“Water, water everywhere – so much I can’t see the targets.”
The first day of the English and Scottish Spring Meeting at Bisley – also, in a remarkable sign that the Buck House planners don’t consult on all dates with the Committee of the English Eight Club, the day of the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III – was wet. Very wet. But while the RAF scaled down their fly past, their was no stopping the intrepid shooters of the match rifle community (other than a certain eminent Welsh competitor, who took one look at the sky and decided the day was not for her).
At 1000 yards in the morning, the rain didn’t prevent high scores: Julian Peck lead the way with 75.13, followed by 12 other possibles. Initial volleys out of the way, shooting paused in time to watch the key moments of the Coronation. Vivat Rex!
With His Majesty duly acclaimed, it was back to Stickledown. A brief lull in the rain over lunch prompted some to think the worst was past. How wrong they were: instead, the resumption of shooting coincided perfectly with the return of the rain, soon coming down so hard that a ceasefire had to be called as all that could be seen was the white mist of a downpour. Scores suffered accordingly – and not just because scorecards were dissolved and writing rendered illegible by the torrents. Angus McLeod and Dick Winney produced the only 75s, with only six 74s on their heels.
By 1200, several shooters were on their third change of clothes, and shooting was proceeding sporadically, with self-declared pauses whenever visibility dropped too low. Mark Crichton Maitland lead the distance, with 74.10, followed by fellow Scots Alex Hunter and Will Meldrum on 74.09 and 74.07. At the end of the day, two more Scots were in pole position – make of that what you will – with Ron Scaglione on 223.26 (winning the H. G. Courth Memorial Trophy) and Angus on 222.35, followed by Rob Lygoe on 222.22.
With shooting over, it was time for the true Coronation celebrations to begin. Competitors crammed into the English Eight for scones, Union Flag cake, cheese, and wines red, white and blue pink, to toast His Majesty. As if this wasn’t enough, a hearty dinner in the North followed for most, with beef, gammon, and a fine array of puddings served up by Sylvia, Jeremy and the team.
The next morning dawned grey, but – thankfully – dry. Less pleasant was the author’s kit: a full 15 hours in the drying room had failed to expel the damp.
1000 yards saw mild fishtailing winds, predominantly from the left – just enough to edge a few shots out for the unwary. For the wary, though, they presented no problem: David Dashwood put in 75.13, while Rob Lygoe repeated his thousand yard score of 75.11 from the previous day, tied with Claire Halleran. As the temperatures built steadily, winds picked up too, with quick changes of angle and strength offering the opportunity for pitfalls. Tim Brooking lead the pack with 75.12, followed as at the previous distance by two 75.11s, from David Dashwood and Gareth James.
By 1200, the sun had even come out – finally offering an opportunity to dry off some damp kit – and with it, a seven minute wind bracket for the author’s Sierra 210s (a bracket represented far too clearly across the whole target). With only a dozen scores in the 70s – and almost as many in the 50s – it was left to Rob Lygoe to demonstrate his mastery, with a 75.06 putting him two points clear of next-best Angus McLeod’s 73.05.
Rob’s score capped a very strong showing across the day, and won him the Martin Smith Challenge Cup for Sunday’s aggregate, with a precisely reversed top three from Saturday: what had been Ron, Angus, Rob was now Rob (224.24), Angus (221.26), Ron (219.26).
The same order held firm for the weekend as a whole. Rob triumphed, winning the Welsh RA Aggregate Trophy with 446.46 (keen observers will notice a pattern to his scores across the weekend), followed by Angus on 443 with an impressive 61 Vs, and Ron on 442.52. The three were well ahead of the rest of the pack: ten points separated Rob from fourth placed Rick Whitby (436.43) while a further ten points got you down to 24th place. They also held the top three places for the LD Ranken Memorial Trophy for 1200 yards, won by Rob (149.11) followed by Ron (146.15) and Angus (145.16).
Rob also won Lord Cottesloe’s Cup & the English Eight Jewels, for the top English shot, with Rick second and Ashley Abrahams (435.50) third. Jon Sweet (434.44) came third for the Scottish Eight Cup. Fiona Day (427.31) won the Powell Ladies’ Trophy, followed by Harriett Nuttall (426.46) and Claire Halleran (425.36). Thomas Nightingale won the OCRA Trophy for Under 25s with 426.42, ahead of Emma Stratford (405.25) and Hugo Malim (404.26). And – his Captain-competitor having withdrawn in the face of the reign – Gareth James secured the Welsh RA Challenge Cup, with an unchallenged but certainly creditable 435.46.
Thanks as ever to the English Eight Club for organising a splendid weekend of shooting, and in particular to Michael Hissey for his squadding, to Frank Carlin and Andrew Forrester for their stalwart range officering, and to the Sussex markers for superb work in the face of horrible conditions.
The next Bisley MR event will be the North Teams Match on 20th May. In the meantime, if HM the King wants any tips on long and successful reigns, Rob Lygoe is clearly the man to ask!