The 2019 F-class European Championships
We can celebrate having two new F-class European Champions; Dan Lomas of the UK and Ulrich Kwade of Germany! Our new champions emerged victorious after a week of warm-up matches culminating in a thrilling two-day championship contest. The competition this year was especially stiff as we had a record attendance of near 200 and an ideal combination of conditions in which to shoot. Dan and Ulrich have much to celebrate and so do many other shooters who excelled themselves over the week-long tournament.
The Tournament got off to a good start on Tuesday morning with the first stage at 800yds, it was a dry and mild day and the wind was gentle – an ideal way to start any match. Straight away, our Continental friends showed that they had come very well prepared, Valeriy Yeltsov shot superbly well to score the only 100 in F-Open, but that was eclipsed by two 100’s in FTR by our Italian friends; Paolo Vanni Bernini and Claudio Caselli.
|F/TR Tuesday Match 1 800yds|
|1||Paolo Vanni Bernini||100.09|
|F/O Tuesday Match 1 800yds|
Every year, the standard of shooting seems to climb ever higher and the 800yds stage gives a good indication of the level of shooting to expect; this year, in F/Open only 3 shooters failed to get into the 90’s and half scored 97 or better. It was a similar story in F/TR; only 12 didn’t get into the 90’s and over half scored 94 or more.
The format of the warm-up matches provides a very relaxed and gentle introduction to Bisley; involving only two stages each day, so there is plenty of time to relax and observe the condition and pick up any clues to watch out for. Vitaly Gurov of the Ukraine, despite his impaired vison, clearly was paying close attention to the flags and scored the only 99 at 900yds, which is a superb feat of marksmanship. Our F/TR colleagues were not very far behind, two shooters managed to attain 97’s; former European Champion Gianmattia Molina and Paolo Vanni Bernini netting his second medal of the day.
|F/TR Tuesday Match 2 900yds|
|2||Paolo Vanni Bernini||97.07|
|F/O Tuesday Match 2 900yds|
Looking at the daily aggregates, it was clear that our Continental friends were going to be a very serious force to be reckoned with; of the 6 available medals, only one was won by a Brit; our League leader, Gary Costello. Three of the medals were won by members of the large Italian contingent and of these, the man of the day was without a doubt Paolo Vanni Bernini, he dominated F/TR at 800 & 900yds.
|F/TR Tuesday Aggregate|
|1||Paolo Vanni Bernini||197.16|
|F/O Tuesday Aggregate|
Starting from where we left off on Tuesday afternoon at 900yds allows everyone a degree of confidence that their zeroes will be well established and is one thing less to worry about. The wind kept up the same sort of performance as on Tuesday, so that too helped build confidence although the prize of scoring a perfect 100 still proved elusive, only two shooters managed to achieve this fantastic result both named Paul; Paul Sandie the World #2 and Paolo Billia of Italy.
|F/TR Wednesday Match 1 900yds|
|F/O Wednesday Match 1 900yds|
|2||Jose Lema Soto||99.09|
The Brits were rather more well-represented in F/O than F/TR; 5 in the top ten compared to just 2 in F/TR, though the average score was not far behind at all; 97 vs 98, it just goes to show the incredible accuracy and consistency of the 308 cartridge in the right hands and given reasonable wind conditions.
Now the real fun started, we moved back to the longest and most difficult distance where the challenge is maximised and the rewards are greatest. Now the wind started to pile on the pressure, becoming rather twitchy and due to the northerly direction it was rather hard to see the angle changes; this put a premium on good observation skills. The difficulty was clearly evident in the depressed scores; only one F/TR shooter broke 90; Pietro Guglielmo Ceccaroni, while it was proportionately similar in F/O where Gary Costello prevailed with a 94.
