2019 Diggle – Round 1

Trials and Tribulations at Diggle

At Diggle, you never quite know what you’ll get, so you bring wellies and sun cream and you’ll probably need both – we certainly did last weekend.

We contended with the vagaries of the weather and that much is expected, there was an entirely unexpected difficulty to overcome; our Silver Mountain targets which had functioned absolutely perfectly all throughout 2018, strangely misbehaved.

Despite the weather and technical problems, we have two new Short Range Champions to congratulate; Gary Costello won F/Open and Graeme Dunlop won F/TR.  They are both worthy winners, having overcome every difficulty that Mother Nature and technology could throw at them.

Friday

The short range championships were notable for being the first venue for a new initiative which has been driven by Jon Longhurst; the “Friday Friendly” team shoot. Seeing as Jon has been the driving force behind this new event, perhaps he felt the need to make a really good first impression, if that was the case, then it worked out well; his team won!

It was a tough test as the rain had come down in torrents early in the morning and only gradually let-off as the day wore on, the wind on the other hand, stayed fresh and blustery until well after the shooting had ceased. Jon had just recently returned from the South African National Championships, so while many other shooters were just emerging from winter hibernation, Jon and his team were all ready to compete and it showed.

The Friday Friendly is an excellent new idea and it fills a real need; we don’t get anywhere near enough team-shooting experience and we’ve known about that deficiency for a long time, so top marks to Jon for plugging that gap, the practice and experience it provides is sure to pay dividends in the long run.

Saturday

I awoke to the sound of wind lashing the rain against the windows, it was an ominous sound and when I got up, it looked just as grim as it sounded; Storm Hannah had arrived. Sometimes Diggle ranges can have their own little micro-climate and I tentatively hoped that the ranges would be bathed in sunshine – what a hope! If anything it was worse. The Committee gathered to discuss what to do, as it was clear that shooting out in the open in such conditions would be absolutely miserable and potentially unsafe. It was decided to move indoors into the 600yd bench rest building and shoot from the benches there. Just to prove the old adage that you can’t please everyone, somebody complained! – They actually wanted to shoot outside exposed to the deluge.

It would have been awkward enough trying filter nearly 70 competitors through the confined space of the 600 building, but just then technology intervened to through a spanner in the works; some of the Silver Mountain electronic targets started to act up. This was totally unexpected, as the targets had impressed everyone in 2018 by performing faultlessly – even sceptics had been impressed with their performance and reliability. But not today; now they either refused to work at all, or more bizarrely would register one shooter and ignore their partner.

We doggedly struggled on against wind and rain – and electronics, the stress took its toll on the shooters and especially on the organisers.

The sheer time that it took to process so many shooters through a confined space and on a reduced number of functioning targets soon mounted up and it became painfully clear that we could only salvage one stage out of the planned three. It was disappointing to everyone of course but it was just an inescapable consequence of the predicament we were in.

Most competitors took the situation on board philosophically; there was nothing anyone could do and the Committee tried their best to salvage what they could. That said though, a rather vociferous minority spent much of the time whingeing and moaning loudly to all and sundry, it did not help improve the situation and their negativity only piled on more stress to the already over-burdened organisers.

By mid-afternoon we had processed everyone through a 2+15 stage and we were compelled to call it quits.

The shooting conditions had been simply awful; the wind was strong and blustery, even making the flag poles flex and quiver. It needed shooters to be bold, fast and lucky!  Seeing as we were string- shooting over the electronics, it was feasibly for some shooters who had practiced the art of fast string shooting to get all their shots off in remarkably short order – thereby limiting their exposure to being caught by a sudden gust.

Paul Crosbie must have been practising his string-shooting technique as he took the F/TR gold medal.

Paul Crosbie 68.05

David Rollafson 67.07

Adam Bagnall 67.06

In F/Open, Ian Boxall led the way, the 3 stage medal winners were the only ones to break 70 which just gives some idea of the level of difficulty – and at just 600yds.

Ian Boxall 71.07

Gary Costello 71.03

Lance Vinall 70.07

That concluded the ordeal of day one, it had been a terrible day weather-wise, but the technical problems were a most unwelcome added burden which piled on the stress and frustration, the organisers were tired and subdued – their task had been made all the more difficult by the unthinking and ungrateful behaviour of a handful of shooters. We put that all aside and checked the weather forecast for Sunday, it looked much better and we hoped and prayed it would be correct, if so, it would enable us to get two stages completed out on the firing points in our usual manner.

Sunday

Well, what a difference a day makes! Sunday dawned bright, calm and mercifully dry! Storm Hannah had pushed off, leaving us in peace.

Our match organiser, Les Holgate called everyone for a briefing; the main item on the agenda was timing; we knew that it would be tight to process 5 details through two stages and still finish at a reasonable time, it could be done of course, but only if we all got down to business with no time wastage. Our Range Officer, Jim Marsden cracked the whip and got everyone moving on and off the point in good order.

