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The 2016 European F-class Championships
Winners rifle builds
European Champions F Open International Team. Team GB
European Champions FTR International Team. Team GB
European Champion F Open Individual. Marco Been 480.44v
European Champion FTR Individual. Oleksandr Nikolaiev 467.31v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x800. ROBERT THOMPSON 75.12v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x900. VALTER BONI 74.3v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x1000. GIANFRANCO ZANONI 94.5v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x800. MARCO BEEN 75.13v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x900. COLIN SHORTHOUSE 75.8v
Europeans Championships Individuals F Open x1000. David Kent 98.10v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x800. SERGII OSADCHYI 74.9v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x900. DEAN WALLACE 73.4v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x1000. JON LONGHURST 89.3v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x800. Steve Thornton 75.10v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x900. Oleksandr Nikolaiev 75.5v
Europeans Championships Individuals FTR x1000. MATT JARRAM 94.4v
European Champions F Open Minor Teams Match. TEAM DOLPHIN GUN 361.18v
European Champions FTR Minor Teams Match. TEAM DOLPHIN GUN 345.12v
European Championships F Open Stats. Thursday am 8.9.16
European Championships FTR Stats. Thursday am 8.9.16
Minor Teams Matches Results. Thursday pm 8.9.16
International Teams & Rutland Matches Results. Sunday 11.9.16
Scope - March Scope - 8x-80x56
Rifle Barrel - Benchmark, 31”. Twist 1/9
Calibre - 7mm 270 WSM
Stock - Precision Rifle & Tool. Low Boy Open F Class Stock
Action - BAT Model M
Trigger - Jewell BR Trigger
Gunsmith - Peter Walker
Scope - Leupold VX3. 8.5-x25 x 50
Barrel - Bartlein 30” 5 right twist
Caliber - .308 Win
Stock - Shehane Tracker
Bipod - Made by Zbroyar
Action - Barnard P
Trigger - Barnard
Gunsmith - Zbroyar LLC. Belogorodskiy Alexandr. Ukraine
Monday was an informal, unsquadded practice day – an ideal opportunity to get zeroes for those who have not been to Bisley before. It was pretty well attended with up to 80 shooters on the day. For others, it was a day for travelling to reach Bisley in time for the warm-up matches on Tuesday.
The warm-up matches
This is a series of matches at 800 to 1,000yds most of which were long, barrel-warming 2+20 tests of endurance. That said, there were only 2 such stages each day; one in the morning and another in the afternoon. With just 40 rounds to count in a whole day, it made things very laid back and relaxing, there was plenty of time to socialise on and off the ranges. Most folk enjoyed the relaxed pace and did not really want to have 3 frenetic stages – that would come later in the main event.
Now, at the risk of boring you with a detailed account of what the weather was like all week, let me just say this; there was hardly any change to speak of for much of the early part of the week; it was bright, warm and dry. Most importantly though was the wind; it came from the West, and best of all, it was incredibly mild, gentle and predictable at least until Thursday.
This was probably the ideal situation; early in the week the benign conditions gave everyone a good chance at achieving high scores which helped build confidence, the later stronger winds then tested the wind-reading ability of shooters and teams – thereby keeping everyone happy.
The early, benign conditions gave rise to some impressively accurate shooting; this was reflected in the scores.
Tuesday Morning 800yds
Tuesday Afternoon 900yds
The Tuesday Aggregates
Wednesday morning 900yds
Wednesday Afternoon 1000yds
The Wednesday Aggregates
Thursday morning 800yds
Thursday morning 900yds
The European Championships
Friday, Stage 1 at 800yds
Friday dawned mild, dry and bright; just as it had been all week; a high pressure front had moved in across all of Southern England and seemed set to stay. The important factor to note was the light breeze; just a gentle 1.5 moa wind drifting straight across Stickledown, it was a little more than it had been earlier in the week and it was just enough to keep everyone alert, especially the let-offs which were not easy to spot.
The 8:30 blow-offs got the match started, for a handful of late-comers that was their first shot of the whole week, but for the vast majority it came after having had nearly 140 rounds of practice in the warm-up matches.
800yds is for many shooters an odd distance, we don’t get enough opportunities to shoot it, therefore there’s always the danger of over-estimating the corrections required, especially if the wind is gently undulating, it does not take much to move you out of the V-bull. Scores were not as high as last year; Robert Thompson took gold with 75.12, while
Richard Sharman once again took Silver – he won it last year as well with 75.11 it seems Richard is an 800yd specialist. In third place came Italian visitor, Gabriele Gargani on a count back with 75.10
Last year if you dropped just 1 point, you plummeted right down to 29th place! This year, due to the difficulty in spotting the tricky let-offs, the scores were correspondingly lower, dropping a point would push you down to ‘only’ 14th place – Marco Been can tell you all about how that feels!