|F/TR Wednesday Match 2 1,000yds|
|1||Pietro Guglielmo Ceccaroni||90.03|
|F/O Wednesday Match 2 1,000yds|
Wednesday’s daily aggregate made interesting reading; our Ukrainian friends who are always tough competitors, dominated both F/O and F/TR; Vasyl Ivanchenko and Oleksandr Solovianchyk respectively. Notably, on the F/O side Gary Costello and Jordan Rubio took two medals, a good result for the pair with their March scopes. On the F/TR side it was striking to see that the entire top 10 was dominated by shooters from Continental Europe, clearly there is a considerable pool of long range talent there.
|F/TR Wednesday Aggregate|
|F/O Wednesday Aggregate|
By this point in the tournament, more and more competitors arrive; many are limited by how much time they can take off, so Thursday is often the day they arrive to get some practice and to take part in the afternoon team matches. With up to 150 shooters now present, the pressure was on to get some good results before going into the ‘main event’.
The wind didn’t make it easy though, it was blowing a healthy breeze across the range even early in the morning when you’d expect it to be pretty gentle. Only 6 F/O shooters managed to keep their shots in the 5-ring and for F/TR it was even more difficult nobody could break 74. Once again, there was an absence of Brits from the podium positions.
|F/TR Thursday Match 1 800yds|
|F/O Thursday Match 1 800yds|
At the mid-morning, we fell back to 900yds for the second stage of the morning, Thursday is a bit different from the other warm-up days insofar as we compress two 2+15 matches into the morning to leave time in the afternoon for the ‘Minor’ teams matches. It is not a frenetic morning, but it does have a certain amount of added pace compared to the more relaxed feel of the Tuesday and Wednesday matches.
The wind had now picked up more intensity and to add to our troubles, it would occasionally switch angle, making the effect on the bullet all the more pronounced. It was difficult to see those angle changes and sometimes just a bit of luck was needed in either timing or position on the range.
Only 3 F/O shooters managed to achieve 71 which speaks volumes for the difficulty that the wind was creating, as you would expect, in F/TR the effects were even more pronounced as only 1 shooter managed to attain 71. As Jim Marsden remarked; it was a “humbling experience” At least one consolation was that the Brits were rather better represented now on the podium in these, more challenging wind conditions, maybe due to more local knowledge of Bisley.
|F/TR Thursday Match 2 900yds|
|F/O Thursday Match 2 900yds|
The earlier part of the week had been ideally suited to the ‘trigger-puller’ variety of shooter, while Thursday was rather more suited to those of the ‘wind-reader’ sort.
A curious feature of the Thursday aggregate was that in F/TR the Brits were noticeably absent from the top 10; only 2 in fact, whereas in F/O the picture was reversed; there were only 2 Continentals in the top 10.
|F/TR Thursday Aggregate|
|F/O Thursday Aggregate|
That concluded the warm-up matches; we had enjoyed three days of lovely warm dry weather, sometimes with gentle winds and other times with more challenging stronger and twitchy winds, there had been something for everyone and we could all take something from that which is just as it should be. We now looked forward with mounting excitement to an afternoon of team shooting, before the ‘main event’ the European Championships.
(The team matches are covered in a separate report).
This was it now, the long wait was over and we were about to enter the main event of the year, the European Championships. A total of 191 shooters had assembled ready to do battle, the excitement was tangible and many shooters gathered from early on to study the conditions and prepare. The conditions were deceptive, the wind seemed very gentle and indeed it wasn’t strong maybe just a minute or so, but, and there’s always a “but”, the angle was variable – not highly, it didn’t reverse, but it did just tilt to and fro’. It was essential to see this and to react accordingly.
