17/10 WILRC Day 2

Changing winds that made lesser men cry
Saw our young Richard Jeens flying high.
Though most scores were insane
The long day's sharpest pain
Was Paul Sykes' bouncy castle black eye.

Given the rather odd arrangement of daily aggregates, there was some doubt as to whether it was Day 1 or Day 2 of the World Individual.  Whatever, it was the second day of shooting the World Individual Championships and conditions could not be more different.  Replacing the steaming, 28 degree sweat-fest we’d struggled through on Sunday, today was cold, blustery and filled with promises of showers.  Even more cheering was the fact that, with three ranges to fit in, it was an 8 a.m. start, so wagons rolled from the hotel particularly early.

800 yards started cold and with a moderate wind that was predominantly from the left.  This wind increased in strength as the promised storms came in and wind reading became a challenging test of angle (and not firing at the wrong time). None this put Andre du Toit off, however, as he scored a quite magnificent 75.15.  Perhaps the only surprise was that he did not win the range by more than a few V-bulls.   For once the weather forecast seemed remarkably accurate, as later details at 800 yards got very wet when the showers came in.  Somewhat surprisingly shooting was stopped not once but twice as the targets were deemed too shrouded in rain and mist to be shot at safely.  This was surprising for those competitors who are more accustomed to shooting in the wet – Scottish, Welsh and New Zealand shooters to the fore – and frustrating for those shooters forced to get up mid-shoot (and so get even more wet) only to get back down again shortly after.  Frustrating too for those shooters who rushed to finish before the rain arrived, but then perhaps those who will be wearing a blazer come Palma match day rather than shooting or coaching need to focus on the weather rather than points.

Moving back to 900 yards and the commensurately tighter bull, conditions did not get any easier.  No particular squad had it easy and each shooter had to use their allotted 23 minutes judiciously to stay on the target, let alone the middle of it.  With a now strong headwind and regular gusts, wind calls for any given shoot seemed to range from 1 right to 6 left.  Particularly difficult was spotting when to make the adjustment from, say, 3 to 6 as the angle flickered fractionally and, at times, feverishly.  Scores ranged widely across the team and also across the competitors generally but still the South Africans claimed the range with an impressive 75.

Following a brief interlude for lunch, we moved back to the howling gale at 1000 yards. The headwind remained resolutely strong with gusts and lulls that affected both elevation and windage.  Overall, conditions were toughest at the start and the end with a comparatively – and this was only comparatively – easier patch for the middle firers.  Unless blessed by the coincidence of your particular 23 minutes and a calm or steady patch, anything over about 65 was competitive and did at least imply limited visits to the low-scoring extremes of the target.  Still, there were some good scores, and so when the overall standings list was published the team had four of the top 11 places – Richard Jeens, David Luckman, Jane Messer and Nick Tremlett.  With four ranges still to go, however, all was bound to change and there were certainly no prizes for surviving thus far.

In contrast, however, there were two prizes for Paul Sykes at the daily presentation.  The first for his outstanding 75.11 at 1000 yards on Sunday and then the second for winning the ‘daily aggregate’ with 224.23.  (In fact, this ‘daily aggregate’ included the 900 and 1000 yards shoots from Sunday and the 800 yards shoot from Monday.  Neither this rather confusing arrangement nor the sparkling black eye that his room mate had inflicted seemed to put a damper on a beeming Paul as he collected his prizes!)

Prizes over we returned, exhausted to the hotel to prepare for what promised to be another tough day on Tuesday.