The British Championships – “We do this for fun?”
We have two new worthy winners of the British F-class Championships; Ian Boxall and Lance Vinall. The 2019 season has now ended and the National League winners are confirmed as Gary Costello and Asad Wahid.
There was never any doubt that Gary and Asad had won the National League; they secured victory earlier in the season by dint of having established an unassailable lead, that said, there was still much to play for; the British Championships being a very prestigious competition in its own right and the winners and leaders would determine who would take the remaining podium positions in the League.
We had a good healthy turn-out of 67 shooters including a small group of members from the Ukraine and significantly, for the first time this season the numbers favoured the F/O contingent. All year, the F/TR shooters have been in a clear majority – up to two thirds at times, the added numbers of F/O shooters helped make it more of a competition which seemed to be very good timing for this, the finale of our season.
Our match organiser, Mik had arranged an extraordinary mixture of autumnal weather; one day of horrendous lashing rain, poor visibility and strong gusty winds, followed by another day of bright clear sunshine, and gentle near-zero winds. The combination of conditions provided us with a very good test of both wind-reading and sheer accuracy.
It was interesting to see how our rifles would perform after a long season of top-notch competition, would they still have their accuracy in pretty cold conditions? Any rifles with a high round count through the barrel and perhaps operating on the edge of a node might have been tipped over by the change in conditions. Some shooters may have been tempted to re-tune their load to help compensate for the lower temperatures.
In a break from tradition, F/O were first to shoot on the Saturday – the change was made for this match to enable the relevant personnel to be free to compile the match stats and league standings next day just a little earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
Stage 1 800yds
“We do this for fun” – that was something I heard a few times on Saturday morning as we contemplated shooting in an horrendous condition; a deep depression was moving in from the South-West and bringing with it powerful gusts and very heavy rain. It didn’t seem much like fun as we set out our kit on the sodden ground with every prospect of getting a right soaking. We tentatively hoped that the strong winds might force a cancellation on safety grounds – and there was the tempting alternative of watching the rugby World Cup in a warm and dry clubhouse. It was not to be though, although the conditions were awful, they were not quite bad enough, so we ploughed on with the first detail and having committed the first detail, it followed that the other two would be bound to follow us.
It was not fun – and it must have been pretty grim in the butts too, with the rain soaking the targets, washing off patches and closing over bullet holes, and all the while the strong gusty wind slamming the target faces. It was all too much for two targets – they were snapped off entirely and that meant some frantic reshuffling of shooters.
Try as we might to keep everything in place and dry, it was a forlorn hope, the wind lifted anything left unsecured and drove the rain into everything – there were many plastic sheets and scorecards blown away causing much consternation. Given all these distractions, it was little wonder that the scores were somewhat depressed.
In F-Open, out of 35 shooters, only 6 managed to break 70 at 800yds, that speaks volumes about the miserable conditions first thing on Saturday and if anything it just got worse as the morning progressed and the storm front moved ever closer, by the time of the main F/TR detail, it was truly awful, but it was a case of; “We’ve started, so we’ll finish”, so with grim determination the F/TR shooters dug deep and endured the worst of it. The resulting scores were all too predictable; of the 28 shooters, just 3 managed to break 70 which was a remarkable feat in itself. How on earth Pete Sheffield managed to rack up 8 V-bulls will never be known, it was an astonishing tally in such appalling conditions, so all credit to him, if he can do that, he can do anything.
- Ian Boxall 72.4 1. Pete Sheffield 71.8
- Viktoriia Dmyshuk 72.4 2. Elena Davis 70.4
- Martin Townsend 72.2 3. Nick Gilbert 70.2
Special mention should be made of one of our group of Ukrainian visitors; Viktoriia Dmyshuk on her very first visit to Bisley won a silver medal on count-back in those awful conditions; a truly remarkable performance.
While the 800yds stage was in progress, it became pretty evident that we could not stick to the published course of fire; the shooters were operating at a reduced cadence as they struggled with the conditions and even more significantly, the markers were forced to slow right down as they struggled with the soaking wet targets – the rain washed off patches and it sealed over bullet holes, making it harder to find the often widely-dispersed shots. Our match organiser, Mik very wisely judged it to be impractical to shoot the 900yds stage, so it was cancelled. There were no arguments, everyone was very glad to just get away and get dried out.
It is a long while since I have been truly soaked to the skin, necessitating a complete change of clothing from head to toe.