The F/TR guys were on the third detail and so had to wait until about 9:30 to get down on the firing point, the weather remained pretty reasonable though maybe not quite as ‘ideal’ they were still able to rack up some impressive scores.
Sergii Osadchyi of the Ukraine showed he was on top form by slotting in a solid 74.09 to take the first place, he was followed by Paul Eggemann of the German BDMP on 74.09 The bronze medal was taken back to Ireland by Joseph McLaughlin who had an excellent run of scores in last year’s warm-up matches only to be hit by rifle problems in the main match - thankfully he had no such problems this year.
It is always good to get the first stage over and done with; it helps calm the nerves and enables everyone to focus on the match. It was especially good to have reasonable wind conditions to begin with – gentle, but testing. This gave everyone confidence in their ammunition and rifles, - or perhaps not!
Spare a thought for Biff Conlon who had come all the way from the USA and who had to suffer the indignity of being last, the only consolation being that there is only one way you can go from there.
Friday Stage 2 at 900yds
By 10.30 am, everyone had moved back to 900yds. The F/TR guys were on the second detail , by then the sun was well up and had provided some more warmth , not enough to be an issue; just enough to keep it pleasant. The wind had increased a fraction, but it was still picking-up and gently laying-off in such a discreet manner that was very hard to detect. Mirage was present, but not objectionably so, just enough to give a careful observer enough clues. That said, some shooters remarked that they could sometimes detect a conflict in the mirage and wind flags.
Some say that as the sun rises and burns off the overnight dew, it may lead to odd elevation problems. If so, then it didn’t seem to bother Dean Wallace from Wales who scored a very respectable 73.04, coming first on a count back from Yurii Shenfeld of the Ukraine on the same score. Only 1 point separated them from GB Captain Russell Simmonds in third with 72.08.
By the time the F/O guys got to shoot, it was nearing midday, the wind and mirage were at a peak and it showed in the scores. Nobody managed to keep them all in the bull-five ring, but Valter Boni from Italy prevailed by dropping just one point, his 74.03 won him the gold medal. In second place, taking the silver medal back to Spain was Joe Antonio Lema, with73.05. Third place was a three-way tie, requiring a count back to decide the winner; David Lloyd was the fortunate fellow who took bronze with 73.04
So, that concluded the Friday morning’s shooting. There was a stampede to the Café at the clay shooting ground, resulting in a familiar logjam of hungry shooters. Many of our Continental visitors set up gazebos on the range and had picnic lunches al fresco, it all looked very civilised indeed.
Friday Stage 3 at 1,000yds
After lunch we all assembled at the 1,000yds point, as ever, matches are won and lost at this, the longest distance.
By this time in the day, the weather usually plays a much greater role; normally it is warmer and windier and consequently rather more difficult to hold all the shots in the middle. That certainly held true now, we seemed to be seeing the start of a change in the weather, and it was noticeably trickier.
This time we introduced a small change to the course of fire, we shot a 2+20 instead of the familiar 2+15, it made sense to do this as we had plenty of time with only one stage in the whole afternoon.
Out of 111 shooters, nobody managed to break 90 – that says it all about how tricky conditions had become. Jon Longhurst, who is a relatively new face, nevertheless prevailed over all with 89.03 to take gold, after a count back with Australian Mark Faibairn on the same score, who took the silver medal. Ian Chenery’s 88.06 was just enough to win him the bronze after a count back with Billy McIntyre of the 101 club.
Things were not that much better for the F/O guys, the better ballistics help a bit, but they are no panacea. Out of 86 competitors only 15 broke 90.
The leader of the pack was our big friend from Italy, Gianfranco Zanoni who won gold with a good 94.05, followed into second by the highly experienced British shooter Andy Wyspianski following a count back with our good friend from the Netherlands Marco Been, both of them on 92.08.
So, that concluded the activities for Friday. What a tricky day it had been!
Dry, gently undulating wind conditions had prevailed almost all day, it enabled shooters of all abilities to compete on a level playing field, it was very tricky, but not diabolical. It showed who had done their homework in tuning their rifles and ammo and most of all, it showed who had paid the most attention to those tricky wind changes. In short, it was a day for the most observant wind readers to show what they could do.