The better weather and the more efficient pace helped put everyone in a better mood, it was back to business as usual – except that is for the Silver Mountains; they still did not behave correctly; either refusing to work at all –or more bafflingly only registering one shooter and not his partner. Rebooting them, swapping batteries, checking connections – all the usual tricks were tried, but to no avail, we were left with an insufficient number of fully functioning targets and just had to filter everyone through them. At least now it was a pleasure to sit in the sun, awaiting your turn.

Stage 2

There was hardly a ripple on the adjacent pond which was an encouraging and reassuring sight; now we could at last enjoy a good test of our rifles and ammo in fine conditions. The wind was no more than a gently undulating waft and was quite readable on the flags.

Steve Durrant made maximum use of the benign conditions to rack up the winning score in F/Open, just narrowly squeezing past Joe West on a count-back, while Gary Costello netted his second medal of the match.

Steve Durrant 98.10

Joe West 98.10

Gary Costello 97.10

When the F/TR shooters got down to play, conditions were still lovely; a little warmer perhaps with consequently a bit more mirage, but still gentle and readable at least for the first details; with 3 F/TR details to process through the remaining targets, it was inevitable that conditions would not be exactly the same for all.

Ewan Campbell won his first stage medal – and it was the Gold! Ewan was comfortably ahead of his fellow competitors, he seemed perfectly attuned to the conditions. Asad Wahid and Matt Jarram battled it out for the silver and bronze respectively.

Ewan Campbell 96.07

Asad Wahid 94.07

Matt Jarram 93.05

Stage 3

By late-morning we were ready to begin our last stage of the match; the Range Officers; Jim Marsden and Les Holgate had kept up the pace to ensure little time was lost and it seemed to be paying off. We hoped that perhaps the electronic targets might dry out and return to normal service, but there was no change there, so we just soldiered on with what we had.

By now, the wind had picked up somewhat, it was still gentle, but a bit more unstable, it was liable to completely reverse direction albeit very briefly. There was time lag effect in the flags when the changes seemed to be delayed, this confounded many shooters who tried to get ahead of those subtle changes.

Richard Sharman certainly had a good grasp of those switches, he was the only F/O shooter to achieve a 75, and he was closely chased by Shaun Baker and Gary Costello yet again, taking his third medal of the match.

Richard Sharman 75.08

Shaun Baker 74.08

Gary Costello 73.05

By early afternoon, the F/TR guys got to play, however, they had to endure a further irritating delay; a lost hill walker came ambling down the valley well within the danger area, necessitating a rare “Stop! Stop! Stop!” command. Les Holgate steered him off in the right direction.

By then, the temperature had climbed its highest, it was time for getting the sunblock on, the F/TR guys had to contend mirage and even more variability in the wind as it meandered across the valley, that combination of factors showed up in their scores. One guy seemed totally unfazed and completely at home; Graeme Dunlop romped home, a clear 4 points ahead of Simon Gambling and Paul Binns who were the only other shooters to break 70.

Graeme Dunlop 74.08

Simon Gambling 70.06

Paul Binns 70.03

We did not have long to wait for the final scores to be totted-up; Stuart had been on top of the job all weekend, doing the stats is a thankless task even at the best of times, but the stats job was made all the harder for him by shooters making unreasonable demands at all hours and throughout the weekend, it took its toll..

The Winners

In F/Open we had a clear winner; by a margin of 5 points, Gary Costello was back on top form in every sense. Gary expertly steered his beautiful new Speedy Gonzales rifle to come out on top with 241.18, earning the title of 2019 Short Range League Champion. Second place was won by Ian Boxall on 236.20, and just 4 v-bulls behind in third place was Joe West with 236.16.

The new F/TR Short Range Champion is Graeme Dunlop with 227.13, this is a terrific achievement, not only did Graeme win his first ever stage medal, he shot consistently well to prevail over many other well-established shooters. Clearly, Graeme is off to a flying start in his shooting career; he’s one to watch out for. Second place was won by Paul Binns, his highest place finish in a League match and in third was the familiar stalwart; Adam Bagnall.

And finally, the Committee acknowledges that the new Silver Mountain targets which performed perfectly all last year, did not live up to expectations. Action is being taken; the faulty control boxes have been returned to the supplier for repair or replacement and a dialogue has been started with the designer and manufacturer to solve the problem of shots not being registered.

As the next League match is just 3 weeks away, it is proposed to revert to manual marking for the May League Match to enable the system to be fully investigated and restored to working order. We ask for your patience while this work is undertaken. On the subject of patience and goodwill, most members endured the trials and tribulations stoically and with some humour, the same could not be said for a small though vociferous minority of members who simply added to the problems with their constant and loud whingeing and moaning. As a result of their unhelpful attitude, several of the committee were put under intolerable stress, doing a job they do for free and fro the love of the sport, consequently we may lose some of the most productive members of the committee who have reached the end of their tether. It is most unfortunate to have to end this report on such a negative tone, but it must be said that the selfish and ill-mannered behaviour of a minority of members cannot go unmentioned, we shall all be the poorer for having lost the support of our stalwart committee members who give up so much of their time and energy for no reward and precious little thanks.

Hopefully matters will have calmed and goodwill restored by the next League match all it takes is a bit more consideration for others doing their best in a difficult situation.

Des Parr.

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