David Lloyd wins F Open British Championships (left). Stuart Anselm wins both the National FTR league and the FTR British Championships (centre). Paul Sandie wins the National F Open league (right).
The British Championships – the 2016 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.
It seemed as if Mik Maksimovic had arranged for some particularly challenging conditions to test everyone; we had to contend with two days of cold, northerly fishtailing winds – that’s quite an unusual occurrence at Bisley where the prevailing wind is more usually a south westerly. 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 flags are coming straight right down the range. Even the ‘locals’ who get plenty of practice at Bisley found it very difficult indeed.
Given the importance of this match it was no surprise that we had an excellent field of 77 paid entries – only one unfilled space was left, which in itself was quite unusual as every match this season has been sold out – often in record time!
The Friday practice day was a bit of a mixed bag; for those who got there early in the morning, it was a useful opportunity to get zeroed at 800yds and 900yds, but later, the weather deteriorated rather badly, with wind and fairly heavy rain which was rather off-putting, many shooters curtailed or even skipped their 1,000yd practice, preferring not to get soaked before the main event. Thankfully, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday was true to form; dry and bright though bitterly cold.
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 fishtailing all the way down the range, making it much harder work than it might have seemed.
In such testing conditions, experience comes to the fore and so it transpired, some of our better shooters acquitted themselves well. Ian Chenery and Steve Rigby battled it out for first and second place with the same score of 75.11, after a countback, Ian won, while Steve was relegated to second place. Paul Crosbie was only one V-bull behind them on 75.10 for third place.
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 3 V-bulls separated the top three shooters; Steve Poultney won the gold medal with a solid score of 75.13, Hugh Inglis was next with 75.11 to take silver, while David Lloyd had to be content with 3rd place for his still good 75.10.
F Open1 Steven Poultney 75.12 Hugh Inglis 75.113 David Lloyd 75.10FTR
1 Ian Chenery 75.112 Steve Rigby 75.113 Paul Crosbie 75.10
Stage 2, 900yds
By mid-morning we had made good progress and moved back to 900yds, it was brighter but not much warmer, that cold northerly had brought snow to the Scottish Highlands closing a couple of high-level roads, thankfully nothing of that sort reached us, but it was a distinctly cold wind.
Our diminutive lady shooter, Elena Davis is used to Russian winter weather, so it was no problem to her, Elena showed she has a great talent by comfortably beating everyone with the only score above 70, winning the gold medal with 71.4. Next, was the familiar figure of Steve Rigby winning his second silver medal of the day with 69.4, just one point ahead of Matt Jarram in the bronze medal position, Matt is making a welcome return to form.
David Lloyd distinguished himself with being the only shooter to achieve a clean score of ‘75’, in taking the gold medal with an excellent 75.7. Just one point behind was our current GB Coach, Martin Townsend taking the silver for his 74.7 and in the bronze medal position, we had Joe West on 73.8, Joe was of course using one of his own beautiful eye-catching laminated stocks.
1 Elena Davis 71.042 Steve Rigby 69.043 Matt Jarram 68.04F Open
1 David Lloyd 75.072 Martin Townsend 74.073 Joe West 73.08
Stage 3, 1,000yds
Lunchtime gave everyone a respite from the biting cold wind and a brief opportunity to get some warm food & drink, to thaw out and restore some feeling to our trigger fingers! All too soon though we had to leave the warmth and venture out again into that bitterly cold north wind. There was no change from the fishtailing wind; it simply kept up its earlier relentless behaviour of twisting and meandering down the range in a very elusive manner. 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’s always somebody who seems to be ‘in tune’ with conditions and this time it was Jon Longhurst. Jon has been making great progress lately, he was the only F/TR shooter to break the ‘90’ barrier which was quite an achievement in such difficult conditions, Jon won gold with 91.4. The silver medal was won by Stuart Anselm for his creditable 88.5 which was perhaps a portent of what was to come, while the bronze medal was taken by David Rollafson for a good 88.2
Things were not much easier on the F/Open side of things, the superior 7mm ballistics does help of course, but they are not a panacea. Former GB Captain, David Kent used all his local knowledge in taking gold with 96.9, just two V-bulls ahead of Shaun Baker who showed great skill in winning silver for his 96.7. In third, was current GB Captain, David Lloyd again on the podium with 96.5
FTR1 Jon Longhurst 91.042 Stuart Anselm 88.053 David Rollafson 88.02F Open
1 David Kent 96.092 Shaun Baker 96.073 David Lloyd 96.05
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. Speaking of saving time, your humble scribe neglected to change his mobile after the end of BST, so to my utter shock I found that the F/Open detail had already started while I was still enjoying a leisurely breakfast! This was much to the amusement of everyone else, but thankfully our range officer Steve managed to find a gap for me in the mixed detail. The first detail seemed to have been the ‘pick of the day’, so all the more disappointment at missing it!
The wind was just exactly as it had been on Saturday; a fishtailing northerly wind, bringing bitterly cold wintry weather with it. Shooters needed to keep their gloves on to prevent trigger fingers from going numb in the biting wind! The only saving grace was that it remained mercifully dry. Visibility was excellent and at times a cold mirage could be seen.
Stage 4, 1,000yds
This time, nobody could break 70 in F/TR. Nevertheless, Ian Chenery got his Sunday off to a very good start by winning his second gold medal of the weekend with 69.3. Steve Rigby won silver- yet again! This was his third silver medal of the weekend with a good 68.4, Steve was starting to look like a silver-medal hoarder! Stuart Anselm was doggedly soldiering on, not giving up much ground and only one V-bull behind to win the bronze medal.
