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Left to right; Artur Hrymalyuk, Vasyl Ivenchenko, Dmytro Hrymalyuk
"A successful Diggle début for our Ukrainian friends"
Diggle is rightly famous (or infamous) for bad weather, we expect it to be dodgy at best, but this time Diggle excelled itself, we had three days of near constant blustery wind, rain, drizzle and low cloud. It was a test of endurance between us and the elements - no prizes for guessing the winner.
Being a target shooter in the UK means having to brave the elements and develop ways and means of coping with all that Mother Nature can throw at us, it was instructive therefore to look up and down the firing line to see what solutions other shooters had come up with to combat adverse weather – everything from a simple towel or chamois flung over the rifle to quite elaborate ‘cloches’ made of curved sheets of transparent plastic held on by elastic bands. Everything needed to be securely fastened though, anything loose was soon blown away.
It just seemed like the rain clouds had got stuck over Diggle and dumped everything on us. Creedence Clearwater may have sung “have you ever seen the rain?”, but until you’ve been to Diggle, you’ve never seen rain like it, in no time everything becomes utterly saturated.
The Friday practice session offered a foretaste of what was to come; the wind and rain lashed the Pennines, soaking anyone exposed to it in just minutes. A few intrepid souls turned up at the clubhouse, more in hope than expectation of a break in the weather, their hopes were in vain though there was to be no let-up all day. Only one brave, hardy character went out and got some 600yd practice; Joe Melia of Ireland – perhaps he is inured to such weather, living over there, or maybe because it was St Patrick’s day he was just making the most of the occasion.
The combination of heavy rain and high footfall of competitors had made some areas around the firing points pretty muddy and slippery; a few competitors lost their footing and ended up hobbling around, one even needed an overnight stay in Hospital. Mercifully though, no lasting damage was done. It seems prescient to announce that a group of GBFCA members will shortly be attending a first-aid course to provide cover at League matches.
Although most spaces in the match were snapped up within 24hrs, it did not ‘sell-out’, there were still four spaces available. This will be an expensive year for many shooters going to the World Championships, so it is to be expected that attendance might be a little lower than usual. As always, there are a few drop-outs as well and this match was no exception, so we had three full details and one partly-filled mixed detail of F/Open and FTR. The overall balance was in favour of FTR though.
Our usual match organiser, Les Holgate had wisely booked a holiday elsewhere for the fateful weekend, so it fell to our Chairman Stuart Anselm to run the show – ably assisted in the stats department by his daughter, Heather and on the firing point by Ian Dixon and Laurie Holland.
The scene that confronted us on Saturday morning did not inspire confidence; it was blowing a gale, lashing rain and worst of all the top of the hill was cloaked in mist. As we were unable to see the danger area we could not shoot, so instead of just standing around waiting, it was decided to hold the AGM then rather than the afternoon when we’d usually hold it. The proceedings from our AGM will shortly be conveyed directly to the membership via the new GBFCA Groupspace portal.
Holding the AGM, and awaiting improved visibility delayed the start of the match and reduced the course of fire to 2+15s instead.
Stage 1, 1,000yds F/TR
The FTR guys, perhaps for the first time ever, got the best of what the weather had to offer; the day started off with light drizzle and blustery wind which doesn’t sound good, but it went gradually downhill from then on. Nobody managed to ‘clean it’ and V-counts were severely depressed, only seven shooters managed to break 70 that speaks volumes about the difficult wind condition. It was noteworthy that four of those top seven were our female competitors; clearly the ladies had a good handle on the tricky wind. They say the cream always rises to the top, and so it was that Paul Crosbie prevailed taking the gold medal, followed closely behind by Elena Davis and Steve Rigby.
Paul Crosbie 74.02
Elena Davis 73.02
Steve Rigby 73.00
Stage 2, 1,000yds F/TR
By the time of Stage 2, the weather had deteriorated even further adding to the difficulty for the shooters. This time, only six shooters could break 70, and yet again the ladies showed their mettle, two of them featured in the top six. That seasoned campaigner, Steve Rigby earned his second medal of the day by taking the gold medal with a four point margin over his nearest rival; Carrie Ryan who in turn won on a countback over John Cross, the current National Short Range Champion.
Steve Rigby 75.01
Carrie Ryan 71.02
John Cross 71.02
There was no time to lose, the weather was on a downward trend towards being utterly abysmal, so the butts change-over was a brief affair with no downtime for a lunchbreak. The F/Open guys were on one hand keen to get on with it, but their keenness was tempered with some trepidation at what was to come; dark skies were approaching. Typically, about halfway through the detail, down came the rain and with it, visibility went down too. Conditions were pretty miserable; the rain obscured the ocular lenses of our scopes, further inhibiting our ability to see the targets cloaked in mist.
Stage 1, 1,000yds F/O
Somebody always prevails and in this case. Paul Key had the inestimable advantage of superior ballistics; his big RUM kicked out Berger 230grs at 3,200fps. His V-count was double that of anyone else. That surely helped Paul to the Gold medal, comfortably 3 points ahead of his nearest rival, Vasyl Ivenchenko, who had come all the way from the Ukraine for the first time.
