Diggle: from drought to deluge in two days
To borrow a hackneyed expression from football pundits, it was a game of two halves; glorious warm sunshine one day and the very next day a howling gale with rain coming down in buckets. Two shooters will have particularly fond memories of the Saturday; Dan Lomas and Gary Costello shot their way to victory and are the new Northern F-class Champions, well done to the pair of them.
For the most part we had an enjoyable day’s shooting on the Saturday, just one unfortunate detail got rained in in a brief though pretty heavy shower. Sunday though was an entirely different matter; rain stopped play – absolutely torrential rain in fact and it was lashed into us by strong blustery winds.
It was only a matter of time of course before the weather reverted back to normality; we had enjoyed two glorious league matches in April and May, it was tempting fate and pushing our luck to hope for three dry weekends at Diggle. While the shooters were naturally disappointed, gardeners and farmers all over the country were no doubt rejoicing that the drought was over, though it was cold comfort to us, we’d have preferred the monsoon to have been delayed by just one more day.
This was the third outing for the new Silver Mountain electronic targets, they seem to have met with universal acclaim, even though some folk reminisce about the banter in the butts, it was a chore when the weather was poor and with the passage of time, nostalgia has a habit of filtering out the bad memories. I know where I’d rather be; watching my fellow competitors on a tablet and chewing the fat, rather than hauling targets up and down for hours, especially in the rain. Electronics do have a downside though as we were to find out; they are great when working but when they fail, it can be difficult to put them right again, more on that later.
For anyone who had already completed four League matches, this was the first opportunity to drop their lowest score and focus on their best four to count, from now on the League takes on a new, exciting dimension; calculating what everyone needs to maintain or improve their standing. That said, attendance was down a little, but then it is peak holiday season. We were pleased to see shooters from the Netherlands, Ireland and New Zealand.
Conditions on Saturday morning looked favourable; it was dry, bright and the wind was moderate to strong, requiring up to 4 to 5 moa, at least the direction was stable even if there were some pick-ups and drop-offs.
This was the first time we had used the800yd firing point since it was refurbished and covered in a new surface layer of AstroTurf. The builders had done a good job; the firing point was now a perfectly flat and even surface; nobody had to suffer shooting in holes as in the past. We may need to pay attention to the characteristics of the AstroTurf though as one or two shooters noted that their mats & bags had a tendency to slip.
In a break from tradition, F/Open were first to play on Saturday, the conditions looked favourable towards good wind readers and indeed that is how it turned out; Tony Marsh put all his GB Team wind coach experience to good effect in scoring a stunning 98.7. Richard Huby used all his local knowledge to score a super 97. While Gary Costello racked up the highest V-count by far; his 95.11 was an amazing score, netting him the bronze medal.
That moderate to strong wind seemed to be gaining in strength, so by the time our F/TR colleagues got down to shoot, they had their work cut out for them. Anybody getting into the 90’s could take satisfaction from a job well done. Our former Chairman, Stuart Anselm set the pace by notching up an astoundingly high score of 97.6 an incredible achievement for F/TR in the conditions. Jon Longhurst shot well to achieve a good 92.4. Third place and the bronze medal was taken by Brogan O’Shea-Smith on just one less V-bull; 72.6 As an aside, the previous day in testing, Stuart Anselm shot an almost unbelievable 5 shot group at 800yds measuring just 1 inch!, that’s 0.125 moa!
Moving back to 1,000yds that wind which had earlier been just moderate had now grown in intensity, it was now a fully-fledged strong and full value wind. That was immediately apparent when the first sighters went down range; the Silver Mountain targets can show you all the results from each target in miniature along the bottom of the screen – it was instructive to see so many shots all well out to the left. Mean wind was now going from seven to nine moa – that’s more than enough variability to blow shots from the V-bull to the 1 ring, as many found out.
