The British Championships – the 2018 season finale of the National League
Our final National League match of our season is often the deciding match to see who will win the overall title of National League winner, it is also a prestigious match in its own right as the British Championship, so there was a lot riding on this weekend’s shooting.
It seemed as if Mik had arranged for some particularly challenging conditions to test everyone; on Saturday we had to contend with very twitchy unsettled wind, it was an excellent test for the wind-readers as it put great stress on being able to discern tiny changes in angle and strength, it was not at all easy to do when the conditions were changing rapidly. Even the ‘locals’ who get plenty of practice at Bisley found it very difficult indeed. Sunday on the other hand, was more of a test of sheer accuracy; the wind was rather more stable and predictable, leading to high scores, so that kept the trigger-pullers happy too.
Given the importance of this match it was no surprise that we had an excellent field of 63 paid entries – only one notable space was left unfilled; sadly that was for Gary Costello who was unwell.
The Friday practice day was a bit different from our customary routine; Jon Longhurst came up with a new idea to get some more team shooting practice; he named it the “Friday Friendly” and it was very well received indeed, it was especially encouraging to see some junior shooters getting their first introduction to F-class. We hope to instigate more of Jon’s “Friday Friendlies” at the other League Match venues next year.
Stage 1, 800yds
The F/TR guys got the benefit of the early morning start on Saturday; conditions looked good, but were very deceptive; to a casual observer there didn’t appear to be much wind to be worried about, but the shooters soon found out the real situation; that gentle wind was making some slight ebbs and flows making it much harder work than it might have seemed, it was just a portent of what was to follow.
It was not surprising therefore that the scores were somewhat depressed; only three shooters managed to make 75, of those, Matt Jarram was well out in front with an amazing 75.12. Young James McCosh was hot on his heels though, just 2 V-bulls behind. In bronze medal position came Linda Bushell, making a welcome return to full health and what better way to celebrate than by scoring her very first ever 75 in a League competition.
F/Open could enjoy a leisurely breakfast and come to range settled and ready, though many wiser shooters still turned out early to get a handle on the conditions and to quiz their F/TR colleagues coming off the early details. Only 6 shooters managed to attain a 75 and of those only 3 V-bulls separated them. Nobody could match Matt Jarram’s score, but Steve Durrant came closest, winning the gold medal with a solid score of 75.10, there was no fewer than four shooters tying with 75.9
1 Matt Jarram 75.12 1 Steve Durrant 75.10
2 James McCosh 75.10 2 Dave Raybould 75.09
3 Linda Bushell 75.08 3 Tom Bindley 75.09
Stage 2 900yds
By mid-morning we had made good progress and moved back to 900yds, it was brighter but not much warmer, thankfully it was not as cold as you might expect for the time of year and it was mercifully dry. The wind though was another matter; that twitchy wind really started to play havoc; chopping and changing rapidly and usually invisibly – or so it seemed to those who got caught out. That devilishly difficult wind devastated scores; only one F/TR shooter managed to break 70, that was Brogan O’Shea-Smith who was limping around the ranges with a bad knee injury, he didn’t let that distract him though as he racked up a 71.6, pretty impressive in the choppy conditions.
Lance Vinall distinguished himself with being the only shooter to achieve a clean score of ‘75’, in taking the gold medal with an excellent 75.9, in those conditions, we reckon Lance must have sold his soul to achieve such an incredible score. Martin Scrivens and Tony Marsh gave chase for the next medals and everyone else was a very long way behind. The 900yd stage really churned things up and turned out to be the ‘make-or-break’ detail for many shooters.
1 Brogan O’Shea-Smith 71.06 1 Lance Vinall 75.09
2 James McCosh 68.03 2 Martin Scrivens 74.04
3 Matt Jarram 68.03 3 Tony Marsh 73.07
Stage 3 1,000yds
Lunchtime gave everyone a respite from the cold wind, but all too soon though we had to leave the warmth and venture out to battle with the wind. There was no change; it simply kept up its earlier relentless behaviour of ebbing and flowing down the range in a very elusive manner. The only consolation was that it wasn’t quite as strong, but all the same it was hard to pin down the mean wind. This was turning out to be a true test of accurate wind-reading, which, given the very high stakes at play meant it was probably the ideal way of sorting out the winners.
There are always some shooters who seem to be ‘in tune’ with conditions and this time it was Jon Longhurst and David Lloyd. Jon has been making great progress lately, he and David were the only F/TR shooters to break the ‘90’ barrier which was quite an achievement in such difficult conditions, David won gold with 92.4. The silver medal was won by Jon for his creditable 90.4. Adam Williams won the bronze medal which is his first League match medal, well done to him.
Things were not much easier on the F/Open side of things, the superior 7mm ballistics do help of course, but they are not a panacea. Two Welshmen seemed to have a very good grasp of the conditions; the winner was Gareth James, with a superb 95.07 while former GB Captain, David Lloyd used all his local knowledge in taking silver with 93.02, just one point ahead of Craig Titmus who was having a great shoot.
1 David Lloyd 92.04 1 Gareth James 95.07
2 Jon Longhurst 90.04 2 David Lloyd 93.02
3 Adam Williams 89.03 3 Craig Titmus 92.05
Both stages on Sunday were at 1,000yds so time was saved in not having to change distances, enabling one stage to be a 2+20. The wind had thankfully abated somewhat ; it was now rather gentler, but much more importantly, it had settled down a little, becoming a bit more stable and predictable, still difficult of course but at least it was now fairly manageable. Visibility was excellent and at times a cold mirage could be seen.