F/Open were on first and had the better part of the day; there were 75s galore, in fact no fewer than 28 shooters scored a 75, spare a thought then for poor Dmytro Hrymalyuk with his 74.11 down in 29th place! Only 2 shooters failed to attain at least 70. Marco Been, our genial friend from the Netherlands shot superbly to take the gold with an excellent 75.13. By the time F/TR got down to it, just over an hour later the wind strength had picked up just a bit more, but the real killer was those angle changes. The top ten all scored 75, but that’s all, those devilishly little switches played havoc and it showed in the scores, it did not auger well for later. Dean Wallace from Wales was nursing a painful injured foot, but it didn’t put him off, taking the gold with 75.8 after a countback – he bested Quintin Lyle who at his second ever League match and was on his first visit to Bisley – and who was equally unwell. I wonder what that pair would be capable of if they were in top form!
|F/TR Friday Stage 1 800yds|
|F/O Friday Stage 1 800yds|
By the time we had moved back to 900yds it was clear that the 2019 Championship was going to be a different sort of match entirely, it would reward those who knew where to look for the tell-tale angle changes and it would mercilessly punish those who had no idea. This became all the more apparent when the scores rolled in and shooters compared notes. Paolo Vanni Bernini clearly had learned how to read Bisley from his superb performance in the warm-up matches and took gold with 73.07 In F/O Dmytro Hrymalyuk scored the only 75 of the match and richly deserved the gold medal for that outstanding performance of sheer marksmanship.
|F/TR Friday Stage 2 900yds|
|1||Paolo Vanni Bernini||73.07|
|F/O Friday Stage 2 900yds|
After lunch, we had more time in the afternoon session so the extra time allows for a 2+20 stage; this can be a test of endurance for the shooters and their barrels. This could be said to be the ‘make or break’ stage of the tournament as it offered both the opportunity of making up ground for those who could see the angle changes – or it simply rubbed salt in those who could still not yet get a grasp on the conditions. This stage churned up the scores and set shooters as well as their bullets on future trajectories.
It was horrifyingly easy to give throw away points like confetti and only a brave or skilled handful avoided that. It was a pair of our talented Italian visitors who took the honours; Antonio Quaglino shot superbly well to take F/O gold with an amazing 95.07 and Erik Scaglia was the only F/TR guy to break 90 and deservedly won gold for that outstanding performance.
|F/TR Friday Stage 3 1,000yds|
|F/O Friday Stage 3 1,000yds|
They say shooting teaches us humility and Friday certainly was a humbling experience for many; from a very promising start at 800yds the day rapidly went downhill for many shooters are they struggled with the nuances of spotting angle changes allied with a moderate base wind. For some now, their only hope of glory was to secure a stage medal with a superb standalone shoot, for others it was rather more exciting; could they hold onto the valuable lead they had established?
No matter what one’s prospects were, Bisley is a very convivial place and especially so when filled with like-minded enthusiasts from all over Europe, the various clubs did a brisk business catering to the shooters needing fed & watered.
Ominous dark clouds gathered over Chobham ridge, it seemed prudent to dig out the wet weather gear which was a shame as it had been mostly dry during the shooting sessions for the whole week up until then. From a tactical point of view it may have helped to dismay and distract some shooters while others, perhaps more experienced in wet-weather routines would undoubtedly relish the added challenge.
As it happens we had little to fear, there was just a smattering of light rain, nothing of any import.
This time the F/TR shooters had the better part of the day which was reflected in their scores; the top 13 scored 75s, of these two of the newly-formed White Horse Club won podium positions; Steve Rigby and Stuart Anselm, indicating that this is a small but highly talented club to watch out for. The wind seemed to increase in intensity up to the middle of the morning, so the ‘mixed detail’ shared some good fortune while the F/O detail got the full brunt of the increasing wind, that was indicated by their scores; just 7 achieved scores of 75, although there were very many 73s and 74s showing that almost everyone got caught out – at least once!
Ambrogio Pontiggia didn’t get caught out though, taking the gold medal back home to Italy.
|F/TR Saturday Stage 4 800yds|
|F/O Saturday Stage 4 800yds|
|3||Jose Lema Soto||75.08|
Falling back to 900yds, it looked as though we’d avoided the prospect of rain; the morning was still rather cool though, indicating that autumn was not far off. Some shooters noted the difference in their come-ups compared to earlier in the week when it had been significantly warmer.
