After all the difficulties of the last eighteen months, it was such a pleasure to be able to take part in the Randle Trophy Match for 2021, and the Great Britain ladies team fired their match on Sunday September 12th at Sywell Range.
One of the conditions of this match, which is organized by the NRA of America, is that each country must fire the match during its National Meeting. We tried to get this rule suspended for 2020 so that we could still get a team together, but the NRA could not be persuaded - and in fact the United States couldn’t fire either, as their Nationals were also cancelled. The only team able to take part was New Zealand, who shot their match in February 2020 just before the Covid pandemic locked down the world, and it must have been especially disappointing for them that their excellent score of 3990 couldn’t count as a win – although it has been noted in the records.
When it became obvious that Bisley Week would have to be cancelled for a second year, it seemed at first as if the Randle Match 2021 would be another casualty, but when the NSRA announced plans for a National Championships to take the place of the National Meeting there was an opportunity to consider the Randle Match being part of this. The NRA of America were approached for approval to fire the Match on the Finals weekend of the proposed event, and with that approval given we were able to set out the qualifying procedure for our team. Usually, this is a straightforward selection process from the first four events of Bisley Week, with ladies from X and A Class in contention. For 2021, we agreed that ladies from all classes who took part in the Regional Events would be eligible for selection, which opened up the process to more than in the past and was an exciting prospect for us all.
The Regional Events were fired during August, and my adjutant and I had just two weeks to collate the scores, select the team and notify them all, arrange the sponsored clothing and all the other details of the Match, and emails flew back and forth between us all summer. The selected team was an interesting mix of “seasoned” Randle ladies and fresh faces, with two new full team members and one new reserve, and it was exciting that the different selection process had given the new qualifiers a chance to represent their country that they might not otherwise have had.
And so to the Match. The weather gods were clearly on our side, the day started bright and dry, with light winds which switched direction during the morning. By early afternoon, it was becoming a little more overcast but the wind was dropping, so soon after the team meeting and a practice session for those who wanted it, we decided to start the match earlier than planned. I’m told that Sywell range has never produced such good weather conditions! The flags had forgotten how to twitch, the light was perfect and we were ready to go - and in what we took to be a good omen, a Spitfire flew over the range just before we began!
We started as usual at 100-yards, with a good crowd of supporters behind the firing point, and a careful check of the shot targets showed just 6 dropped points at this distance - which included a perfect 200 with 20 x’s from Sue Norman, which equals the highest score ever put up by a GB shooter. We roped the men in to move the targets forward to 50 yards, and with little delay shot the second detail in the perfect conditions and with four points dropped, for a total score of 3990 and 268 x’s.
Sandra and I were both so impressed with our team; they travelled from all over the country, from the north of Scotland, from the far southwest and the southeast corner, and conducted themselves professionally in the unusual circumstances. Several overcame personal challenges during the match – one lady confessed she had never been so nervous and shook her way through the 100 yard cards but went on to score a perfect 200 at 50 yards, another dropped her first two shots but worked hard and recovered brilliantly to “go clean” after that; two had already shot in the ESSU meeting earlier that day and nearly all the team had to shoot without wind coaches, as it had proved impossible to find enough ladies to cover those roles. We applaud them all.
After the match, the medals and bars were presented to the team by Rob Dowling from the Rifle Committee, who was our official witness, and the team photos taken.
We now know that the New Zealand Team scored 3980 and the USA team 3965, so - although we can’t officially declare a result (because the match period ends at the end of the year) - we believe that this means we retain the Randle Trophy for another year.
There are many people to thank for their help in making sure the Match and the run-up to it ran smoothly; to the NSRA for generously supporting us with the branded polo-shirts, to Sywell range committee for everything involved in delivering such a good facility, to Phil Strong who was our familiar range officer, to Rob Dowling for acting as witness, to Barbara Lee as official scorer, to Steve Downes for all the behind-the-scenes help at the NSRA, to the ladies who came especially to act as wind coaches and play their part in the team score, and most importantly to my adjutant Sandra who was quite simply the best support I could have asked for.
But most of all, to the ladies in the team and the reserves, whose commitment couldn’t be faulted, and who gave of their very best in the qualifying shoots and then in the Match itself to produce such a good result - thank you.
I can now hand over the captaincy to Sandra, knowing it is in good hands and wishing her and her adjutant much success and pleasure in the next two years.