After the unseasonably warm weather of first two training weekends of the autumn, the Team knew that their final weekend together in 2023 was going to be far colder and more testing. Storm Ciaran had run its way across the south of England for the preceding 2 days (with Bisley closing its ranges on the Thursday). Challenging winds for the coaches were promised, alongside a thorough testing of wet weather drills and and cold-weather clothing – although, on the plus side, the bare leg count dropped to zero.
The Captain’s brief for the weekend was for a full run-through (or close to it) of the Palma match itself; being a 4 target, 15 scoring shot match at 800, 900 and 1000 yards (or 700,800 and 900m in South Africa) on each of 2 days. Restrictions on the range template meant that we would only be able to shoot at 800 yards early on the Saturday morning – and Storm Ciaran had decided that even this wasn’t to be, with torrential rain only abating at mid-morning. So it transpired that Saturday would be 15 scoring rounds at 900,1000 and 1000 and Sunday would be twice at 900 and then once at 1000.
While the rain battered the ranges, Saturday morning was spent enjoying another excellent breakfast from Piotr at the Surrey RA. The vice-captain took his chance to update us all on his specialist subject of team kit. Tour blazers, kit bags and a dubious selection of team shirts were presented for size and sense checking before Rick Shouler updated the team on progress with the tour brochure. The team is almost entirely self-funded and is very grateful to a number of companies and individuals for helping us. If you are interested in supporting the team by advertising in our brochure please get in touch with us via our social media accounts or by emailing the webmaster.
With 800 yards lost to the deluge, the team headed out to 900x for the first range of the day. A number of the team were doing their best impressions of Sanka (Cool Runnings, Walt Disney, 1993) whilst others went for either the triathlete dri-robe or the road worker look all in an effort to stay warm and dry. As the front moved off into the distance conditions settled rather nicely. As Keith and his representatives from team-sponsor Swatcom looked on, Matthew Ensor and his target team hit the ground running, with all 5 firers keeping all their shots inside the 20 inch bullseye. Paul Sykes (Coach: Derek Lowe) was the best of the those ‘going clean’ with 11 of his 15 also inside the 10 inch vee bull; a score of 75.11. Remarkable marksmanship and wind calling.
Following a warming bowl or two of goulash in the Surrey RA for lunch, we moved to the first of two 1000 yard shoots in the afternoon. A more challenging target and increasingly changeable winds were reflected in the scores, with timing of shots or waits (avoiding the odd gust or lull) being a key skill. Matthew Button and David Rose registered their second 75 of the day but top score of the distance was Glyn Barnett (coach: Nick Tremlett) with 75.10. The last shoot of the day, also at 1000x, commenced with the wintery, milky sun at a low angle, making sight pictures difficult. And the cold was really setting in. Winds weakened as the shoot progressed but avoiding the extremes remained key. Pleasingly, the team registered no fewer than eight 75s. Most impressively, Matthew Button scored 75.12 for a one-day total score of 225.28. Congratulations to Matthew and to his coach, Seth Dowley.
After a talk from Paul Duxbury, Captain of the GB Dewar (smallbore) team, Saturday evening was a target-team affair, with the smaller groups heading out for dinner together at a location of their choosing. Warming comfort food choices (perhaps outnumbering more healthy, athletic ones) were washing down appropriately – with this diarist’s target enjoying the sommelier services of the VC – before early nights all round (under several duvets!).
Sunday dawned brighter but colder, largely due to the change of wind direction from a South-westerly to a biting North-westerly. This, coupled with a low sun from behind, presented a number of challenges; including streaming eyes, buffeted rifles, moving shadows, partially shaded foresights and numb trigger fingers. All but the last of these may be present in South Africa and whilst unpleasant it is a worthwhile exercise training for them. In spite of these conditions there were seven scores of 75, Parag Patel, Rosanne Furniss, Chloe Evans and Toby Raincock all scoring 75.9. Again, Seth Dowley’s target demonstrated their love of 900 yards by ‘going clean’ and not dropping a point – nicely done!
The second shoot of the day, also at 900 yards commenced at 10:15. By this time the wind had arrived in earnest, with relatively steady patches of 6-7 minutes of lateral deflection (5-6 feet on the target face) being punctuated by squaring gusts of up to 8 feet which left as fast as they arrived. Despite our shared vigilance, visits to the 3-ring occurred for the unlucky, and calls of wait were not infrequent. Glyn Barnett, and his score of 72.12 unfortunately found himself in this unlucky group. Still there were some excellent scores, Parag Patel (Ensor), Tom Drysdale (Pepera-Hibbert), Rick Shouler (Tremlett) all returned 75s, with David Luckman (Ensor) top gun with 75.9.
Lunch (more goulash and some excellent Schnitzel, if you’re interested) allowed time for the rain clouds to gather before the final shoot of the weekend at 1000 yards. Winds had built as the front came through (up to 12 feet of lateral deflection). This really tested the coaches, and the firers ability to fire good shots quickly on command. But Stickledown once again decided to be kinder than feared, providing enough steady patches to build some healthy scores. There were a number of 74s, and four 75s, with Toby Raincock (Dowley) and Parag Patel (Ensor) being pipped by a pair of 75.9s by Rosanne Furniss (Ensor) and Paul Sykes (Lowe). Congratulations to Parag Patel (Ensor) on a remarkable 2-day score of 448.50 – just two points dropped – and to Seth Dowley’s target for their high scores across the weekend.
As the team departed Bisley, all that remained (aside from warming up) was to ensure that team and individual winter training and equipment plans were set into motion before we meet again in February.
See you then.