Silver Mountains prevail in the Pennines
The newly-purchased GBFCA electronic targets made their debut at Diggle; much to everyone’s delight they worked a treat. Technology has moved on a long way in a short time and we were very happy indeed to run our entire match without a single hiccup with these new Silver Mountain 3rd generation electronic targets.
The match highlights were; David Rollafson got his 2018 season off to a cracking start by establishing a lead straight from the start and maintaining it all the way through to the end, justifiably taking the F/TR silver salver home. The F/Open 2018 Champion is now David Lloyd, who was still recovering from recent surgery, but despite that distraction he still managed to keep his focus on winning and kept his sights on that objective right through to the end.
We had an ideal opportunity to try out the new electronic target; the second League match of the season was at 600yds, so there was rather less to go wrong when shooting at that shorter distance than might occur when taking account of the vagaries of long range shooting. We took every precaution to ensure the smooth running of this match; this included stationing committee members and volunteers in the butts to monitor the functioning of the targets and to provide physical verification of any disputed shots. It was a long and tedious stint in the butts for those guys, but well worth it in terms of helping to build confidence in the new system. As it happens they were indeed called upon to verify a couple of wide shots which shooters found hard to believe, but there were indeed found to be real hits, not spurious. In fact the system performed faultlessly for the whole weekend; that amounted to something approaching 5,500 rounds expended.
The weather was reasonably kind to us by Diggle standards; it was cold certainly, but mercifully it stayed dry and bright. The wind was a cold easterly, fairly light on the Saturday but becoming stronger on the Sunday, not terribly strong though it tended to fluctuate steadily allowing shooters to track the changes. The electronics may have assisted in that regard by allowing a faster cadence of shooting.
This was the first time many shooters had seen the new targets, so it would be fair to say that we got off to a slower than usual start as folk familiarised themselves with the new set-up. All competitors were advised to bring an iPod or other similar such tablet, inevitably some guys’ iPads and tablets didn’t work as planned, but the GBFCA had purchased several tablet devices to issue to any competitor in that situation. It was found that the ‘cheap & cheerful’ Acer brand worked a treat and at only £70 or so, it was very good value indeed.
The F/TR shooters had the pleasure of being the first to ‘christen’ the new targets and got underway at around 9am. They didn’t have too much wind to contend with which was good for building confidence both in themselves and in the new system. That said, there was enough variability to keep everyone on their toes.
David Rollafson got off to a prescient start by establishing an early lead; he was the only shooter to score a possible, his 75.5 netted him the first gold medal of the match, it wasn’t to be his last. Second and Third place could only be decided after a countback between David Trail and Richard Jones respectively as both had scored 73.6 There was quite a wide distribution of scores for this stage; it suggested that many shooters were taking a while to get established and in doing so were losing many valuable points which might be difficult to make up later.
There were six details in each stage, so by the time F/Open got to play it was well into the early afternoon, conditions had not changed much; it was still that fairly light but variable wind, it needed to be watched closely. Lance Vinall had good reason to celebrate, not only was it his birthday, but he prevailed to take the gold medal with a good 75.9, it was an ideal birthday present to himself. Only one other shooter managed to get a 75; Tony Marsh’s 75.5 won him the silver, just ahead of Richard Sharman who had a superb V-count; his 74.12 was way ahead of anyone else’s.
After Stage 1 we had time to take stock; this was going to be a tricky match, it may only have been at 600yds, but the wind was devilishly tricky, confounding many good shooters and consequently suppressing scores.
As the day progressed it thankfully warmed up a little; though folk were still bundled up in coats and hats, at least now the gloves could come off! It was certainly a matter of getting down to business for David Rollafson; his gloves were off and he was stamping his authority on this match; he racked up a simply superb 98.10 to convincingly win the gold. Following on closely behind in second place with 97.5 came Brogan O’Shea-Smith and just one point behind him came Jon Longhurst on 96.8 to take the bronze. These were all respectable scores given the trickiness of the wind, it showed that the shooters were finding their way and getting to grips with the conditions – and the new set up.
David Lloyd was still recovering from some recent surgery, but he clearly didn’t let it affect his shooting; he was the only competitor to score a possible; his superb 100.11 was quite an achievement and it secured him the gold medal. Paul Hill and Simon West had to battle it out by a countback to decide silver and bronze; they both had scored an excellent 99.11
At the close of the day, it was time to pack up and reflect on events; the electronic targets had performed better that anyone had dared hope for; there were no reported problems other than folk having bother with their own tablets which isn’t the fault of the system. The time taken to process six details through two stages was rather longer than expected, admittedly we did get off to a slow start and it was understandable that shooters would be somewhat hesitant at first with the new and unfamiliar set-up, the electronics may have saved some time during the conduct of the match, but it was not a lot. That said there was much relief and a good deal of satisfaction; we had got off to a good start.
Sunday morning dawned clear, bright and dry which is always a bonus at Diggle; being an upland range bordering the Pennines it can be little ‘micro-climate’ of its own, and can often by misty, dull and wet. As for the wind, sadly it was noticeably stronger than previously; this was going to pile on the pressure on shooters – especially those who had left themselves with ground to make up.
