Captains Report 2004

Well done all on a very successful season for the County of London FBRT.

This e-mail is by way of rounding up the county shooting season (which, other than this year’s County Jewels, is now sadly over!).

Highlights have been:

  • 1st in the King George V Challenge Cup for the champion county of England (July)
  • 1st in the NRA Long Range Match of the Inter-Counties competition (June)
  • 1st in the Purples Match (April)
  • 1st in aggregate, all trophy matches

If you were one of those who read the e-mail accompanying the announcement of the team for the KG V heat in early May, skip the first bit of this e-mail and rejoin us where it says “Competitive matches”.

Early season

The first match was against Surrey, the Army and British Universities. Yorkshire were not able to raise a team and, to be honest, nor were we to the extent that we would have liked – only five of us were able to make it on the Sunday before Easter. Nevertheless, it was useful practice, with a good level of camaraderie from those who were there, and Rupert Elvins shot very well to top-score for us. We lost against each of the other teams, who had rather larger numbers from which to select their five counting scores.

Our second match was the new fixture against London University, with a full eight turning out for both sides (though ULU’s contained three ringers). The skipper came in for a fair bit of stick along the lines of “whose bright idea was this” as the weather persisted as cold, sodden and windy all day. Not quite true, in fact – it only rained while we were shooting and only for the full duration of each range. We gained some valuable wet weather practice and will be well prepared for similar weather in the future. A good team effort (especially with the umbrellas) saw us win the five-person match against ULU by 486.53 to 469.43 and the eight-person match against (effectively) the British Universities by the narrower margin of 763.76 to 757.81. Our top scorer was John Norman with 99.14, while the opposition’s best was another County of London shot, Alex Woodward on 99.10.

Our third warm-up match was another handsome win, against Middlesex and Hertfordshire. Here, the value of our London University link became very apparent, as we counted three of ULU’s scores concurrently for our total and they were three of our four highest scorers. This was, again, a good team effort from those who shot together (in far superior weather than the previous weekend, so we could prove our ability in the toasty stuff), and we won by 1530.144 (best 8 from 12) against Hertfordshire’s 1511.129 (8 from 14) and Middlesex’s 1478.112 (all 8). Top scorer in the Empire Match was Rachel Wenham on 195.24, with Paul Sykes (194.21) and Alex Woodward (194.16) the other ULU contributors to the total. Top scorers of those shooting on the County’s targets were Adam Jory (194.20) and James Dallas (192.18).

Competitive matches

This seemed to bode well for the first ‘competitive’ outing of the season, the Purples Match for the Falconer Trophy. This was among the best performances I can remember from the County team – an immensely pleasing result as we won the 22-team competition by a clear 10 points. London’s score of 1183.142 was, I think, a record score for London. Paul Sykes, who shot for us in the morning, made the highest score on all teams with a 150.20 for the second-placed Purples Club team in the afternoon. However, Adam Jory was our team’s top scorer with 150.18. All members of the team deserve praise for a very professional and very strong performance.

Despite the absence of a few Celts and Channel Islanders, the team for the KG V heat was just as strong as the Purples Match team. There were rather more people shooting very well, that I wanted to select to shoot, than there were spaces available – as was the case for the rest of the season. The match against the Exiles on the preceding afternoon provided some welcome practice and a confidence boost for the English within the county and it bore fruit in one of the most nail-bitingly competitive matches of the season.

Our KG V heat is a tough one each year. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire were, unfortunately, unable to raise teams. Of those who shot, though, even Wiltshire have some very strong team members and shot a score, to come 4th, that would have been 5th in the final. Berkshire scored a fine 1164, yet were left trailing by twenty points by Hampshire and London. Hampshire proved themselves tough rivals for the major competitive honours by scoring more than our record achieved in the Purples Match – they made 1184.138. Yet London’s self-belief and consistent scoring helped us sneak past with (I believe) a new county best of 1185.139: a margin of one point and one V-bull. No fewer than five people (Richard Hebblethwaite, David Armstrong, Nick Brasier, Tim Green and Graham Atkinson) scored 149, and they had needed to. And that was just the heat!

Our next major match was the Inter-Counties. Paul Sykes was London’s top scorer in the R. Jarvis with our only 75.

An indication of the level London has reached was to be found in the team’s disappointment that, hampered by indifferent ammunition, we finished “only” 4th in the Lt. Col. H. Jones match at short range, with 1150.108. Adam Jory top-scored with 148.16 and we were 7 points behind winners Surrey. This was the first match in which we used the new, wired-together coaching head-sets, which proved their worth the following day.

Saturday’s disappointment was reversed on Sunday, in the NRA Long Range match. At 900 yards, Hertfordshire built what appeared to be a commanding lead, and they were squadded on range 0 at 1000 yards, which seemed likely to favour them. But some straight shooting and judicious use of time (not least when the big change from left to right wind happened) saw London come through to win the match by 5 points, with 1144.109, 5 ahead of Surrey and 10 ahead of Herts. Top scorer for the second time that weekend was Adam Jory, with 146.16, making a total of 294.32.

We also had two teams in the Clive Amstein that weekend, with the Under 25s coming 3rd and London ‘B’ 4th. All of the Inter-Counties results were achieved against a background of a number of unavailable squad members, which speaks volumes for our depth of talent. However, we want to improve further next year and I would love to be able to select from a full squad for every competitive match next year. I’ll give indications later of likely dates for all our 2005 matches, to that end.

