with a diesel engine. Turned out to be a hoot to drive and far more manageable than anticipated. After getting all of our baggage loaded into the bus we navigated our way to our first Air BNB rental, which was in an apartment complex with an underground parking garage.
We grabbed a street parking spot, unloaded our gear and navigated our way to the apartment. After a quick refresh we grabbed a bite at a local eatery. Oddly, the Polish are big on burger joints, so we partook in their offerings. Neat fact, Poles eat hamburgers with forks and knives!?! This was a very strange realization for us North Americans, lol! So we did our cultural duty and demonstrated how to consume a burger properly and ate them with our hands.
When we returned from lunch we decided to move the Transit into the underground parking garage; of course this parking garage was not really set up for a mini-bus, meaning that the doors looked way to small. So, not to be deterred we got Jeff’s 60m measuring tape to measure the height of the door vs the height of the Transit to ensure we wouldn’t be remodelling the van. After Joel and George did some highly precise measurements we determined that there was only 4 inches of clearance and with a bit of luck, newly learned clutch control, awkward moments and humour, we managed to get the bus down to the third floor of the parking garage.
Once settled, we set off for a walk to old town Warsaw to see the fantastic job that was done rebuilding after WWII, to check out parks and scenery and generally just be typical tourists.
Later on in the evening, after realizing you can buy beer pretty much anywhere, Zack and Joel went out to buy some beer and look for food. They quickly realized that finding beer is much easier than finding food at 2am in Warsaw, which resulted in a 30-minute walk with beers in hand. They also learned from one of the store attendants that it is “technically” not legal to walk around with open alcohol and if stopped, would likely result in a fine payable in cash to the officer that stops you, this is an interesting approach to say the least.
We were only in Warsaw for one night so the next day after a quick tour of the ghetto wall and a wonderful Polish breakfast we headed to Kraków, and our second Air BNB rental. This place was amazing - a large house capable of accommodating up to 10 people so we had ample space for all of our gear, it also had some hard to find green space, meaning grass and trees. Turns out a number of the trees were apples trees that were full of ripe granny smith apples. They were so ripe that they were falling on us and the van.
We spent the next three days in Kraków wandering the streets; taking tours, testing the local cuisine, looking through the tourist shops and stands scattered through the old town and Jewish Quarter.
By the time Sunday rolled around we were all feeling the pull of the competition. It was time for us to head to Villa Verde Hotel where most of competitors would be staying. So we loaded up the van and headed out. After about three hours of mostly highway travel we were getting close.
As we drew near any doubts that we were in the right location were dispelled by the large Australian flag proudly hanging from one of the hotel balconies. This was just the confirmation we needed. Shortly after seeing it we pulled into the parking lot and started bringing in our gear. Many familiar faces started to appear and friendships new and old got rolling.
The first night was all about catching up and Field Target discussion mixed with lots of Polish beer and vodka. The next morning we unpacked our guns, assembled everything and prepped for shooting. The best bit was the PFTA (Polish Field Target Association) had setup both a sight in range and 17-lane practice course at the hotel site. This was an amazing set up and all the competitors had an opportunity to check out how well (or not) their rigs had travelled!
The next day George and Zach headed to Auschwitz to pay their respects to the Holocaust victims while Jeff and Joel attended the marshal certification and field target course design seminars. Both sessions were well executed and very informative. We both took great pride in attending as it was great to be in a room with people from across the world, sharing ideas, stories and learning how we can do things consistently across the globe. The concept of being consistent was the big take away for us and both Joel and I saw things we can bring home to Canada to help us better meet these standards. The course building seminar was new and helps establish ways to create challenging and consistent courses that will bring out the best in all shooters and put their skills and abilities to the ultimate test.
After the sessions we hightailed it over to the course to do a walk through. It was best summed up by Andy Kays. As we drove up he said, "do you want to sleep tonight? Because if you do, turn around and go back". The course simply put was amazing, the layout of the targets was wonderfully tailored to the unique quarry environment. It was a spectacle to behold - targets way up on the side of stone cliffs, targets angled down into valleys, wind lanes cut in the grass, drop offs that caused up drafts and funky eddies, close targets with 15mm hit zones (a rarity in Worlds competitions but ones we were very familiar with and many targets at maximum distance for their kill zone size.
Simply put, an absolutely fantastic job was done by the PFTA and many shooters, the Canadian team included, considered this to be the most technically challenging course they have ever seen. After reviewing the course It was time to get some food, which was followed by more drinks and more discussion, at least for the Springer's who were shooting in the PM session the next day.
The first day of shooting was an adventure, unfortunately due to a large number of protests the spring session was delayed and did not get underway until around 4:45PM. We all had our struggles, with Joel coming out on the short end, it was towards the end of the session that he realized there was something strange going on with his rig, there was no wind whatsoever and he was missing full size targets at 45yds; not at all typical for him.
Everyone tried their best to get through as much of the course as possible, but the shooting had to be cut short around 7:45PM, due to lack of light. A shout out to the PFTA / marshals for making the correct call and stopping the competition before the light conditions got to the point where shooting was impossible, and safety became an issue. We had a good 600 m walk back to the parking lot that included rocky, rutted narrow paths through the bush, so we were thankful to have the little light that was left to navigate back.
Later that night after a lot of conversation with the PFTA and RGBs, it was decided the following day would see the springer group complete their remaining lanes from the first day, as well as completing all lanes as scheduled for the second day.