There’s always much to discuss while on the point and in the bar afterwards. In the evenings, competitors enjoyed good food and good company in the various locations in and around Bisley.
The European Championships Continued...
Saturday dawned brightly, but a little colder than previously and with some lingering mist. The forecast was for rain, not a torrential downpour –nothing to complain about compared to what we have endured in previous European Championships in November, but all the same, it would add another level of difficulty, sorting out those who don’t cope with water.
The main thing to note now was the wind it had picked up in strength and so we hoped it would result in a more steady condition, instead of those tricky pick-ups and let-offs.
Saturday Stage 4 at 800yds
The wind was clearly rather stronger than previously at 800yds, instead of Friday’s gentle introduction with a 1.5moa wind at 90 degrees, now we started out with 2 moa, not much more, but the steadiness of the wind made all the difference.
All three top places were won with the same superb score; 75.10, this necessitated a three-way count back, so the rule is; if you are going to drop a V-bull, do it sooner rather than later in your string.
First place was taken by the GBFCA webmaster Steve Thornton, who had a lot on his mind, seeing as our website got hacked that very week. Next came two Pauls; Paul Crosbie from Scotland was second and Paul Eggermann from Germany came third, both are very seasoned campaigners.
What a difference a day makes – the scores show that the stronger though steadier wind conditions were a lot more manageable for most people.
The strong, steady wind suited the F/Open guys as well; 27 shooters managed to achieve a clean 75 points; dropping a single point was costly; Paul Hill can testify to that; his excellent 74.12 pushed him into 28th place.
Marco Been put all his knowledge and skill to very good use to achieve a fine score of 75.13, he was followed by Englishman Simon West, who was of course using a Joe West stock to take silver with 75.12 that was after yet another count back, this time with Robert Koch of the German BDMP.
Saturday Stage 5 at 900yds
Falling back to 900yds, the predicted rain thankfully had held off for the time being, the forecast seemed to be wrong. The wind maintained much the same level of difficulty, only with the obvious addition of another 100yds to compound the challenge. No matter the difficulty, somebody always prevails; in this case it was Oleksandr Nikolaiev from the Ukraine who won a count back with an excellent 75.05 In second came new GB squad member, Alan Baldry who actually won this very same stage last year – it looks like Alan is a 900yds Bisley specialist. Chasing them closely was the familiar figure of Steve Donaldson on 74.10 hopefully this indicates a return to form for Steve who is usually a top contender in any match.
The F/O guys had their work cut out for them, the level of difficulty was such that only 3 shooter out of 84 managed to keep them all in the 5-ring, The honours were taken by our resident gunsmith, Colin Shorthouse who achieved an excellent 75.08 to win the gold medal, Second place was taken by Italian visitor Mattia Molina with 75.07 The bronze medal was won by the veteran Martin Townsend, our current GB team coach, clearly the coach still has what it takes to win with a good 75.05
It was a difficult detail, yet there was clear evidence that some guys knew how to make the best of it.
Saturday Stage 6 at 1,000yds
By now the wind was starting to pick up to something a bit more like the Bisley we all know and love; as the flags fluttered with the strengthening breeze, bringing with it darkening, ominous looking skies. It seemed that the weather forecasts were not entirely wrong and that now, at last the dreaded rain was approaching.
Getting on straight after lunch, the F/Open lads knew this was make-or-break time. The winds, although freshening to 5 moa, were thankfully steady and in a steady, consistent wind it is still possible to rack up good scores, the real question was if we could get through this long 2+20 before the rain arrived. The simple answer was no! As soon we got our rifles set up, the first heavy drops began to fall. The hard-working range officers, Steve, John and Jim very kindly and patiently granted us more time to scramble to get our wet weather kit on before sending ‘message 1’ to the butts.
One thousand yards is usually where competitions are won and lost, especially when it involves a “two and twenty”, this stage was a long barrel-burning 20 rounds to count, ample opportunity to crash and burn.
As it happens, the rain and the tricky conditions really churned up the scores, which is exactly what was needed to decide the outcome of the competition.
It was a tricky detail, the wind rarely stayed stable for long, with frequent big gusts, lashing the shooters with rain. All credit then is due to many shooters who lifted their game and racked up very impressive scores in the mid 90’s. The former GB Captain David Kent used all his long experience to achieve a phenomenal 98.10 for first place. Only 4 V-bulls behind him was genial Gianfranco Zanoni, with an amazing 98.06 earning him the silver medal and in third place after a count back, taking bronze came Norbert Eilmess from Germany with 97.07
Those were very impressive scores indeed, given the awful conditions the shooters had to endure.
