Winners of the Long Range Challenge - Back row; Simon Gambling 3rd FTR. Paul Harkins 1st FTR. Des Parr 1st F Open. Robert Thompson 3rd F Open.
Front Row; Ian Chenery 2nd FTR. Vasyl Ivanchencko 2nd F Open.
"The Long Range Challenge"
The ‘Long Range Challenge’, normally this is our opportunity to see what our rifles and ammo’ are capable of up to 1,200yds. This year however, being a World Championships year, the GBFCA committee agreed to change the format to a standard Palma configuration to give the GB squad more practice at the distances they will encounter in Canada.
It seems extraordinary that we have just passed the solstice, yet we are already two-thirds of the way through our 2017 season, this being our fourth match, and from now on we can aim at improving our four best matches to count in the National League.
This was another very popular match, many spaces were snapped up very quickly and our match organiser, Mik put on an extra target so that people would not be turned away disappointed. The breakdown of numbers showed the same previous trend continuing; FTR is growing apace with 42 compared to 35 F/Open shooters.
The conditions for this match were pretty testing; a predominantly south westerly strong wind dominated the whole weekend – this was an ideal test for the wind-readers rather than trigger-pullers. That said, in rapidly-changing blustery conditions, an element of luck can play a large part in determining the outcome. Conditions were otherwise thankfully good; it was warm, dry and cloudy, earlier in the week we had seen record temperatures; it had been oppressively hot, but mercifully by the weekend, the thermometer had dropped to something more like a seasonal average.
800yds Stage 1
While getting ready for the first detail, it is common to make a rough guess of the wind strength, dial that in and hope that your guess is correct or very nearly so. This led to the first surprise and it set the tone for the weekend – the wind was stronger than it seemed, almost 50% stronger than I’d have guessed. The realisation dawned that this wasn’t going to be as easy as it seemed, even allowing for the proportionately more generous dimensions of the 1,000yd target at 800yds.
The F/TR guys were first into the breech to test their mettle, of 42 FTR shooters only two managed to secure a ‘75’ Ian Chenery and David Rollafson – that gives you some idea of the level of difficulty in navigating through devious angle changes. Third place went to Celt Ridout with 74.10, the highest of all FTR V-counts. That set the tone for this match – it was not going to be easy at all.
The F/Open contingent didn’t have it any easier – the ballistic advantage does help of course, but the shooter still had to steer the bullets accordingly in the blustery conditions. You always like to feel that at 800yds you should be getting them all in – to effectively bank points and build up credit for later. It was surprising therefore to see that only seven out of 35 shooters got a ‘75’. A count-back was needed to split the top three; Tony Marsh, Robert Thompson and I.
Ian Chenery 75.07
David Rollafson 75.04
Celt Ridout 74.10
Tony Marsh 75.10
Robert Thompson 75.10
Des Parr 75.10
900yds Stage 2
Moving back to 900yds, we were under some time pressure to fit in six details before 12:30, our Range Officers, Jim and Steve did a good job of hurrying up the stragglers to enable us fit in the whole programme. This time F/Open fired the opening shots. Ian Boxall was proving to be the man to beat, being the only one to get a ‘75’ and having dropped only one point so far. Craig Titmus and Vasyl Ivanchenko of the Ukraine were following not far behind him though.
In FTR, that devilishly tricky wind was giving the competitors a real run for their money, nobody quite managed to master it entirely, but Brogan O’Shea-Smith came closest. Brogan clearly seemed to have bounced back to full fitness from his 54 mile GBFCA-sponsored Cateran Yomp. Following close behind with only a V-bull separating them, came Paul Harkins and Mark Downing.
Brogan O'Shea-Smith 71.07
Paul Harkins 71.06
Mark Downing 71.05
Ian Boxall 75.05
Craig Titmus 74.08
Vasyl Ivanchenko 73.09
1,000yds Stage 3
After lunch, we had plenty of time; the course of fire was a barrel-burning 2+20 trial of endurance. Those extra five rounds and the extra 100yds make all the difference, we all knew that the match could be won or lost at 1,000yds and this stage would be decisive.
Keeping them in the 4-ring was considered good going in the tricky conditions; this was more a case of ‘damage limitation’ and avoiding a train wreck than trying to score high. Whatever tactic was chosen by Simon Gambling and Carrie Ryan it served them both well – they could only be separated by a count-back. Ian Chenery added a bronze to his earlier gold medal.
Vasyl Ivanchenko of the Ukraine and Paul Sandie from Scotland may have employed a similar tactic as it seemed to result in a similar outcome; they too could only be separated by a count-back. The match organiser, Mik Maksimovic was only 1 point behind and secured a bronze medal. The winning scores may be low, but it is all relative; most other shooters suffered much worse; points were thrown away like confetti and many big names were pushed far down the results sheet.
Simon Gambling 91.04
Carrie Ryan 91.04
Ian Chenery 91.02
Vasyl Ivanchenko 93.06
Paul Sandie 93.06
Mik Maksimovic 92.07
That concluded the day’s events and what a day it had been – quite a bruising experience for many! There is always somebody who seems to have a good grasp of even the trickiest conditions and in F/TR it was Paul Harking and Vasyl Ivanchenko, both of them had had an excellent day, their super performance put them in the overnight leader position. Our Ukrainian friend has shown great dedication to the league in making the long and arduous trip to the UK for League matches. While Paul Harkins the GB team Vice Captain was setting the pace for others to follow.
