Short version - another pleasant trip, 3rd in the men's epée, 2nd in the team epée - exactly as last year so OK but not great.
Slightly different trip this time as I elected to go back to the Santana to join Jim and Kev while Kate, Simon, Jo and Gary (on his first trip) opted for an apartment a little bit out from central Buggiba so spent more time going round with Jim and Kev this time. I figured this would be the last trip for a while gone there 4 out of the last 5 years) so priority was to see those last things this year. This meant I bailed on the men's foil in order to see Fort St Angelo which only opens on Saturday mornings! Still did the obligatory SMS to Flinn from Ollie Reed's last pub though.
First and foremost - Fort Rinella, a British Victorian period fort at the mouth of the Valetta harbour area and home to one of only 2 surviving Armstrong 100-ton guns, arguably the ultimate development of muzzle-loading black powder artillery designs, firing a 1-ton shell. Apparently, the last time it was fired, it set fire to a nearby movie studio... As well as being a great bit of Victorian military architecture, it's also staffed by, essentially, re-enactors who also put on displays of period artillery and rifle fire, bayonet drill and semaphore. See below:
Also not too many places where visitors can fire a Vickers 8" howitzer or a Martini-Henry rifle (as seen on Zulu...). Needless to say, I did both. Kate and Simon did point out I could probably fire artillery (and certainly guns) for free at ECW re-enactments but, well, they were cool pieces of kit and, well, I was impressed enough by the museum I was planning to give a donation anyway towards the restoration of the Armstrong gun and recreation of all the steam machinery required for the automated loading of the gun!
Weird things learned: didn't realise till this visit that the Martini-Henry, despite being a breech-loader and using metal cartridges, was still a balck powder weapon. Also glad that, being one of the taller volunteers, I got a full length rifle rather than a carbine - they did look a little silly ;-)
Fort St Angelo, the one I bunked off the foil for. Turned out, it was closed for building work when we got there (it's recently been leased back to the Knights of St John and is being restored) but, well, there was no one about, the gates were open and we'd come all this way so we went in anyway! Very interesting contrasts between the original Knights and later British elements, including a swimming pool built into the top of a strongpoint!
Also walked with Jim and Kev along a portion of the Victoria Lines, built to divide Malta in two to help defend against invasion. Very interesting and impressive views but hard work, especially as we were planning to go fence that evening!
As for the competition itself, given it was the 10th anniversary, I was hoping to see more old faces back, both Maltese and UK/foreign but alas, it was more or less the same as last year plus Gary and Johanna, from Germany/Ireland.
I don't usually get all worked up about my results (and this I think is a problem of mine - lack of desire/will to win) but this is one of them. Finished the poules as number 1 seed, my opponent in the semis I'd beaten in my poule and I established a 6 point lead. Then he woke up and adapted faster than I did. Lost 15-13. GAHHH!!!
One unfortunate thing - discovered Bryan Adams was playing in Malta. The week after we were there. Sigh.
Ah well, have come back with several bottles of La Valette and need to set up a Yahoogroup for the Malta Open but will I go again next year? Wasn't planning to but not so sure now... However, after some discussion with Jim, who's been 8 times now, if I do, I might just shorten the trip to the competition days plus maybe 1 day on either side - Malta is already my most heavily visited country that didn't involve work or visiting friends and there's a load more places I still want to see e.g. Crete, Shanghai, Budapest etc. Hmm... tricky one...
Another thing I'd also like to do (and have talked about after *every* previous trip!) is more competitions in fun locations e.g. Johanna mentioned ones in Cork and Dublin (where she's studying), Kev mentioned Helsinki etc.
Urgh. First full week back at work coming up...