There were no perfect ‘75s’ on the F/Open side either, though David Lloyd came closest to it by winning his fourth stage medal of the weekend with a good 74.7 Shaun Baker won his second silver medal with just one less V-bull on 74.6. While young Joe West of the eponymous “Joe West Stocks” won his second bronze medal of the match with 74.5
1 Ian Chenery 69.032 Steve Rigby 68.043 Stuart Anselm 68.03F Open
1 David Lloyd 74.072 Shaun Baker 74.063 Joe West 74.05
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 rapidly switching wind condition such as we experienced.
John Cross of the 101 club used all his experience and proved his mettle by winning gold with 86.6. Stuart Anselm was next with 85.1, earning him his second silver medal, while Jon Longhurst also netted his second medal of the match, the bronze with 83.2
Conditions were noticeably more difficult than they had been for Saturday’s 2+20, the changes were just so fast and so hard to see that most shooters got punished severely. Nevertheless, Lance Vinall showed why he is a contender by taking home the gold medal for his excellent 93.6 Ian Boxall is never far away from the podium in winning the silver for his 93.4. Shaun Baker scored a good 93.3 and in doing so, added a bronze medal to his two previous silvers.
1 John Cross 86.062 Stuart Anselm 85.013 Jon Longhurst 83.02F Open
1 Lance Vinall 93.062 Ian Boxall 93.043 Shaun Baker 93.03
The Match winners
This was no ‘ordinary’ League match – not that there is any such thing! This was our 2016 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. We were not kept in suspense for very long before Mik called us all to attention.
The F/TR British Championships winner was Stuart Anselm with a superb score of 381.18 Stuart has had a terrific season of consistent high-performance shooting with his Victrix rifle. His achievement is a great testament to all his quiet diligence and dedication to the pursuit of ultimate accuracy. Second place was won by Ian Chenery with a score of 377.24, Ian has demonstrated amazing skill and resilience over the past couple of years. Third place was won by Jon Longhurst, it is fair to say that Jon is one of the newest recruits to the National League and yet he has proved that he has all it takes to be a real contender in future.
The title of F/Open British Champion was won by David Lloyd with a score of 409.33 David now has the distinction of winning the British Championships in both F/TR and F/Open – and in consecutive years! That’s surely a record which will stand the test of time! Second place was won by Joe West with a score of 407.30, this is surely Joe’s finest achievement in the National League, and he shows great promise for a bright future. Third place was won by David Kent with 406.32. David has immense ‘local knowledge’ of the range in all conditions; that experience showed through.
The 2016 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; Stuart Anselm, Paul Crosbie, Simon Gambling and Ian Chenery. 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 two shooters could prevail; Lance Vinall and Paul Sandie, both had been having a superb 2016 season with good, consistent performances to their credit.
In the end result, it was Stuart Anselm’s terrific British Championship win that guaranteed his 2016 National League Championship! Stuart has had an absolutely amazing year of top-level performance, he has achieved an enviable degree of consistency and accuracy - and he is a very good guy as well, by doing the stats at each match. His win is also a great endorsement of Victrix rifles.
Second place was won by Paul Crosbie 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, Paul can take great pride in demonstrating consistently good shooting all season, due in part to his superbly accurate rifle from PRS.
Third place was won by Ian Chenery, who has had an excellent season; he has shown great resilience in coping with changing jobs and moving house while still managing to be one of our most talented and dependable shooters, all credit to him.
In the F/Open, it was very tense and a very close-run contest, in the end it was Paul Sandie who earned the title of 2016 National League Champion. Paul has come a long way and has put in a lot of time and effort into his shooting over the years, it has all now paid off and he can now take the credit for all his dedication. Paul also used a beautiful custom rifle from Precision Rifle Services, for info’, this is the 3rd year running that the F/Open National League Championship has been won with a PRS rifle.
Second place was won by our GB Captain David Lloyd, who showed us all how to do it by leading from the front. Since retiring, David has enjoyed success after success – clearly putting all his new-found leisure time to good use on the range and on the loading bench!
Third place was won by Lance Vinall; Lance was the only shooter in the League who could pose a challenge to Paul. Lance seems to have advanced tremendously over the last year; he has turned out to be one of our rising stars in the League by achieving consistently high scores all season. If he keeps up this high rate of progress he will be a very serious contender to be reckoned with.
At the weekend we were exposed to very rapid, yet very subtle wind changes – as that devilish fishtailing wind switched to-and-fro’. The changes were hard to see, it called for subtle wind-reading and some brave wind adjustments – subtlety and bravery are not often found together! Our two new 2016 National League Champions demonstrated those qualities, but how? – Quite simply, they both had supreme confidence in their rifle and ammunition! A superbly accurate rifle breeds that confidence; the reliable feedback from an accurate rifle allows the shooter to develop subtlety in wind-reading and it encourages him to be bold when brave adjustments are called for. Our new Champions, Stuart and Paul possess such superbly accurate rifles; from Victrix and PRS and both shooters have benefited accordingly, the lesson is clear – as standards in F-class keep rising, the only way to stay competitive and to improve one’s own shooting ability is to invest in the very best kit we can afford and invest time and effort in learning to use it in testing range conditions.
We owe our gratitude to the small group who made it all possible at the weekend; to Mik and Tina for taking on all the organisational stress, just at a time when they were stressed already from moving house and business. Stuart gallantly did all the stats all weekend and our stalwart Range Officers, Steve and Jim endured all the freezing weather without complaint – thanks to all of them for all their good work. It is always a bit sad to come to the end of a match one has anticipated for so long, so it is even more poignant to reach the end of a whole season of hotly-contested matches, each one fought over three venues and three seasons and in all weather. There has been much to reflect on this year and many shooters will use their 2016 experience to come back next year, re-equipped and ready to do battle once again. Have a good off-season, see you next year.