Three short weeks after the first, the team re-assembled for the second of three intensive training weekends. The weather was set to be unseasonably mild (24 degrees on Sunday) with calm winds, promising pleasant conditions for most. The downside of this warmer weather would turn out to be an outing for Matthew Ensor’s figure-hugging Union Jack shorts, and also a packing failure for this diarist, who arrived from the far North with a bag full of gloves, woolly hats, insulated trousers and other various winter training vestments. Perhaps they will come in handy in 4 weeks’ time…
After a delicious breakfast in the Surrey Rifle Association, the team moved out to 600 yards for some team drills and coached shooting exercises. These had been set by our main coach Bill Richards and were focussed on the stop start nature sometimes evident in international team shooting. A 2-sighter, 15 rounds to count shoot broken into segments was the set task, with the focus on the restart under direction of Bill and his target coaches. Like September, conditions were perfect for shooting with virtually no wind (and therefore no excuses), meaning that the hardest working people on the firing point were the plotters; overburdened as they were with an oversize plot sheet, extra boxes to complete and a stopwatch! Top of the heap at the mid-morning break were Messrs Patel and Luckman, both with 75.11.
In the break between ranges Nick Tremlett kindly gave Rick Shouler £10 so he could drive to Fat Tony’s and back in his Mustang. There was just enough change left from the fuel costs to buy a whistle wetting round of teas for his target team before a second shoot of the morning; a more standard 15-counting shot format. Top gun in this second detail was David Armstrong with a tidy 75.13 on the tight ICFRA 600y target.
Lunch was taken early in the Surrey, giving ample time to enjoy (and digest) Piotr and Ewelina’s excellent kitchen faire whilst prepping score books for the afternoon’s 1000 yard shoots.
As is often the case, as the weather (and therefore ground) warms during the day the winds start to come to life. Stickledown was no longer the millpond of the morning, and the coaching team had their work cut out. Communicating well via their Swatcom Multicom wireless headsets, firers were instructed to ‘go on’, ‘wait’ and ‘stop’ in pursuit of the centre of the target. Lateral deflection from the wind built during the afternoon from nearly nothing in the morning to over 8 feet left to right by mid-afternoon (for reference the bullseye is 20 inches wide, and the whole target board 10ft wide). Scores reflected the more challenging conditions with Rick Shouler (coached by Nick Tremlett) the top score with a 75.6. Or so he thought, until target coach Matthew Ensor (coached by Bill Richards) posted a 75.8 in the last shoot of the day. Well done both!
Shooting over for the day we retired to the Surrey (with almost all our car bumpers intact) for a team meeting, the main focus of which was the official commencement of the main event of the weekend – celebration of Chloë Evans’ 30th birthday. Tea, Harry Potter cakes (courtesy of the captain’s very talented wife) and a mostly polite birthday card set the tone for the rest of the evening, with a team meal out at the local excellent Indian Restaurant ‘Asiana’. Chloë’s precision planning meant that Asiana had received a spreadsheet with over 20 unique orders of food. All that remained was for people to listen carefully for their own order coming out – an instruction Seth was so busy explaining to everyone else that he missed his own order! Sated on a variety of colourful dishes supported by a mountain of poppadoms, naans and other sundries the team retired to the Surrey for one (or two) final birthday drinks before heading to bed ready for Sunday, and a first full run through of a Palma match day course of fire.
Sunday dawned clearer, warmer and even calmer than Saturday. 15 shots to count at 800, 900 and 1000 yards was the course of fire, the same as a single day in the Palma match itself. The pursuit of perfection was demanded by the captain and the team set out with this in mind. Relative to 900 and 1000 yards the target at 800 yards is large. As such shooting isn’t just about scoring bullseyes, but also maximising the number of V bulls scored. Theo Dodds, James Watson, Jon Underwood, Hannah Cook and Parag Patel all understood the briefing, returning impressive scores of 75.14, just 1 vee bull short of absolute perfection.
Back to 900 yards and conditions remained calm. Rosanne Furniss added her name to the 75.14 list, with Theo Dodds (coached by Seth Dowley) scoring a second consecutive 75.14 at 900x meaning he went into lunch having only dropped 2 vee bulls in the morning.
The afternoon session conditions proved to be a trickier version of the day before, with winds suddenly appearing over lunch. 1000 yards, already the tightest target, was made even more difficult by these rapidly changing winds and ‘wait’ and ‘stop’ were not uncommon commands on the mound. Drills from the day before came to the fore, with firers working hard to give their coaches the best value for their wind calls with timely, high-quality shots. Graham Nelson, Rick Shouler and David Luckman all returned 75s, with Paul Sykes leading the way with 75.11. Congratulations to David Luckman (coached by Matthew Ensor) for top individual on the day and to Nick Tremlett for top target team score.
After 1000x we headed back to the Surrey RA for one final debrief and wash up. The wash up being needed quite literally in the case of this diarist – after Bill Richards tipped a pint of lemonade in his lap! The captain set out the plan for the next 4 weeks, including instructions to James to avoid benzisothiazolone based grab adhesives (whilst Rick worked out if he needed some for his bumper) and to keep his eyes open during whole-team photographs.
See you all in 4 weeks!