Paul Key 90.07
Vasyl Ivenchenko 87.03
Des Parr 86.02
At the conclusion of Stage 1, conditions had worsened to the point that the top of the hill was obscured and seeing as we’d lost time earlier, it was felt that we had insufficient time left to await any change and besides the forecast didn’t indicate any improvement was likely. We threw in the towel – a somewhat soggy towel at that.
The sodden, bedraggled shooters dispersed to their digs around Diggle to dry off everything, ready to repeat the whole exercise the next day – we must be mad, you could not actually pay anybody to endure what we do just ‘for fun’.
Saturday night was a foul night, not the sort of night for venturing out far; dark, misty, blustery wind and lashing rain; it was a pleasure therefore to find a quiet hostelry nearby with a real fire and real ale. On retiring for the evening, listening to the wind battering the windows and throwing heavy sheets of rain, one wondered if we would salvage anything at all of the next day’s shooting.
On awakening on Sunday, conditions had eased somewhat; the heavy rain had abated to a drizzle while the wind, although still strong was not of the same blustery, buffeting nature. Over breakfast we hoped that conditions might still improve more, that was some hope! On arrival at the range, the hilltop was visible, but only just – there were banks of cloud scudding in off the Irish sea, bringing with them incessant rain, as long as we had visibility we could shoot – but we would unavoidably get a soaking. It was then that our Match Organiser, Stuart Anselm suggested that if we curtailed the two planned stages into one, we could shoot from within the 1,000yd benchrest facility, which is covered-in. That appealed to everyone, as lying in the rain isn’t anybody’s idea of fun. It was a tight squeeze getting 8 shooters and their scorers into the shelter, but we did it and it worked.
Stage 2 1,000yds F/O
Shooting off a bench is a skill in itself and it is a skill that not many of us get the opportunity to acquire. It would seem that Paul Sandie may have a hidden talent for 1,000yd benchrest shooting as he racked up an astonishing and vitally important score of 98.04 It was an amazing score in the circumstances and a clear four points ahead of your humble scribe. Vasyl Ivenchenko added a bronze medal to his weekend total, clearly Vasyl was a contender to be reckoned with.
Paul Sandie 98.04
Des Parr 94.03
Vasyl Ivenchenko 93.03
Due to the time taken to process all the guys through 8 at a time, there was insufficient time left to shoot another stage, but that was all that was needed anyway for the F/Open scores to count; the GBFCA rules state that for the scores to be valid, 50% of the match must be shot, in getting the second stage on Sunday, it validated the F/Open scores and ensured that League points would be awarded. The F/TR guys had no such concerns as they had already got two stages under their belts on Saturday and therefore their scores would stand regardless of any activity on Sunday.
By lunchtime, the conditions had worsened somewhat, the wind was about twice as strong as it had been the day before and this was causing some consternation within the F/TR contingent, some were keen to go out and shoot, others were less convinced. In the end, they bravely decided to rise to the challenge and shoot, sadly though Mother Nature had different plans and just a quarter of the way into the stage, the Pennines were blanketed by a persistent bank of low cloud. There was no imminent prospect of any change and so it was agreed to abandon the stage. There were cheers of rejoicing in the butts.
It was far too hostile to have prize-giving outdoors, so we all crowded into the clubhouse, a few dozen soaking wet shooters soon transformed the place into a rather humid & steamy hothouse. Stuart, ably assisted by his apprentice statistician, Heather had all the stats ready in no time.
In FTR, we had a clear winner; the highly experienced Steve Rigby had put all his years of experience and local knowledge to good effect in achieving a hard-won victory against all that Diggle could throw at him. Steve’s 148.01 was comfortably ahead of the second-place winner, Mary Marsden. Mary got an especially loud cheer from everyone, as this is by far her best achievement; she has come a long way. Mary was just one point ahead of the bronze medal winner, Paul Crosbie, who is seldom far from the front. It is worth noting that our female contingent put in a fantastic performance; taking 3 of the top 5 finishing places, this is a very encouraging sign indeed; we could have the makings of a good ladies F/TR team in future.
Steve Rigby 148.01
Mary Marsden 142.02
Paul Crosbie 141.04
Carrie Ryan 141.02
Elena Davis 140.04
In F/Open, it is ‘tough at the top’ as they say, only three shooters broke 180, however, Paul Sandie ensured that he won the gold and the glory, his 98.04 in stage 2 gave him an unassailable lead, it was a superb performance from last year’s National League Champion, it looks like Paul is starting out the same way again! Second place was won by Vasyl Ivencheko, our Ukrainian friend shot very well and consistently throughout the weekend and is now leading the National League; Vasyl is clearly a very capable shooter. Your humble scribe took up the rear in third place.
Paul Sandie 182.06
Vasyl Ivenchenko 180.06
Des Parr 180.05
And finally, from time-to-time there are questions raised as to why do we in the UK use white V-bulls? When no other countries use them?, the implication being that we are in some ways out of step and should fall in line and comply with the rest of the world. Well, the weekend at Diggle would have easily answered that question; at times the visibility was so poor that the only distinct aiming mark we had was that white V-bull, without it, we’d have been practically shooting blind. Our distinctive white V-bull is a logical adaption to our environment; typically cloudy, overcast conditions often with poor visibility. Long may we uphold our own traditional target.
We return to Diggle in just five weeks for the Northern F-class Championships. Let’s hope and pray for better weather – see you there.
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