Stage 2 1,000yds
With 900yds being cancelled, we resumed the course of fire in the afternoon by going straight to 1,000yds for a 2+20.
Mercifully, the heavy rain had largely passed over by the afternoon, though the strong wind was still present, it was after all far too much to hope for that we’d somehow escape both the wind and rain. At least it was not utterly miserable like stage 1, we only had to contend with short, light showers and of course the wind; the mean may only have been 5 moa for an F/O rifle, but that mean contained a pretty wide bracket caused by fast angle changes. Those switches came and went so fast, that an element of good luck was needed to avoid them – or a lot of skill to see them and a lot more bravery to effectively counter them. For most shooters, it was pretty hard work, but there is always a few (often the same few) who seem to rise to the top in such situations. Of the F/O guys it seemed significant that Gary and Paul used big 300s, in such situations they proved their worth. Dehane was not far behind with a pair of beautiful new rifles by Joe & Simon West.
In F/TR, Lance Vinall seemed to put the “cat among the pigeons” by opting to take up F/TR just for this match due to experiencing some problems with his F/O rifles which he is more accustomed to.
- Gary Costello 92.7 1. Lance Vinall 92.3
- Paul Sandie 92.3 2. Robert Hale 90.5
- Dehane Cownley 91.5 3. Richie Jones 87.4
It was a tough detail but at least we can live with tricky wind conditions, that’s what this game is all about after all, so all credit to the medal winners, they certainly earned their awards.
Since the clocks went back, it gets darker earlier and the NRA hooter sounds earlier at 4pm to halt shooting, by that time two unfortunate shooters still had two shots for record still to shoot and so they missed out, for them it was a 2+18.
That afternoon and into the evening, scenes around the camp resembled a Chinese laundry as shooters tried to find ways of drying out their utterly sodden kit. A common refrain was; “my waterproofs are not waterproof at all”. Much of the kit had to be left in cars with the consequently appalling “wet dog” stench next day. I wonder if the NRA might consider creating a drying room for such situations.
Well, “what a difference a day makes”. We awoke to a lovely Autumnal morning; clear bright and dry. By contrast to Saturday, it was an absolute pleasure to shoot first thing on Sunday morning in clear, crisp visibility; it was good enough to almost be able to see the bullet holes in the white V-bull. The only downside was still having to don waterproofs – not because of any rain, it was dry, but because our groundsheets were still saturated from the soaking on Saturday we still needed a layer of protection.
Looking at the very benign wind condition, it seemed as though the overnight leaders would be assured of them retaining their pole positions; the lack of strong wind and therefore the lack of any churning effect suggested that all our relative positions would be fossilised into place. As we were to see though, not everything follows as expected.
Stage 3 1,000yds
The contrast in scores could not have been any sharper; in good light, dryness and gentle wind the scores all responded accordingly. The F/TR shooters were first in to bat and in all fairness they seemed to get just a slightly more difficult detail, the wind such as it was, tended to decline as the morning progressed so the F/TR contingent had just that little bit more to contend with. The results produced a pretty rare outcome; a four-way countback between Paul Harkins, Steve Rigby, Asad Wahid and Dan Lomas – poor Dan lost out, so the rule is, if you’re going to drop a point – best do it early in your string if you want to prevail in a count-back.
Later on, conditions tended to become rather more benign and that helped the F/O detail; all bar just four unfortunates scored into the 70’s the average being around 72. There was some wind there and an element of luck was needed as always to just avoid a 4.9 and instead get a squeaky 5.0.
- Gary Costello 75.8 1. Paul Harkins 73.6
- Ian Boxall 75.7 2. Steve Rigby 73.6
- Vasyl Ivanchenko 75.4 3. Asad Wahid 73.6
It was beginning to look as though Gary had this in the bag; an unprecedented four league match wins in one season, producing a perfect score of 80 League points.
In F/TR a battle for 2nd, 3rd & 4th place was raging between Peter Dommett, Adam Bagnall and Dan Lomas – any of them could take 2nd place as they went into Stage 4.
Stage 4 1,000yds
There seemed to be a trend of declining wind strength all morning from the peak, if it could be called that during detail 1 of Stage 3 onwards, so by the time we got on to the firing point for the last 2+20 stage of the match, the wind really had died away to nothing more than a gentle zephyr. The temperature had risen a little too, so along with near perfect visibility, all the ingredients were there for a trigger-puller’s dream shoot. This was going to boil down to sheer accuracy of rifles and ammo’ and maybe just a tiny soupcon of luck as always.
