Free State Championships

Graham Nelson

Friday signalled the start of individual competition shooting in the Free State Championships, the traditional warm-up to the South African Champs (or SA Bisley as they call it). Course of fire was to be 2 sighters and 10 to count at 300m and 800m, and 2 sighters and 11 to count at 600m and 900m, shot in distance order.

Conditions initially seemed very similar to yesterday’s practice day. However, and even before the end of 300m, the wind was showing signs of being less strong, more fickle, and moving through zero even more than it had the day before. Unpacking the buses at the range was not without incident, as Rick Shouler realised that he couldn’t find his scorebook amongst his kit. After a brief period of panic and some headscratching over sight settings, he set off for the point with some borrowed cards.

Scores at 300m were strong, with 12 maximum scores of 50 made. Messers Haley, Ensor, Underwood, Alexander and Nelson topping the pile, all with 50.7. Moving back to 600m the full heat of the day was evident, with fast changing tricky winds coming down the range from behind. Happily, everyone overcame habbit and remembered to stay prone for all 11 shots but scores did reflect the conditions with only 4 maximum scores of 55, Hannah Cook leading the way with an impressive 55.8.

The two scores were combined to form the short-range aggregate, with Rosanne Furniss finishing 3rd, and Matthew Ensor winning with 105.13.

After lunch the focus switched to long range shooting, which promised to be most challenging with quick changes of direction not infrequently seeing shots into the 3 ring (and sometimes further out). Five 50s were registered by the team at 800m, the highest being a most impressive 50.8 by Nick Healy. The final shoot of the very hot day was the 11 round 900m competition. Whilst the heat of the day was starting to relent, the lower sun now started to create some interesting shadows on the sight picture. There were no scores of 55 from the team at this range, Paul Sykes the top scoring Brit with 54.3.

One hundred hot and tired state and international shooters retired to the mess hall on the range camp to swap stories of what could have been over a beer and to applaud Johann du Toit, the overall winner with a brilliant score of 208, dropping just 2 points over the whole day.

The team packed up and returned to the hotel to rest and prepare for tomorrow’s ‘Scottish Sword’ match but not before a rather sheepish Rick Shouler discovered that he did have his scorebook, which had been in his bag all day!