The rain seemed to ease off after the F/Open detail which makes a change as usually it seems to fall on the F/TR guys. Sometimes after a period of rain there is a quiet spell, but that didn’t seem to happen for the F/TR detail. The top man with a score of 94.04 was GB squad member Matt Jarram, marking a welcome return to form. In second was relative new guy Brogan O’Shea-Smith with 94.03 – we’ll need to keep an eye on Brogan if he keeps shooting as good as that. Third place went to Stefano Baldo of Italy after a count back with 93.07
When the NRA hooter sounded all the shooting had been completed for another year; the Individual European Championships were over and it was up to our Statistician, Karen Robertson in the stats caravan to tally up the scores and let us know where we stood.
While the stats were compiled, shooters enjoyed a free bar and nibbles it was a most convivial occasion.
We had clear evidence of the level of skill and talent of our overseas and continental friends; five of the top 10 positions in F/TR and four positions in the F/O Individual Championships went to overseas shooters, exactly the same proportions as in 2015.
In F/Open, in first place, winning the title of European F-class Champion was the popular Dutchman Marco Been, with a simply superb score of 480.44 clearly, Marco is a very talented and accurate shooter, it is incredible to remember that Marco does not have any access to long range facilities at home, so all the more credit to him for this amazing achievement. For info’ Marco used a beautiful rifle made by custom gunsmith Pete Walker.
Taking second place and the silver medal was our resident Gamekeeper Ian Boxall, who also had 480 points, but sadly just 8 V-bulls less with 480.36. Ian is one of our most consistently good shooters.
Winner of the 3rd place, bronze medal was the big Italian; Gianfranco Zanoni with a solid score of 479.30, Gianfranco has come a very long way in a short time, making massive improvements in his shooting abilities.
Interesting to note that 2 of the top 3 podium places were won by our friends from the Continent, well done to them for coming all the way to Bisley to prove they were the best in Europe.
In the F/TR Championship, the picture was reversed 2 of the 3 podium places were won by British shooters.
The title and the honour of European F-class Champion was once again won by a superb shooter from the Ukraine; Oleksandr Nikolaiev. Oleksandra proved he was the best of them all with a superb score of 467.31, an excellent performance from a very seriously talented shooter.
In second place, winning the silver medal was the familiar figure of Paul Crosbie with a great score of 466.28. Paul is never far away from the podium and is always a serious contender in any match. The bronze medal was taken by GB squad member David Rollafson for his excellent 464.35
David is proving to be one of our rising stars in the F/TR squad.
The top places in the Individual European Championships showed a good, distribution of prize winners from all over Europe; from Ukraine, Holland, Germany and Italy. It clearly shows that F-class enjoys a healthy following of equally talented and dedicated shooters from all parts of Europe. Well done to all of them, it takes a lot of dedication to come to a new range and prevail over all.
Organising and running the biggest annual F-class match in the World takes a herculean effort. We all owe a big debt of thanks to Mik and Tina for all their efforts, well done to the pair of them, they deserve two gold medals!
Those unsung heroes down in the butts deserve a mention too, the markers were some of the very best we have ever had – they deserve every penny they earn. I heard hardly any “message 4’s” all week. Thanks also to our hard-working Range Officers, Jim, John and Steve and to our resident Statistician Karen. Thanks are also due to Paul Harkins and Neil Calder for assisting with the food & bar.
That concluded the 2016 European Championships, it is easily the biggest and best F-class match in the world and is certainly destined to grow even bigger and better in future. Make sure you are free in late September 2017 it is the highlight of the F-class calendar.
The Teams Matches
The European Championships includes a significant portion of team shooting; from the ‘minor teams’ matches on Thursday afternoon, to the culmination of the tournament on Sunday morning when the full-size National teams and 4-man Rutland teams battle it out for supremacy.
Whether it is a National team or a group of friends, the excitement and thrill is all the same. Bringing individuals together under the direction of a coach is in itself an achievement, as not all talented shooters are cut out for being team players. There is a good deal of tactics and strategy involved in bringing out all the talent available and deploying it to best advantage.
Thursday Afternoon Minor Teams Competitions
The format for these matches was 4 shooters firing 20 to count at 1,000yds.
