I had been curious about Estonia for a few years. I shot with Andres Mikfelt (Springer) at the 2013 Worlds in Germany and was impresses with his skill for a fellow with maybe one year in the sport. I also noticed that there were other Estonian shooters who always seemed to fare well in the competitions too. Then in late 2013 it became apparent that the European Field Target Federation would be formed. It was the brainchild of Kaidu and Heli Jalakas, a married couple, two European FT powerhouses.
The first Euros were to be held in Estonia in 2014 and I decided I wanted to go. Unfortunately, we had to cancel at the last minute (fortunately we got airfare refunded).
Last year the Field Target community lost Kaidu. A few months later I found out that a memorial competition was planned. Though I wanted to go, I thought I’d be the only English speaking person there & hesitated. Then I talked to Alan Otsuka.
We were at the Heflin WFTF rally in February when Alan mentioned that he was going to Estonia. That’s all it took for me to decide. What surprised me was how inexpensive the trip was going to be.
The all in price for the three day event was a little more that $1700. By comparison the Heflin Open was going to cost about $1200. To me, that was a no brainer. I would pay almost the same rate per day of competition, but have three full competition days on 25 lane WFTF courses. It was going to take 8 days of travel though. No big deal.
The lynchpin in making this work is the cost of lodging at the Joulumae Sport Center.
The fee for a double room with a private bath is 24 Euro. They’re clean and in excellent condition and they’re right on the site.
There three unexpected surprises in Estonia. I had no trouble getting around on English, and the women in Estonia were very attractive ( Two great reasons to go there just for the hell of it). The other surprise was how friendly I found the people.
Estonians will tell you that they are a reserved people. I even read that in an article before i left on the trip. I can tell you that I didn’t find that at all. It wasn’t just our hosts either. From the airports, hotels and rent a car places, to the gas stations, taverns, and markets, people were willing to help us when we got messed up, often without being asked. If I didn’t have a family back here, I’d have probably stuck around, for good.
Courses and Terrain
The courses were laid out along wide roads through a forrest of well spaced conifers. The terrain varied in a fashion as though it was once an area of sand dunes. Blueberry bushes covered the forrest floor, and incidentally, I found it impossible to get any king of wind read off of them. The site is not far from the ocean, so sea breezes were the norm. See the GIF below right.
Alan & I got there Wednesday around lunchtime. The organizers had planned a 25 lane practice course that could be shot on Thursday. The targets were resettable Garfield targets.
Here’s a few more pics for perspective.
The weather for all three days was sunny & breezy in the low 70’s. The winds on day 2 & 3 were calmer than the first day, shown in the GIF, but on all three days the winds would shift at the drop of a hat.
There was plenty of mirage to read and there was also a lot of wind chanelling on many lanes. I got stumped more than once when mirage that looked like 10 mph actually resulted in a drift more in the 2 mph range ( Dink!). It was the most challenging course I’ve ever shot from a wind doping perspective and anyone who shot in the 40’s has my respect. It was also often difficult to range a long target due to mirage, which pointed to the need to develop the ability to bracket the KZ to determine range.
The Parnu FTC
The amazing thing about the Parnu FTC is that they put on an event like this at all. It’s a small club of maybe 5 members. They put up 75 lanes and 25 practice lanes, held a welcome and awards dinner, and organized barbeques in the evenings. The level of attention to detail was amazing. Even the targets and their mounting systems showed a high level of craftsmanship. The Parnu FTC had this under control, from top to bottom.
It was heartwarming to see the shooters pitching in to help take down the courses, not that it was necessary. Many of them, like Roberto Menichelli (Italy) understood well from their own match organizing efforts how important it is to try and lighten the load. When Alan & I went out to help take down a course, there were already several volunteers on the task. It sets an example of how I think these type of events should go, and i hope if any of you ever go to Estonia for a future shoot that you’d be willing to do what you could to help.
Odds n’ Ends
That’s All, Folks!