This time, F/O were first into play, not that it made much difference as there was no ‘bunny detail’ to be had, the flags were showing significantly more wind and so it was, whereas the Saturday had required perhaps 2 minutes on average, now the mean wind was closer to 3. Still not a lot in absolute terms of course, but it was the variability that killed off otherwise good scores, those little pick-ups and drop-offs can make all the difference on a tight target.
There were no possibles to report this time, though Joe West and Richard Sharman did their best and each racked up a respectable 74.8 only being separated on a countback. David Lloyd was the only other shooter to score a 74, his 74.5 kept him in contention.
By mid-morning it was the turn of the F/TR shooters to see what they could make of the wind. Despite running the new targets and running his shop, Stuart Anselm still managed to spare some energy to prevail over everyone with a good 71.7, it was a commendable performance given all the pressure he was under. Second place was won by Asad Wahid with 71.6 on his Diggle debut, a remarkable feat. Third place and the bronze medal was the subject of an unusual 4-way countback; involving Steve Rigby, Mary Marsden, Dan Lomas and Dean Wallace. Lady luck shone on Steve’s 70.4 the lesson being that you should always drop a point sooner, rather than later in your string.
As with Saturday, the day tended to warm a little as we progressed into the afternoon; at least now we could unbutton the coats which is pretty good going for this upland range in late April. By now the wind had decided to be a little more co-operative and for some quick shooters who kept up a brisk pace it was possible to get through the detail with minimal exposure to chops and changes. The shooters were growing in confidence in the system and some wise heads were making full use of the speed of the electronic system. James Finn from Ireland clearly didn’t waste any time in achieving his superb score of 98.8 to enable him to take the gold medal back home across the water. David Lloyd was proving his mettle and showing great consistency; his 98.5 secured him second place, while Richard Sharman was coming up fast behind with 97.9 It was going to be pretty tight at the top.
By early afternoon we were nearing the match finale, the FTR shooters got to shoot in the warmest part of the day, albeit still comparatively cool for the time of year. Some dark clouds appeared from the east which looked rather ominous and we feared the last details might get wet, but thankfully it came to nought and everyone managed to complete their weekend in dry clothes – something of a rarity at Diggle. The FTR guys were getting into their stride now the more capable ones were coping well with the tricky wind. Jon Longhurst proved most capable of all in achieving a fine first place score of 96.5. Next came two stalwarts of the venerable 101 club; John Cross in second with 96.4 and the only lady to feature on the podium all weekend; Carrie Ryan in third with 94.9.
That concluded the shooting for the weekend; we did not have long for Stuart to reveal the winning scores as he was ably assisted in compiling the stats by Yvonne and Peter Baxter.
David Rollafson had led from the front straight off the starting line on Saturday and never showed any sign of relinquishing that pole position. Clearly he came ready and equipped to win and he succeeded in that aim all credit to him for a superb performance his score of 334.23 was 7 clear points ahead of Richie Jones, Captain of the 101 Club with a score of 327.23. Richie has been going from strength to strength over the years and we look forward to seeing this popular shooter on the podium more often. Third place was won by that redoubtable fierce competitor, Paul Crosbie with 327.19. Paul had been planning a ‘year out’ from shooting but clearly he hasn’t lost any ability in his time off.
David Lloyd might not yet be 100% fit, but he certainly didn’t let that impede his performance, he was on fire, racking up a fine score of 345.26 to take the Championship title and the big silver salver back home to Wales, we can only wonder what he’ll be capable of when he’s totally back on form. Richard Sharman can take solace in his second-place win by having the highest V-count of the weekend he notched up 340.37, I’m sure he’d willingly have traded a few V’s for a few points. In third place came our keen Irish friend Jimmy Finn with 340.30 Jimmy has shown tremendous dedication to his sport in travelling regularly over the years from Ireland, it was good to see him get his reward.
The shooters did well, though the real star of the show was our Chairman; Stuart Anselm who worked like a Trojan all weekend to ensure the new Silver Mountain system functioned perfectly. It was quite a herculean task to make sure every competitor was logged-in, properly equipped and set up for every single detail, with nearly 70 competitors to cater for, it was as you can imagine like a fulltime job. On top of that he (and Yvonne) compiled all the match stats – and ran his shop too.
As for the electronic targets, the Silver Mountain target system has won over a lot of shooters, including quite a few vocal sceptics who had traumatic experiences using other systems elsewhere. The targets functioned absolutely perfectly; over 5,500 shots were fired during the weekend and there were no errors, no missing shots and no spurious shots. Not only that but the competitors could view their downrange velocities, average and SD figures and group sizes too. It is rare to see so many people of a similar mind; the Silver Mountains have won over many new converts and have given validation to those who proposed them. Not only that, but they have now even managed the seemingly impossible; they have made shooting a spectator sport! The Diggle clubhouse had a wide-screen TV showing 6 targets simultaneously with all the associated data pertaining to each shooter, it was compulsive viewing and there were many resounding cheers when friends shot well and many heartfelt groans when they dolloped. The camaraderie of this shared experience has added a whole new dimension to our sport.
We are especially thankful this month to everyone who made this match possible; Paul Harkness, Gary Costello, Tony Marsh, Stuart Anselm, Yvonne Wilcock, Jim Marsden, Steve Rigby, Ian Dixon, Adam and Julie Bagnall, Paul Crosbie, Peter Baxter and of course Les Holgate.
We look forward to doing it all again at long range in just three weeks when we shall also be having our AGM, see you there.