The Pennine Challenge; F-class at its very best
Sometimes the sun does shine at Diggle – just to confound the critics, we enjoyed a weekend of absolutely glorious shooting weather, apparently it was also ideal for Royal weddings and cup finals, but thankfully we managed to avoid all that. The sun certainly shone for our new Pennine Challenge Champions Paul Harkins and Jimmy Finn who simply excelled in the sun.
Anyone who missed the match at Diggle, missed out on what I reckon was the most sociable and enjoyable league match I can remember. F-class always has been a very sociable activity, this match reinforced that for two reasons; firstly the electronics – they worked perfectly and relieved everyone from the burden of marking targets, that meant more time to socialise behind the firing point. Secondly, thanks to the initiative shown by new member, Stephen Moloney who organised a BBQ. It was a fantastic idea; Stephen kept everyone fed throughout the day. That simple combination of having spare time and being fed & watered made all the difference to making this match the most relaxed and pleasurable and I can recall in the 11 year history of the League.
We were also buoyed with enthusiasm for another novel reason not only were we using the new targets but we had installed a big wide screen TV at 1,000yds which showed all 6 targets in action, this was being streamed live to the world for anyone to watch, thanks to Gary Costello for funding that innovation.
Just like the previous Diggle league match in March, Stuart Anselm worked like a Trojan, taking several days off work to ensure all the arrangements were in place to ensure a smooth running competition. This was only our second outing with the new Silver Mountain targets we were keen to see how they would perform at long range after their faultless debut last month at 600yds.
Diggle presents its own unique challenges and not just in terms of shooting, simply managing the logistics of getting 50+ shooters and all their kit and caboodle to the firing point takes some doing when there is not sufficient space for that many cars. Thankfully the PSSA range vehicle and other suitable 4x4s prove their worth in ferrying the baggage train of kit and a few less-able bodied shooters too.
As for the notoriously fickle weather at Diggle – which invariably means some details get a soaking, we were very pleasantly surprised to enjoy two consecutive days of absolutely glorious sunshine, it was, perhaps too hot and humid at times. Mind you, if it wasn’t for the weather, we Brits would have nothing to talk about, having looked forward all winter to seeing the sun again, it was ironic that many of us pale northerners sought shelter in the shade and slapped on the factor 50.
Shooting on a tight target is difficult at the best of times, it is even more so at Diggle and this was no exception we had boiling and shimmering mirage to contend with and a very contrary and unstable wind condition. There was high pressure over the whole of the UK, in such circumstances the wind can have a tendency to meander to and fro’, those angle changes can be very hard to detect and sometimes seemed to be in direct contradiction to the flags.
By way of a change, F/Open were first to play on Saturday, expectations were very high as the conditions looked ideal; just a gentle wind lifted the flags and the mean wind was only a minute or so, the trouble was that the wind didn’t really seem to know where to go, it meandered up and across the valley producing very tricky chops and changes in direction that were difficult to see. The result was that scores were somewhat depressed; only two shooters managed to get 75’s. Local man, Richard Huby put all his long TR experience and local knowledge to good use in getting the gold with 75.8. Following closely behind came Steve Durrant on 75.5 and in third place, winning a count-back came Gary Costello with 74.9
It must have been rather chastening for the F/TR guys to witness the effect of the fickle wind on the F/O shooters, nevertheless they rose to the challenge and gave a good account of themselves. David Rollafson is having a good season so far and made his mark with the best F/TR score of 73.9 to take the gold. In second place came the Diggle stalwart Ian Dixon who’ll celebrate being 75 this year, he used his long experience to good effect in clocking up a 72.7, just one V-bull behind came Matt Jarram who seems to be back on form again.
It was clear from the Stage 1 scores that this was going to be a testing trial of wind-reading, that fishtailing wind was proving to be devilishly difficult to track.
Moving back to 1,000yds, we were thankful for the assistance of members with 4x4s and for the services of the PSSA range pickup, they helped immensely with transporting all the heavy gear, given the high temperatures and the rugged terrain, it saved a lot of exertion and we were most grateful.
F/O still struggled somewhat with that unstable, wandering wind. Only one shooter managed to break 90, which speaks volumes about the degree of difficulty involved; Simon West who is really on top form, racked up a 91.5 to take gold. In second, came one of our pair of Irish friends; Jimmy Finn showed great dedication in making the journey from Ireland, he took silver with 89.3 Gary Costello was fortunate again to win a count-back and in doing so, earned himself a bronze medal.
Judging by those depressed F/O scores, the F/TR shooters must have viewed the range with some trepidation when it was their turn to combat that awkward, wavy wind. Somebody always rises to a challenge and this time Paul Harkins was that man, he was the only F/TR guy to break 90, just like F/O, only one shooter achieved that distinction. Paul navigated his way to a gold medal with 91.2. In second, there was a resounding cheer for Mary Marsden who pitched in to help range officer the match and still shot well enough to secure the silver medal with 89.3. Third place with 86.2 went to Stuart Anselm who was probably the hardest-working person on the range.