Stage 4 1,000yds
Peter Sheffield got his Sunday off to a very good start by winning the F/TR gold medal with 71.06. Asad Wahid won silver showing that all his practice on Stickledown was paying off, as an interesting aside, Asad went on to score the highest overall total V-count in the F/TR league, pretty impressive! Third place was won by our guest of honour; General Zafar ul Haq, on his first visit to Bisley and using a borrowed rifle, the General showed he was a very skilled shooter.
There were only a couple of ‘75s’ on the F/Open side too, Simon West prevailed over all to take the gold medal, your humble scribe came next and Lance Vinall added a bronze to his earlier gold. Incidentally, Simon deserves a special mention for his innovative ‘unofficial’ scoreboard – it was an excellent idea and proved to be a focal point throughout the weekend – top marks to Simon.
1 Peter Sheffield 71.06 1 Simon West 75.05
2 Asad Wahid 70.07 2 Des Parr 75.03
3 Zafar ul Haq 70.06 3 Lance Vinall 74.09
Stage 5 1,000yds
This was another 2+20 barrel-burner, it was quite a trial of endurance in very testing conditions. Those extra five rounds mean the shooters are exposed to 33% more time on target than they are accustomed to, that extra exposure can make all the difference in a testing wind condition such as we experienced.
Jon Longhurst proved his mettle by winning gold with simply stunning 95.6. Jon really is making his mark and showing that he has earned his stripes as the new GB F/TR Vice Captain. Second place was won by the General, his second medal of the day! For somebody who had never been to Bisley before, General Zafar was proving that he really knew how to shoot well. Our diminutive lady shooter, Elena Davis came third showed that she still has a lot of class – and a lot of style too, sporting a fur coat and a pair of shiny wellingtons
Conditions required a close attention to detail to see the subtle changes, it was clear that Ian Boxall was paying very close attention as he racked up an astonishing 98.08, a truly remarkable score. Ian Boxall is always to be reckoned with. Craig Titmus was on top form, taking the silver while Tony Marsh bagged his second bronze medal of the match.
1 Jon Longhurst 95.6 1 Ian Boxall 98.08
2 Zafar ul Haq 93.05 2 Craig Titmus 97.09
3 Elena Davis 93.05 3 Tony Marsh 97.05
The Match winners
This was no ‘ordinary’ League match – not that there is any such thing! This was our 2018 finale – the British Championships, there was much excitement and much at stake as the stats were compiled, as the outcome of this match had a direct bearing on the National League standings. Mik invited our guest of honour, General Zafur ul Haq to present the prizes, which he kindly agreed to, in his speech afterwards, the General mentioned he’d like to return next year – leading a Pakistan National team.
The F/TR British Championships winner was David Lloyd with a superb score of 390.19 David has served a long apprenticeship and now he has been rewarded for all his quiet diligence and dedication. Second place was won by Jon Longhurst with a score of 388.19; Jon has demonstrated amazing skill and initiative balancing the demands of a young family, a business and a GB Team Officer. Third place was won by GB Team Captain David Rollafson with 382.17 David is seldom far away from the podium.
The title of F/Open British Champion was won by Craig Titmus with a score of 409.35 Craig has made incredibly swift progress up through the ranks in a remarkably short time, he is clearly a fast learner. Second place was won by Tony Price with a score of 407.27, this is surely Tony’s finest achievement in the National League, and he shows great promise for a bright future. Third place was won by Ian Boxall with 406.28. Ian has immense ‘local knowledge’ of the range in all conditions; that experience clearly showed through.
The 2018 National League Winners
Both the F/TR and F/Open were in contention, there were several contenders all vying for valuable league points in F/TR; true to form, the league leaders all put in some excellent scores throughout the weekend; these guys are at the top of their game for good reasons! F/Open too was contentious, though not by as many shooters, realistically only a couple of shooters could prevail.
In the end result, it was David Rollafson’s 3rd place in British Championship win that guaranteed his 2018 National League Championship! David has had an absolutely amazing year of top-level performance, he has achieved an enviable degree of consistency and accuracy – and he is the new GB Captain – it all augers well for the future.
Second place was won by Matt Jarram who has been having a superb season; always a fierce competitor, he is never far away from victory and the margin this year could not have been any tighter, Matt can take great pride in demonstrating consistently good shooting all season.
Third place was won by Jon Longhurst, who has had an excellent season; he has shown great skill in multi-tasking; juggling the requirements of a young family, running a business and taking on the role of GB Vice-Captain, all credit to him.
In the F/Open, it was very tense and a very close-run contest, in the end it was Richard Sharman who earned the title of 2018 National League Champion. Richard has come a long way in a fairly short time and has put in a lot of effort into his shooting over the years, it has all paid off and he can now take the well-deserved credit for his dedication.
Second place was won by our former GB Captain David Lloyd, who showed tremendous sportsmanship in offering to loan a rifle to his nearest rival, Richard Sharman, when Richard’s showed signs of failing accuracy, what a good example of helpfulness and superb generosity.
Third place was won by Simon West; Simon has advanced tremendously over the last two years; after winning in 2017 he was in contention for winning again this year, he has turned out to be one of our rising stars in the League by achieving consistently high scores.
We owe our gratitude to the small group who made it all possible at the weekend; to Mik and Tina for taking on and coping well with all the organisational stress, Stuart gallantly did the stats all weekend and our stalwart Range Officers, Steve and Jim endured wind and cold weather without complaint – thanks to all of them for all their good work.
Have a good off-season, come back re-equipped and ready to do battle once again next year.