State President I

Graham Nelson

Thursday is a long day of individual shooting; 5 distances, and then tie-shoots for those lucky enough to make them! First order of business is the 1st stage of the State President’s. This is the South African Bisley Union’s equivalent of HM the Kings Prize back home in the UK. With 7 scoring shots each at 300, 500 and 600m. The daily pattern of Bloemfontein weather seemed to be on the cards again today with a fresh easterly breeze greeting the firers at 300m. In spite of it being such a short distance, a fresh breeze can have an effect on a bullet and careful attention was needed to watch for changes in angle. Clearly many of the squad were watching carefully as 18 team mates sent all 7 of their shots into the bullseye, Theo Dodds top of the tree with 35.6.

Back to 500m and the already fresh breeze had perhaps ingested several polo mints and a couple of tic-tacs, as it now varied between running square across the range and a fine angle over the shoulder. Fortunately the 500m bull is proportionally the largest of the short range bulls and this perhaps aided those who didn’t see all of the angle changes (Nick Healy managed to find the V-bull only once this time during his 35!). 18 more 35s were added to the score-sheet as we moved back to 600m, with 10 of the team still yet to drop a point.

Conversely to 500m, the 600m bullseye is one of the smallest, and so it proved as the heat of the mid-day sun added to the mischief of the wind and pushed many shots into the 4-ring (and maybe some even further). By the time lunch had been declared, only 5 members of the team were left unscathed. Hannah Cook, Theo Dodds, Parag Patel, Toby Raincock all scored 105 ex. 105, with Parag Patel the top team member with 105.15.

The afternoon presented the final two shoots of the Grand Aggregate. The Municipal Cup at 800m and the Col. R. Bodley Memorial match at 900m.

The General de Wet ranges are arranged as 6 butts each of 9 targets set out in a line. There are wind flags every 100m up each side of the range, and a central column of flags which run down the centre. These flags are of uniform size and weight and so, in theory, behave the same in the wind. When the wind is coming from the rear and “fishtailing” (as is often the case in the middle of the day) being allocated (or squadded) on a target close to one of these flag lines gives an excellent perspective on the direction of the wind. Accordingly, firers with these cards could be seen clutching them like a Willy Wonka golden ticket as they made their way to the firing point at 1 o’clock. Mixed in with this tricky wind, and the inevitable dropped points it causes, was some very impressive shooting. Parag Patel and David Luckman both managed to score 50 with 8 V-bulls, and in so doing added to a long list of tie-shoots to be adjudicated by General McGill Alexander, the chief range officer – but more on these later.

Back to 900 and the Col. Bodley Match. Col. Bodley was a leading South African Shooter in the early part of the 20th Century. He captained South Africa and won the St Georges Vase during the Imperial Meeting in 1920. He also placed 3rd in HM The King’s Prize in 1938.

Later in the day the sun starts to drop in Bloemfontein and the mirage can become more tricky to read. In addition today gathering storm clouds started to affect the light levels, and bring strong gusts and the odd whole in the wind – no problem if you weren’t shooting in them! Visits to the 4 ring were common, and even for the most experienced local so were visits to the 3 ring. Chris Mitchell rose above all others in the team and posted a mighty score of 50.4, well done Sir!

And so, onto the tie shoots. There were 4 in all, all with British interest. The first was between Captain Jeremy Langley and Nigel Ball, at 900m to decide the Scottish Sword. With the whole squad watching and some conflicting wind during the sighters Nigel Ball eventually ran out the winner 24.2 to Jeremy’s 21.1.

At 800m two of our most successful team mates found themselves facing off against each other with Parag Patel and David Luckman shooting for the Municipal Cup. After the traditional 5 shots of the tie shot the pair still could not be separated, both scoring 25.3, and so the tie went to sudden death. Just at this point the wind decided to switch sides, and with Parag’s shot was dragged into the 4 ring. David managed to find the bull, and with it, 1st place.

We then moved forwards to 600m to decide the Kings Norton Cup. This time the tie was between Paul Sykes and Glyn Barnett. With the social media team in full swing showing the match on a Facebook live stream, Glyn Barnett running out the winner with a score of 25.3.

The final tie of the day was a 6 way shoot-off for the Jack Mitchley cup at 300m. There were 3 GB team members: Matthew Ensor, David Luckman and Glyn Barnett. These three were competing against JC Jonck and Lambert Brand from South Africa, and Bob Stegetee from the USA. David Luckman added to his earlier victory with a floorless 25.5, congratulations.

In the evening the team, along with other international shooters were invited to the SABU dinner. The main event during this dinner is the exchanging of gifts by the various team captains and then the announcement and introduction of each captains team selections for the upcoming Protea match. With much pride, and even more clapping, the Captain announced his team for the match to our South African, American and English opposition for Saturday. More team news to follow.