Summing up the shooting on Saturday, it was challenging to say the least and yet highly pleasurable, the electronic targets functioned perfectly and having personnel in the butts validated any queries shooters may have had, not that there were any – all bar one shooter who queried shots that were not registering – the butts crew confirmed his bullets were not reaching the target due to blow ups. Simply having the butt crew there helped to confirm that and remove any suspicion from the targets. The other aspect of the day which helped tremendously was having access to bottled water at 1,000yds, this was an absolute life-saver given the heat and time we were exposed to the sun.
Sunday dawned cool, bright and dry – pretty much as it was the day before; the wind looked like it might be a little gentler at first at least. Set-up time for the electronics does seem rather slower – it just takes a while for everyone to get logged on and prepared, in this regard we were grateful to some of our more tech-savvy friends such as Jordan Rubio and Steve Rigby who were to the fore in helping us dinosaurs get to grips with technology. In future, as we become more familiar with it all, we’ll surely speed up.
The F/TR competitors were first into bat at 800yds and they made the most of the cooler, more stable air. Asad Wahid quickly capitalised on the good condition and won himself a well-earned gold with 74.9 after a countback with Matt Jarram who got a silver to add to his earlier bronze. Mike Walker is making good progress as a Diggle regular and he netted himself a bronze for his 74.6
The F/O shooters, having seen their F/TR colleagues reap the benefit of the first detail, hoped to get on when the going was good, it was not to last though, as the morning progressed the heat built up and consequently the air warmed and became more unstable, making the wind-reader’s job all the more difficult. That said, it didn’t seem to bother local man David Raybould, he used his experience to rack up a fine 75.9 for gold. In second, it was Jimmy Finn again, adding another silver medal to his tally for a solid 75.8. Steve Durrant was also having a very good match, he too netted another medal – a bronze to go along with Saturday’s silver.
Moving back to 1,000yds was quite an operation given the remarkable amount of stuff we seem to need simply to shoot a rifle, thanks to the PSSA range pick-up making multiple trips back and forth, we all got there with our guns, rests and accoutrements intact.
As is usually the case, the match was decided at the longest distance and this was a long detail too, a barrel-testing trial of 2+20. The match was made all the more exciting by being able to watch the progress of all shooters on a big wide TV screen; this really did add to the whole ambience of the match, it made a spectator sport out of the event.
Some love technology and others loath it, it would be fair to say that Paul Crosbie isn’t a fan, that said, he seems to have adapted very well indeed and established himself in his accustomed position at the front of the pack, his 86.3 earned him the gold medal. Not far behind came the genial 101 club stalwart, Paul Harkins with 84.4. There was a count-back for third place between Asad Wahid and Mark Webb, it was lucky Asad Wahid won out to secure himself the bronze, adding to Saturday’s gold.
By the time the F/O competitors got onto the firing point – after the AGM, it was very hot and humid, the mirage was at its peak and the wind was as twitchy as ever, this was devilishly difficult Diggle conditions, a real test for anyone. Ian Boxall showed great grit and determination to succeed even though suffering from a very painful back injury, all credit to him then for winning a very well-deserved gold with 93.5. The silver was won by Diggle veteran Richard Huby who made the most of his experience to achieve 91.7 The bronze was netted by Irishman Jimmy Finn with 90.6, just three V-bulls ahead of his fellow compatriot Mark Bannon. It was a good performance by the pair of them.
That concluded the match, so now we all trudged back to the clubhouse to find out where we stood in the grand scheme of things. Throughout the weekend, Yvonne Wilcox had been assisting with inputting the stats, so we didn’t have long to wait at all for the winners to be revealed.
The gold and the glory went to a resurgent Paul Harkins who completely blew away the opposition he was a full twelve points ahead and can be rightly proud of being the new Pennine Challenge champion; to win any match by such an emphatic margin is quite extraordinary. If there was a special prize for hard work, it would surely be won by Stuart Anselm, on top of all his other tasks he still retained his concentration and composure to win second place with 306.12 Asad Wahid must be the fastest-learning member the Association has ever seen, he has made meteoric progress and won bronze with 304.19 – the second highest V-count in the match.
There should special recognition given to those who make the biggest effort to compete and in that regard Jimmy Finn has demonstrated dedication that should inspire many shooters, it costs him a lot of time and money to compete and now he has reaped the just rewards for his commitment, as the new Pennine Challenge Champion, it was a well-deserved an popular win. In second place with 325.25 came Simon West who seems to be going from onwards and upwards at a terrific rate. Just one point behind came Steve Durrant, winning the bronze, Steve has put a lot of effort into his shooting and is seeing the results, all credit to him.
The Pennine Challenge, perhaps more than any other match was a real team effort; so many members all pitched in to play useful role in a multitude of ways, that it would be a long list to mention them all. May I say thanks to absolutely everyone, it was heartening to see so many members with such goodwill, initiative and enthusiasm.
The bar has been raised to a new height with this match, I reckon it was the most pleasurable, sociable and convivial match I’ve been to. It will be a tough act to follow. . Truly F-class as Diggle has come of age, it always was a very sociable activity of course these enhancements simply made it all the better for shoots and spectators alike.
Next up is the special one; the Long Range Challenge – see you there.