The team matches proved to be tremendously popular; clearly there was a big demand for this type of match. Some countries cannot put forward a full-sized 8 man team, but they can manage a team of 4. However, this was not just a match for National teams – any group could enter a team. In fact, 11 F/Open teams were entered and 14 F/TR teams, two up from last year. The Italians fielded a remarkable 7 teams. Manufacturers and gunsmiths were well represented. Groups of friends were just as welcome to put together a team and several did, such as the Diggle Ringers.
It proved to be a very close-run match, the F/O winners were Team Dolphin Gun they took 1st place by just the narrowest margin of 1 point with 361.18. Coming next was Joe West Riflestocks, who were very hard to miss in their blaze orange t-shirts. Dolphin Ukraine were 3rd with 356.19
The F/TR winners were; in first place with a score of 345.12 the FTR Dolphin team, with 345.12, in second, came yet another Dolphin team; FTR 2 on 334.07 and in third place, the bronze medal went to Triple S – The team from Staffordshire Synthetic Stocks.
The superb turn-out of 4-man teams showed there is great interest in this teams match format, the range was very nearly filled with enthusiastic teams, creating an excellent atmosphere of friendly rivalry.
It was a particularly good outcome for Dolphin Guns, winning 4 out of 6 team medal positions - up one medal from last year.
Seeing as everyone had such a good time during the 4-man team’s event, I predict we will see even more participation next year.
The International and Rutland Teams matches
This is the culmination of the week-long tournament of shooting; the prestigious International and Rutland team’s event.
As on Thursday, this is open to teams of 4 shooters in both F/Open and FTR, but with the important addition of full-size 8-man National teams, this is when National squads can utilise all the experience and talent available to them to form strong teams to compete head-on for the title of European Champions.
The Rutland Teams
There was a superb turnout of 4-man teams for the Rutland match, I should clarify that although the teams consist of 4 shooters there are 7 medals for each team; for the 4 shooters, the Captain, the Coach and Register keeper. That gives ample scope for groups of friends, clubs and National squad members to band together and gain useful experience while standing a good chance of taking home a medal.
In F/Open there were 7 teams in contention, so competition was pretty fierce, the result was the Joe West Riflestock team prevailed by 11 points. Joe’s team deserved a special medal for the most distinctive team at Bisley; their fluorescent orange tops made them very easy to spot from a distance.
They were followed by Ukraine Open in second and from Ireland, the 4 Provinces team in third.
In F/TR, 8 teams battled it out for dominance, up from 5 last year, it is clear that F/TR is growing and with it, the interest in F/TR team shooting.
The winners were the 4 Provinces FTR team with a superb tally of 560.26
That was the second medal earned by the guys from the 4 Provinces.
Second place was taken by March Vitrix of Italy, by just one point behind. Third place was taken by team BCM –same as last year. BCM certainly had a high profile at Bisley with their beautiful custom rifles. The Italian reputation for design and style was very evident.
The International Match
The ‘main event’ if it may be called that, is when the National teams assemble to take on each other for the prestigious title of European Team Champions.
The weather on Sunday made a remarkable change from Saturday; it was almost totally benign; warm, sunny and dry. The conditions were perfect for trigger-pullers and it looked like the coaches would be redundant. Naturally, of course as soon as message 1 was given, the lightest possible wind and mirage picked up and caused consternation, things are seldom as easy as they seem.
In FTR, there were 5 full-size teams battling it out, which is a considerable investment in time and energy for everyone involved. All the major participants had entered teams in this event, so it looked like it was going to be very hotly contested.
As it happens, the GB team achieved a remarkable tally of 1147.95 this put them just ahead of their nearest rival, Ukraine by only 7 points. Third place was taken by the German BDMP.
In F/Open, there were only 3 teams in contention, Great Britain, BDMP Germany and Italy. With awards for the top 3, clearly everyone was going home from this match with something to show for it.
The GB team established an early lead at 900yds and then built on that sound foundation as the morning progressed. Everyone worked together to ensure victory with a superb score of 1169.106. That was just 1 point higher than last year’s score, given the conditions were as near perfect as we can get, the scores might have been higher. Nevertheless that was comfortably 20 points ahead of the Italian team and 48 points ahead of the BDMP team , so that makes it 4 consecutive wins for the GB team.
That concluded the teams matches, what terrific fun it had been on both Thursday and Sunday. Team shooting adds that extra dimension of drama and excitement, it complements what is otherwise an individual sport and adds to the overall experience of enjoyment, once experienced it can become addictive, so I confidently predict we’ll see even more interest next year, especially in the ‘minor teams’ match and Rutland teams match.
If that appeals to you, why not give some thought to forming a team for 2017? See you there.
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