Seven weeks post-Imperial meeting, and with a new stock of range credits earned from friends and family, team members met up at Bisley for the first of three training weekends in quick succession. Spirits were high, sausages and hash browns in plentiful supply and the sun began to make an appearance as the Captain set out the goals for the next 3 training weekends, spread across just 7 weeks in the British autumn. The main focus for this weekend was to get back into team shooting mode following a busy summer of predominantly individual competition.
After an initially cool and misty start, the weather for Saturday promised unusual warmth and sunshine with very steady, gentle winds. And so it proved. With several coaches trying their best to put off the firers with close-ups of their knobbly knees and pale calves we set about the first technical shoot at 900 yards. This 10- round warm up shoot should have been a fairly straightforward affair (with wind moving no more than a half minute either side of 3 minutes of angle), however, the armourer and vice-captain were making their very best Tigger/Bugs Bunny impressions, popping up and zooming around all over the place making recordings and observations as the firers tried to focus on the little black blob at the other end of Stickledown range. Despite Tom and Trem’s best efforts there were a number of 50s, with David Luckman (coach: Matthew Ensor) and Alastair Haley (coach: Derek Lowe) showing everyone else how to do it with a pair of tidy 50.10s!
With the distractions over, the real team drills started, mimicking the 2 sighter and 15 counting shot format of the Palma match. Blue skies, crisp sight pictures and steady winds allowed the firers to really test their marksmanship, although perhaps the main coach might have hoped for more challenging winds. Chloe Evans, Parag Patel, and James Watson shared the pre-lunch spoils with 75.13 each.
After an excellent lunch including tea (of course), sandwiches and a Caesar salad that risked being more Caesar than salad, we moved back to 1000 yards. Conditions remained very favourable, and scores continued to be pleasing, perhaps a combined reflection of the target teams getting familiar with each other and the settled winds. Chloe again shot very accurately, as did Nigel Ball, both scoring 150 out of 150 to be added to their clean scores from the morning – Shooting 4 times at the longest ranges without dropping a point is no mean feat!
The final act of the afternoon was left to our coaches, and their chance to get some trigger time. Matthew Ensor showed us all how it should be done shooting a very smart 75.15. A 75 at 1000 yards is always pleasing, to do it with all 15 shots inside the 10 inch/25cm ICFRA target V-bull is quite remarkable. Well done to Matthew and to his coach David Luckman, returning the favour from his 50.10 in the morning!
Saturday evening was a team dinner hosted by the North London Rifle Club. The adjutant’s excellent planning meant that the correct meal choices magically arrived at the right places. Good company, aided by good wine and an interesting Q&A from the vice-captain, provided an excellent finish to the day.
Sunday dawned with several of the team looking at their smartphone radar pictures to see the growing threat of heavy rain by lunchtime. If nothing else this was a helpful motivator for slick team drills as shooting got away promptly at 900 yards. The course of fire was again 2 sighters and 15 scoring shots, and whilst the impending rain meant the winds were more ‘interesting’ as the weather front came through there were still some 75s scored, with Chloe Evans top of the pile with a 75.11. A second detail with increasing wind gusts promised more dropped points to wind, but some excellent communication and firer management from the coaches minimised these with judicious use of ‘waits’ and ‘stops’. Most impressive of the lot was James Watson with 75.14, excellent stuff! The Surrey Open individual competitors shooting on targets nearby didn’t have the luxury of such waits, and lateral shots were commonplace.
An eery lull had settled on the range by the end of the session, but happily all were packed away (well, most; In his desire to be first to the Caesar Salad the Main coach may have left his scope and chair on the range) and back in the North London Rifle Club by the time the heavens finally opened.
A working lunch discussing fitness, equipment and future training and tour plans completed the weekend. Stickledown had been very kind and delivered the perfect introduction to this final phase of our training but we had also learnt much and achieved some notable scores. Top gun for the weekend was Chloe Evans with 425.53 (ex 425.70), coached by Seth Dowley. Truly excellent shooting.