Before the second day started Joel got to the zero range and determined his scope was indeed acting strange - hitting 2 mildots high. He started the day with this which lasted for about 6 lanes, then the scope got squirrely… going down to +1 mildot, then to zero, then 1 mildot to the left by the end of the day. His experience typified the session – it was gruelling, frustrating, hot as Hades, and a pile of shooting – for most of us we had in the neighbourhood of 70 shots in five hours! Still the springer's persevered and did an outstanding job. We got everything done and dusted on time so that the PCP folks could get their shooting in.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get too far before the heavens opened and dumped a huge amount of water on the course, in some pictures that were posted shooters were standing in 6 to 8 inches of water! Combining the rain with thunder and lightening, safety became a big problem and the day was cancelled. This was a very difficult decision and as a team, we applaud Sergio Rita for making the call.
Of course having to stop a day of competition creates all sorts of problems and questions that must be answered. At the same time the main consideration was safety of the shooters. So, the right call was made. Two meetings involving the RGB representatives were held. During these sessions their opinions were gathered, listened to and discussed. Then a vote was held and the decision to have everyone shoot 100 shots was reached. Obviously, this was a very difficult decision that left many unhappy. At the same time, there were no easy solutions, but safety and fairness to all competitors were the key considerations and they carried the day. This meant cancelling day three of springer shooting to ensure that the PCP group would have adequate time to complete their session, as well as leaving time for shoot-offs and the closing ceremony dinner.
On the morning of day three we decided to go watch the shoot-offs for springer division as everyone waited for the PCP shooters to complete their last session. Once the Springer shootouts were done Team Canada and some members of team USA (shout out to Hector, Matt B and Matt S) opted to go sightseeing at “the” local castle.
Here things got fun and showed how tight the FT community is. We stopped in the nearby town for lunch and as we were leaving a lady walked up the passenger window of the van. Turns out she was the wife of a member on the Italian field target group. She had lost her way and came up to us asking us for assistance. Hector was able to translate some of her Italian and she ended up joining us on the trip to the castle. The craziest part was her husband just happened to show up at the castle and meet us as we were walking to the van to leave, we were 25 km from the hotel; what a hilarious coincidence.
When we got back to the hotel it was now time for the group photo and the closing ceremony dinner. After taking the photos there was a presentation with cannons, knights in suits of armour with swords and shields. This was a fun and entertaining event that led us up to the closing ceremony dinner.
As seems normal in Poland; the food was amazing, the drinks never ending and the camaraderie epic. As a team, we thank the PFTA and organizers for the setup and execution of everything. It was very well done and helped to provide all the information required for closing out the event, as well as giving us a glimpse of next year’s world championships in England.
Once the meal and ceremony were done the Polish vodka came out and the night got down to some proper friendship building. It was great to see Claire West from Air Arms and kudos to her for listening to all the “opinions” that were presented! The best bit - one of the course marshals started creating lanes of vodka shots and instructing people to get to their lane and complete their shots. This was also the time when everybody starts to trade their shirts, hat's, pins and badges with people from all over the world. These are the souvenirs to bring home for our ever-growing FT gear collections.
It was also the time to give special gifts. This year Joel held up the Canadian end by bringing maple syrup for Pawel (the head of the Polish Field Target Association) and Claire West (the Managing Director of Air Arms).
The next morning reality set in - the world Championships had come to a close and the time to go home was upon us. For team Canada, this meant loading up all our gear and heading to the Marriott hotel at the Warsaw airport. After a few hours in traffic jams and highways, we arrived. We took time to appreciate some very old whiskey along with a few Pina Coladas (Joel… who knew)
When the morning came we were eager to leave and arrived at the Air Canada check-in desk only a few minutes after it opened. We checked in and we were soon on our way to the oversized security checkpoint, i.e., where security inspects our guns. There was a bit of a hold-up, mainly due to language differences, but once the proper documents were provided we all got through without further delay. Then we made our way through passport control and boarded the flight for the nine-hour ride home.
Unfortunately technical issues (fuel leak near the engine exhaust – thankfully, we learned this after we were off the plane) left us sitting on the plane for almost 4 hours before the flight was cancelled. Tensions were running high, but thankfully Air Canada got it sorted for the next day and sent us off to a hotel. Upside is we got a free stay at a cool hotel and one of the greatest bartenders that we’ve ever come across. He made us crazy vodka drinks and told great stories.
We had one more mini-adventure before departing, we took buses to the airplane. It meant we got to stand on the tarmac and use loading ramps to board the plane. It was exciting as jets were taking off within a couple hundred meters of where we stood. Boy, are they loud!
After another smooth flight we landed in Toronto about 4:30 PM and made our way home. Shout out again to Tom P who met us at Pearson and gave Joel and Jeff a lift. George and Zach had landed a bit ahead of us as they got a slightly earlier flight due to the shuffling that went on.
And that wraps another great FT adventure!
Thanks to the team, all our FT friends, the PFTA for organizing, the WFTF for the oversight and our sponsors – Hirsch Precision and Air Gun Source for the support!
|No||Name||Surname||Country||1 day||2 day||3 day||TOTAL|
|15||Marco Paulo Simões||Guerra||PORTUGAL||31||blue||33||black||X||64|
|44||Hector Jose||Medina Gomez||USA||27||white||27||blue||X||54|
|No||1 day||2 day||TOTAL||Country|