A brutal battle at Bisley
The Long Range Challenge is the one match in the year when we stretch out the distances and then hopefully stretch ourselves to meet that challenge; it is a tough task, especially for F/TR but Matt Jarram and Richard Sharman proved that they were ready, willing and able for the task and showed everyone how to do it. They are both very worthy winners.
For many others though, the match will be one they’ll want to forget as Stickledown range really bared its teeth and showed just how brutal it really can be. They say that shooting teaches us humility, that’s very true as there were many humbled shooters sent home to think again. The 2018 Long Range Challenge will probably be remembered for being one of the toughest matches we’ve seen for many years, it was Bisley at its best – or worst of course, depending on how you fared. Given the tough conditions, all the more credit is due to our winners Richard and Matt who rose to the challenge and prevailed.
Appearances can be deceptive as they say and that was very true of the first detail at 1,000yds, it looked quite reasonable; the flags indicated just a gentle wind and no inkling of anything untoward. That all changed as soon as the shooting got underway; that gentle wind was in fact devilishly unstable, it twitched to and fro’ with remarkable speed. It wasn’t so much the mean strength of the wind at most just 2moa, but rather the rate of change which was so hard to keep up with.
When conditions are tough it is of course reflected in the scores and especially so in the V-count, just scanning the results clearly indicated that V-bulls were very scarce, the shooters were most likely changing their strategy to suit conditions and simply being glad of getting bull-fives. The F/TR scores showed a remarkable spread of 21 points from top to bottom of the 38 competitors, this was to set the scene for the entire match; some did well, while other poor devils got absolutely slaughtered.
Jon Longhurst, fresh from his tour to Ireland to compete in the Emerald matches showed that he was on good form by taking the first gold medal of the weekend with 73.2 Just one point behind came the new slim line Steve Rigby who has still kept all his old talent though and in third place, with 72.2 the former F/TR European Champion, Alexander Nikolaev all the way from the Ukraine.
Later in the morning, the wind was still persistently twitchy for the F/Open guys, despite their ballistic advantage, they still had to contend with that squirming, squirrely wind, it was very easy to get caught out and many did; only four shooters managed to break 70 which says it all really. It was an early wakeup call that this match wasn’t going to be easy at all. Just the same as with the F/TR guys, the V-counts were miserably depressed, the highest being just 6 from one of our small contingent of Spanish friends; Jose Pajon.
Simon and Joe West had also just returned from their very successful tour in Ireland for the Emerald matches, where they swept up many superb awards. Building on that solid performance they took home two more medals; the gold for Simon with 73.3 and the bronze for Joe with 72.2. Richard Sharman was very presciently sandwiched in between the West family with a 72.4 to take the silver medal; we would be seeing more of Richard later.
The first stage of any match usually helps to ‘set the stage’, it enables everyone to calibrate themselves against each other and see what sort of performance they should expect, so it was with some trepidation that we moved back to 1,100yds.
You might not appreciate what difference just another 100yds can make, but believe me, when the 1,100yds detail had concluded, everyone there knew just what a difference it can make. I would venture to say that Stage 2 was, depending on your outlook either one of the most exciting and demanding stages we’ve ever seen – or one of the most utterly depressing and demoralising. The spread of scores was stunning; in F/Open it was 26 points, while in F/TR the slaughter was even more graphic with a 33 point spread from top to bottom. Stage two was a crucial turning point in the match; some shooters lost so many points that their match effectively ended there and then – they had haemorrhaged so many points that it would be nigh impossible to claw their way back. Many big names got scalped, humbled by Mother Nature.
The top F/TR score was a very modest 58.1, but it is all relative as they say, and Mark Downing had the pleasure of being the top dog with that, besting many others on the day. In second place, Carrie Ryan showed her mettle with 56.2 and in third place; Peter Dommett secured a hard-won bronze with 55.3
It wasn’t much different for the F/Open contingent; that wind chopped and changed so fast it was absolutely brutal. Your humble scribe prevailed by more luck than design with just a 62.1 Ian Boxall came very close behind with 61.2 and our venerable veteran G B Coach Martin Townsend was third by just one measly V-bull with 61.1
There is very little praise to lavish when the scores are so horrifically depressed, the 1,100yds stage will be memorable for the carnage and the destroyed hopes of many shooters, others may well want to forget the whole experience. It is only a game though and we can always learn something from every stage and if I might be indulged, I’d say the lesson there was to “be bold”.
It would be lovely to report that everything calmed down for the 1,200yds stage, but sometimes there is just no justice – the wind was set to be volatile all day and there was nothing we could do about it other than just ‘man up’ and get on with it. By the afternoon the temperature was well up into the 20’s so we had the added difficulty of heavy mirage to contend with.
Shooting at a 5” disc at 1,200yds requires a significant change in attitude and strategy – basically forget that V-bull and even count a bull-5 as a bonus, the real objective simply becomes the 4-ring, just keeping your shots in that ring is an achievement and any fives that happen to come along are purely incidental.
The spread of scores for 1,200yds in such fast-changing wind was, as you’d expect even more dramatic; 41points for F/TR and surprisingly even more for F/Open; 46. That meant that some shooters were effectively only scoring on average, a 2 for every shot. Truly a humbling experience, glancing at the scores, you may be forgiven for thinking it was being scored out of 75 instead of 100.
Only 4 F/TR shooters managed to break 70 which really does speak volumes about the level of difficulty our F/TR friends had – the 308 is still perfectly capable of good accuracy, it was just that the target is so incredibly tight that any major wind changes can very punishing.