It was a great way to end the match; we had optimum conditions to really show what our rifles could do and boy, did some really shine; Craig Titmus deserves special mention for his record-level shoot a 100.14 and with a well-used SAUM too, he reckons it has around 1,400rds through it – and clearly still going strong. The average score was about 95 and only one shooter failed to get into the 90’s. Many shooters would go home in a good mood having seen what their rifles were capable of, and it was great to see so many score so highly, especially guys who perhaps don’t always figure highly on the scoresheets. On the other hand Gary, who up until then had been having a stellar shoot had cause for concern; an otherwise perfectly respectable 93.8 had cost him the match, was the barrel on the way out? Or was it just rotten luck? Either way, it cost him a unique 4th League match in one season.
Now, on the F/TR side we had a real ‘battle royal’ to determine 2nd to 4th. Asad was, like Gary already home and dry as the League winner, all that remained to be determined was who would come next? Adam, Dan or Peter.
As sheer luck would have it, two of the contenders were actually squadded together for this, the last and deciding detail; Peter and Adam. It was a truly nail-biting finish, all Peter had to do was stay in the five-ring on his last shot to equal Adam, a V-bull would be enough to overtake Adam…so what happened on Peter’s very last shot? – It was a 4, so Adam prevailed after all, Peter took bronze and poor Dan was again relegated to 4th. Peter later commented that Adam seemed genuinely upset for him, which speaks volumes about what a true gent Adam is in being magnanimous in victory.
Quite apart from the battle of the League contenders; none of whom got on the podium for the last stage, the standard of performance from the F/TR shooters was simply astonishing; Pete Sheffield would have beaten all bar two F/O competitors! The F/TR shooters have taken the accuracy of the humble 308 cartridge to a whole new level of performance; the still-air accuracy of their rifles and ammo’ leaves nothing to be desired at all.
- Craig Titmus 100.14 1. Pete Sheffield 99.8
- Paul Sandie 100.12 2. Steve Rigby 97.6
- Ian Boxall 99.7 3. Stuart Anselm 96.10
The British Championships
Thanks to the mostly very benign wind conditions of day two, there was not much prospect of the leaders being churned up, consequently, three of the overnight leaders stayed on the podium, simply changing places. Ian Boxall had prevailed by two points to take the title of 2019 British F-Class Champion. It has been said many times before (mostly in these reports) that Ian is one of the most consistently good shooters in the League, and here again is yet more evidence of that; all credit to him.
What can we say about the F/TR winner without causing a diplomatic incident? – Lance had some problems with his normal F/O rifles, so he entered the F/TR class – and won! And won very convincingly too by a superb margin of 6 points. It just goes to show that a good shooter is a good shooter, regardless of what class they compete in and Lance is very good indeed.
- Ian Boxall 334.23 1. Lance Vinall 328.17
- Paul Sandie 332.24 2. Pete Sheffield 322.25
- Gary Costello 331.29 3. Robert Hale 319.20
The 2019 National League Winners
What can one say about the 2019 season, other than it was perhaps one of the clearest victories we have seen for a few years and in both F/O and F/TR.
The winners in their respective classes have totally dominated the season right from the outset – Gary and Asad have raised the bar in terms of consistent, high quality shooting, in fact truly World-class shooting. They have each won resoundingly by racking up unassailable leads; leaving all others trailing in their wake.
If there is one key feature that they share, it is the sheer amount of time, effort and money they invest in their chosen sport – the results are clear to see, never has it been more true to say that; “you get out of it, what you put in to it”.
For Gary in particular, this makes it his third National League Championship; he has now equalled Grant Taylor’s long-standing record.
As for Asad, his rise to the top has been absolutely meteoric – no one has ever risen so far, so fast – and all the while with such modesty and good humour. I reckon his total points score of 137 is probably the highest we’ve ever seen in the history of the National League.
Congratulations to both Gary and Asad, we have two popular and very worthy 2019 National League winners.
That’s all for now folks as they say, it has been a long and highly enjoyable season; we’ve been through a lot together; shooting in spring, summer and autumn in scorching sun, lashing rain, and the tail-end of hurricanes. It is time now to look back and take stock and see where we need to improve; to come back next year and give a better account of ourselves. Have a good off-season and see you again in 2020.
PS: There’s just one last competition of 2019; Big Richie’s “All Distance Challenge” next weekend at Altcar; many familiar faces from the League will be there – and after that, hibernation!