The wind had steadied now at least in its strength, but it was still tending to flick this way and that, it could be either infuriating or highly rewarding – depending on whether you had a handle on it – or not. Even those shooters who did confidently grasp the situation didn’t get it correct all the time, so no F/O shooters cleaned it, in fact nobody broke 74, but that was understandable in the circumstances and it was, as they say “all relative”, the best still got it right most of the time, such as Ian Bellis who netted gold for his super 73.09
That same variability in angle had a proportionately greater effect on the F/TR shooters, only one broke 72, that was Dan Lomas with a fine 72.2. Special mention must be made of the bronze medallist; Ryan Goodman, who in his first season has acquitted himself very well, as a disabled vet he got a resounding hearty cheer at the prize-giving and it was well deserved indeed.
|F/TR Saturday Stage 5 900yds|
|F/O Saturday Stage 5 900yds|
Now the finale; the last stage of our premier flagship event. There was a lot riding on this, the most difficult distance, there was very little separating the front runners and given the tricky wind conditions over a long 2+20 there was still tremendous scope for change.
The wind now changed its behaviour again, now it finally settled on a uniform direction, no trickier angle changes, instead it just ebbed and flowed in strength, it was a delightful condition to shoot in, provided one could get a good indicator of the wind strength. Depending on where you were on the range you could get at least a decent, if not good view and consequently the scores for this stage were all at the upper end of the scale, it was a nice way to end the Championship. In F/O, yours truly prevailed, dropping just the very last shot. In F/TR by the time they got to shoot, the wind which had been on an upward trend continued to build albeit gradually and thereby gave the F/TR shooters a bit more work to do, Claudio Caselli from Italy had a superb shoot, racking up an impressive 95 and took the Gold medal back home.
|F/TR Saturday Stage 6 1,000yds|
|F/O Saturday Stage 6 1,000yds|
That concluded the 2019 European Championships, it had been a superb competition, perhaps the best yet, with a little of everything to keep all types of shooters happy; we had wind changes, angle changes, temperature changes, a tiny bit of rain and some mirage. All-in-all, it provided a wide range of challenges to test the best and that’s exactly what the Championships should do.
Karen Robertson had been slaving away in the stats caravan all week producing the keenly-awaited results and we didn’t have long at all to wait and see who had prevailed. We were eager to see who had distinguished themselves enough to win a place on the podium and to receive one of the very distinctive custom-made new trophies sponsored by March UK & Deon.
The F/TR European Champion of 2019 is Dan Lomas with a score of 466.24, Dan has been having an absolutely superb season, whatever he is doing, he is clearly doing it right and has hit on a winning formula. Dan had a commanding lead of 5 points over his nearest rival, Paolo Vanni Bernini who had a superb European Championships, shooting consistently well at the highest level all week, he is clearly a force to be reckoned with. In third place came Andrew Burgess who has made an astonishing and very welcome return to form, we hope to see much more of him, back again at League matches.
The 2019 F/O European Champion is Ulrich Kwade of Germany with a super score of 482.38 Ulrich is an F-class veteran who has been involved in the sport since the earliest days and has at last achieved the highest distinction. The really astonishing fact is that he only had his new Benchmark barrel fitted by Stuart Anselm that very week! With minimal load development he prevailed over all. In second place came our genial friend Marco Been who is not just a great shooter, he is a great sportsman and a great ambassador for his country. The bronze medal was won by Antonio Quaglino, a superbly consistent shooter who is often near the top in any competition.
|F/TR 2019 European Championships|
|2||Paolo Vanni Bernini||461.34|
|F/O 2019 European Championships|
We all owe a great debt of thanks to Mik and Tina for all their hard work in making the European Championships a premier event and the highlight of our year. They have had an especially busy year and still remained cheerful and helpful to everyone who needed their assistance, we are obliged to them for all the multitude of tasks they take on to ensure we all have a great competition. That’s it for another year; hopefully we can all come back again in 2020, better equipped and better prepared to do it all over again.