“Fortune favours the brave” as they say, so Matt Jarram must have been exceptionally bold and brave to win the gold medal with 74.1 Peter Dommett added a silver to add to his earlier bronze with 72.4, Peter also had the distinction of having the highest V-count; just 4! While Richie Jones won a countback over Stuart Anselm to secure the bronze medal with 72.0
In F/Open, perhaps the ballistic advantage was showing through or perhaps the guys were getting a grip on how decisive they needed to be, whatever the reason, some shooters really seemed to get into the groove and scored well; 3 managed to break 80 which was a significant achievement in those conditions, all three had already medalled earlier in the day, so it really looked like these guys were on top of their game. Foremost of all was Martin Townsend with 84.1 it is always very good for morale to see the coach leading from the front and showing everyone how to do it. Richard Sharman added another silver medal to his collection with 83.3 while Simon West added a bronze to his earlier gold with 81.1 the three contenders were now pulling away from the pack.
Saturday will go down in the living history of the National League as being a traumatic experience for many competitors; it was truly humbling to see shots being blown from one side to the other of a 4moa target in the space of time between two shots, perhaps just 60 seconds or so. There is an element of luck involved of course, but scrutiny of the pack leaders indicates the same names appearing rather more often, so it is clear that shooters can ‘make their own luck’ to a great extent.
Sunday Stage 4
Conditions on Sunday morning looked very encouraging; there was just a very gentle wind showing on the flags, but then bear in mind that is how it appeared on Saturday too, so it was quite understandable that shooters may have been rather cautious, wondering just what Mother Nature had in store for them. Mercifully, our concerns were unfounded; normality had seemingly returned to Stickledown, the wind now behaved itself in pretty much the normal manner; this was more like the customary wind condition we have grown to know, that said, there was still just enough variability to keep us on our toes and punish the unobservant.
Steve Durrant had the distinction of scoring the only 75, a fine 75.9 in fact, which netted him a well-earned gold medal. David Kent the renowned Bisley habitué won the silver a good 74.7 while Shaun Baker was only one meagre V-bull behind in third place, taking home the bronze medal.
In F/TR Brogan O’Shea-Smith did not let a painful knee injury distract him; he still racked up a good 70.4 to secure the gold medal. Dan Lomas was only two V-bulls behind with 70.2 Dan has been making good progress and may be one to watch out for in future. Third place was won by the GBFCA’s new Vice-Chairman, Paul Harkins with a 69.4
Most shooters seemed to have a fairly reasonable Stage 4, which helped restore morale after Saturday’s battering.
The last stage of the match was a 2+20 endurance test, time was of the essence in getting all the shooters processed before the 12.30 lunchtime hooter, and a few slower pairs caused some extra stress and consternation to our match organiser Mik. As the morning warmed, the mirage became all the more prevalent and many shooters got their mirage bands on as a precaution. Just when we thought that the wind had settled into its usual familiar behaviour, it played a cruel trick and seemed to revert back to something like the sort of volatility it had shown on Saturday, albeit not quite on the same scale of savagery, but still showing some pretty rapid pick-ups and drop-offs. This really played into the hands of the true wind-readers and enabled them to maintain their advantage.
We don’t get a lot of mirage here, compared to other countries such as Spain, so it seemed fitting that Diego Gomez was rewarded for his trip to Bisley by winning the gold medal with a superb 93.1, fully 3 points ahead of Matt Jarram’s 90.3 although that was enough for Matt’s overall purpose. In third place, the ever-cheerful Brogan O’Shea-Smith added a bronze to his earlier gold with a 69.4
Martin Townsend and Richard Sharman continued to battle it out for supremacy and at the last stage they could only be separated by a countback, both of them attaining a superb 93.5, earning them their third medals of the weekend they are clearly a well-matched pair. In third place, came Mik Maksimovic with 93.3 despite all the stress of running the match he succeeded and prevailed in a countback with David Lloyd.
Stuart Anselm had kindly taken on the thankless task of compiling all the weekend’s match stats, ably assisted by Tina, we are grateful to them for all their efforts on our behalf, there was one other person who deserves a mention in dispatches, our solitary Range Officer, Jim Carter who ran the range with good humour and efficiency throughout.
Matt Jarram is our new F/TR Long Range Challenge Champion; Matt’s winning score of 351.14 was very comfortably 7 points ahead of his nearest rival. Matt has come a long way and is now well established as one of the most consistent shooters in the F/TR contingent. Second place was won by the popular genial giant Richie Jones with 344.9 Richie seems to be going from strength to strength in recent years. Third place was won by Peter Dommett with 343.12; Peter has shown a lot of initiative and enthusiasm so it is good to see him being rewarded.
Richard Sharman is now the well-deserved F/Open Long Range Challenge winner with a simply superb score of 377.14 A popular and affable winner, Richard puts a great deal of time and commitment into his shooting and the results speak for themselves. Martin Townsend our long-established GB team coach came second with 374.11 showing that when the chips are down his years of experience come to the fore. Third place was won by Lance Vinall with 369.17 Lance is having an excellent year, coming soon after a very successful Irish tour.
We’ve passed the halfway point of our 2018 season already, from now on we can look forward to keeping our best of four to count so for anyone who’s had a poor start, there is still every chance of clawing back some league points and positions. Next up will be the Northern F-class Championships at Diggle in late July, see you there.