Having said all that, the best shooters relish a challenge and this time only one guy managed to break 90, that was our Irish friend Mark Bannon whose 91.2 netted him the gold, Mark’s dedication is certainly paying dividends. In second, Gary Costello added a silver to his earlier bronze with an 89.5, while just one point behind was Richard Sharman with 88.3, Richard is having a superb season so far with the Scottish Long Range Championships and Long Range Challenge titles already to his name.
It was instructive to see the spread of scores from that tough detail from the winning 91.2 to the last man in on 60. Sadly, Jimmy Finn had to retire from the match as his barrel decided it had given enough and it was time up.
Naturally enough, our F/TR colleagues viewed the F/O scores and tales of woe coming off the firing point and must have felt some trepidation at what they could expect as the wind was still growing in strength. Before we could start though we had an unexpected long delay of 15 minutes when Ian Dixon could not find his ear defenders, despite a frantic search and rummaging through his car, he could find no sign of them – until it was pointed out to him – they were on his head….. It will be a long time before Ian is allowed to live that down.
Only one shooter managed to break 90, which was quite an achievement, all credit was due to Dan Lomas for a fine 90.4 in such a challenging wind. Mike Walker used his local range knowledge to good effect in coming second with 86.5, while Mark Webb of Team MXM took the bronze medal with 86.4.
The spread of scores in this detail was simply shocking from Dan’s 90 down to just 43. It was also unfortunate that one of the F/TR details got hit with a rainstorm, a real Diggle deluge of the kind that we are all too familiar with; it was noted that some shooters were caught unprepared for this; being totally exposed, that would not have helped their scores, but as always when visiting Diggle come ready for anything; bring your sun cream and your wellies.
Well, what can you say; the long drought finally came to an end, sadly the end came just one day too early for us when the monsoon arrived. It was well forecast, but we still hoped that Diggle might have its own little micro-climate and avoid the worst, but it was not to be. We awoke to heavy rain and driving wind and as the morning went on it just became progressively worse and worse.
There was a plan to salvage something of the day; the committee considered all the options and proposed to move the comp’ indoors to the covered 600yd firing point. That at least would keep shooters fairly dry and allow some shooting, but it was not to be. At that point, our Silver Mountain antenna was blown over in the strong wind and was damaged, it could not be repaired onsite and so we were compelled to just call it a day and write off the remaining stages. There was absolutely no appetite whatsoever for operating manual targets in such horrendous conditions; that was not a realistic option, so “rain stopped play” as they say.
The GFCA rule is that in such situations the competition results are still valid and still count for league points if more than half the course of fire has been delivered, seeing as we had fired 40 rounds out of the planned 75, the match results were upheld. The Saturday aggregate scores then, were the basis on which the match was decided, the results were as follows;
The new F/TR Northern F-class Champion is Dan Lomas, a fantastic achievement and it is Dan’s first National League win, Dan has come a long way in a relatively short time and is reaping the benefits of his dedication. Mike Walker came second with 170.7, a superb result for this ever-cheerful young man, it emphasises his local knowledge of the Diggle ranges. Third place after a countback was won by Mary Marsden – Mary got a resounding cheer from everyone, this is her best result so far.
Our new F/O Champion is Gary Costello who won with 184.16, it is good to see Gary back on top form again, shooting well and getting good results from his investment in rifles and time. Mark Bannon was only 9 V-bulls behind with 184.7, Mark deserves a medal just for the dedication he shows in travelling regularly from Ireland to compete. Third place was won by Simon West on 181.14 Simon is proving to be a consistent, high performer.
Thanks are due to everyone who pitched in and helped out throughout the weekend, very special thanks are owed to Stuart’s Mother & Father who very kindly gave up their weekend to come and cook superb bacon rolls and beef burgers for everyone, their hard work was much appreciated and it really helped to raise everyone’s sprits.
We have an unusual gap in the calendar next month, so enjoy the break and get ready for the highlight of our year; the European Championships in early September. If you haven’t already entered, then you’d better do it right now – the entries close next weekend! See you there.