The F/TR GB team had organised a team dinner at the North London club seeing as this would be the last time they would all meet together before the World Championships in August. They all looked very smart indeed in their formal uniform, with the new blazer badges and new ties. It just showed that what had started out four years ago as a long term project is now coming together nicely.
There were two stages on Sunday, both at 1,000yds and because there was no time lost in falling back, we had time to do a 2+15 and a 2+20 to finish off. With 35 rounds to count there was still all to play for. The wind conditions had not abated overnight, it was still a stubbornly strong wind with very subtle and difficult to read angle changes – it was those angle changes that we reckoned would really churn things up.
1,000yds Stage 4
F/Open were the opening batsmen on Sunday, so no long leisurely breakfast for them, this was no ‘bunny detail’ either; the wind was up before us and blowing strongly. In such conditions, even just a slight angle change can result in widely divergent points of impact. It is easy to lose lots of points in a short time in such conditions.
David Lloyd or “Dai Lloyd” as he was listed on the squadding, to help distinguish him from another competitor of the same name, had a terrific shoot, scoring 75.04, the only ‘75’ of Stage 4. Dai certainly distinguished himself there by stepping way out in the lead, as befits the GB Captain. Robert Thompson earned a silver to go with his earlier bronze, while the avuncular Irishman Mark Bannon took up the rear-guard position for bronze.
It was just as tough at the top of FTR; possibly they had an even tougher detail as nobody could manage to break ‘70’ in the punishing wind condition. The highest score being a 68. All three podium places were only divided by their V-count; Ian Chenery was on superb form taking his second gold of the match and third medal in total. Hard on Ian’s heels came Dermot O’Connor and Mark Downing with only 1 v-bull between them. The scoresheet for that stage was littered with many big names far down the list; it had been nasty and brutal.
Ian Chenery 68.06
Dermot O'Connor 68.04
Mark Downing 68.03
Dai Lloyd 75.04
Robert Thompson 73.02
Mark Bannon 72.06
1,000yds Stage 5
The final stage of the match was another 2+20 it was a real test of nerves and barrels! Everything depended on this stage, it was ‘make-or-break’ for those who were in contention and everyone knew that. The wind had abated slightly for the very first detail – the ‘mixed detail’ but the forecast was for the wind to then build up towards the afternoon, it could not have been timed any better to test the competitors, which is how it should be – a test of wind-reading rather than trigger-pulling.
By now, some competitors appeared to be getting their ‘eye in’, becoming a bit more accustomed to the angle changes and how to deal with them, it is often the case by the last stages of a match. Big Richie, the Captain of the 101 club certainly seemed to have a good grasp of the conditions; his 94.04 was far ahead of his fellow F/TR shooters and most F/Open shooters too! Robert Clarkson took Silver while Paul Harkins netted a bronze to add to his previous Silver.
In F/Open there were some amazing scores posted, none more so than Steve Durrant’s astonishing 97.8; a remarkable achievement, and by one of our newest GBFCA members! It was a case of “keeping it in the family” for second and third as Father and Son bagged the Silver and Bronze. Joe West taking silver, while his dad, Simon West racked up an amazing V-count of 11 to take bronze.
Richard Jones 94.05
Robert Clarkson 92.05
Paul Harkins 91.04
Steve Durrant 97.08
Joe West 96.07
Simon West 94.11
In the absence of Stuart Anselm, our usual match statistician, a couple of willing volunteers stepped forward to help out; Darren Stuart and Alan Baldry helped run what is often a thankless task, between them and Tina as well it made us all the more appreciative of Stuart’s work.
In F/TR, the GB Vice Captain, Paul Harkins stamped his authority on the match by maintaining a good high level of consistency throughout and avoiding any ‘train wrecks’ in the tricky conditions. He was rewarded for his perseverance by taking home the title of ‘Long Range Challenge Champion’. Ian Chenery had an amazingly productive competition; he won three stage medals as well as Silver overall. Third place was won by Simon Gambling, only six V-bulls behind. It was an excellent and very encouraging performance from all three shooters as they are all GB F/TR team members, it augers well for the F/TR F-class World Championships.
In F/Open, your humble scribe thankfully managed to prevail – and with a well-used Bartlien gain-twist barrel, it now has around 1,610rds through it. The silver medal for second place was won by Vasyl Ivanchencko from the Ukraine. Vasyl is having a superb 2017 season, coming so soon after winning the Pennine Challenge at Diggle; he is turning out to be a star performer. The bronze medal for third was won by Robert Thompson who is seldom far away from the podium.
We owe a big debt of thanks to everyone who made it all possible, especially of course to the organisers; Mik and Tina Maksimovic, they worked tirelessly all weekend dealing with other people’s problems and queries, to ensure that everyone enjoyed their competition, they deserve a special medal for all their hard work and dedication. The markers were some of the very best I’d seen at Bisley – they are clearly a ‘cut above the rest’ and well worth the money, there were consequently very few ‘message fours’. Our Range Officers Jim and Steve dealt with everything in their stride with efficiency and with unfailing good humour.
There was a temporary hiccup in the production of our highly distinctive ‘bullet plaques’ for the top three winners, so some glass trophies were sourced as a stand-in measure. Hopefully all will be back to normal for the Europeans; I also understand that we may have some brand new specially designed stage winner’s medals in time for the Europeans. There will be quite a long gap now until the next time we meet, but it will be well worth waiting for our main annual event; the European Championships in September.
See you there.
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