Imperial Meeting

And so to the Imperial Meeting, which kicked off with the greatest highlight of the season, even for a captain who was not eligible (by virtue of National allegiance) to do anything more on the day than talk to the team: the Final of the KG V. After dropping 12 points at 300 yards, in tricky conditions and with “average” ammunition, London trailed Surrey and Somerset. After dropping a further 13 points at 500 yards, we remained behind Surrey but with Somerset in the lead. Yet, after dropping 16 more points at 600 yards (one more than in the full three ranges of the KG V Heat!), we had overhauled both and won by 3 points. Crucial to the this achievement was a stop of a few minutes’ duration at a time when both Somerset targets were showing magpies and the use of a subsequent firer’s sighters as pilots for our third men down. Our third men finished with 48s to Somerset’s pair of 43s (coached by the Luckmans; Nigel and birthday boy Brian did superbly to outdo such opponents so convincingly) and we came home with 1159.123, with Paul Sykes the highest scorer on 149.18.

The KG V win was a particular highlight not just because of the strength of the opposition in both Heat and Final, but also in part because of the time elapsed since our last win. Before last year, we had not reached the Final since 1981. This year was our first win since 1951. Well done you Sassenachs!

Our competitive season ended last Tuesday with the County Short Range (Senior) and County Long Range. We entered slightly different teams in each and, as so often is the case on Second Tuesday, had the ammunition issue to contend with. Nevertheless, our performance in the County Short was not a bad one; we finished 4th with 779.87, after several instances of waiting for temporary right wind to return to the prevailing left condition. For once (in the County Short over the years; pleasingly, it has been a regular feature this season), 300 yards was our strength – if we had repeated that at 600 yards, we would have won. We finished 5 points behind winners Hertfordshire and 1 point off the podium, with Nick Brasier and Adam Jory both scoring 100.13.

The County Long Range was our least successful competitive outing this season. We finished 9th with 565.51, only 1 point behind Surrey (though with 13 more ‘V’ bulls!) but a full 14 behind the East of Scotland. 14 points below us was 29th place! As if to confirm their promise from the KG V Heat, Hampshire were second with three ex-Londoners on board. The lost points were a team effort (as always!), but Michael Walton’s 97.11 was our strongest performance, and represented a triumph in the lowest light of the day.

The team was rightly disappointed, but the strength of feeling that accompanied both results last Tuesday were, again, clear indications that we have come to demand very high standards of ourselves. That is no bad thing.

In Summary:

That last result should not detract from a very good season indeed. The year was subsequently capped by some notable performances in the big individual competitions during the Imperial Meeting: 11 London shots (Woodward, Jory, Dixon, Sykes, Green, Dallas, Elvins, Brasier, Hebblethwaite, Walton and Norman) finished in the top 200 of the Grand, 3 (Green, Hebblethwaite and Woodward) made the Queen’s Final and 4 (Jory, Dixon, Hebblethwaite and Woodward) made the St. George’s Final. Alex distinguished himself by winning the Silver Medal for the highest score in Queen’s II. And Brian, deservedly, was rewarded for some very fine county and club coaching performances with selection for the English team for the Combined Services Match and a reserve (plotter) spot on England’s Mackinnon team. Well done, one and all.

But there’s another way of looking at those individual results. Our highest places in the individual competitions were 15th in the Queen’s (Tim Green), 16th in the Grand (Alex Woodward) and 26th in the St. George’s (Adam Jory). All are excellent results (I wish I could do the same! Pointers, anyone?) but they are also ample evidence of the London team’s nature – it is not dependent on stars with others making up the numbers, but rather it hangs on on the performance of all members of the team, as confirmed by the broad spread of top scorers (8 different people in 10 matches this year; a different one in every match last year). If any more evidence were needed, it would be found in the table of scores below: four people took part in all four competitive victories this season, and they finished with almost identical total scores – indeed they might all have been identical if Nick Brasier’s sighters had not been sacrificed at 600 yards in the KG V Final for the good of the team.

That sums it up really – every person mentioned above, and every person who has helped out this year, is a good team player. A team packed full of team players (who happen to be rather good shots) is a great recipe for a successful team. Scores from our competitive wins are in the table attached below – note that there are 14 firers and no team match has required more than 8!

 

So what have we learnt?

We’ve had a successful season, but there have still been plenty of lessons to take from it, some of which we have learnt before but have been reminded of or have come to appreciate even more. Let me know if you come up with any in addition to the following:

  1. We have the self-belief to be able to come from behind and win. Now that we have done so on more than one occasion, it is a lot easier to believe that recoveries are possible and that we have it in us to pull through (though it is far better to start ahead);
  2. Speed (in firing and in changeover) gives us the luxury of time, and communication can turn that luxury to a points advantage via well-timed stops;
  3. Firers should be down and ready on the firing point as soon as their space is clear (i.e. as soon as the firer before them starts), in case we need to use their sighters as pilots to maximise the team score. Our firing point system facilitates this;
  4. If we have the luxury of two firers with sighters ready in a two-sighters-per-person match, we should use one sighter from each firer rather than both of one firer’s sighters;
  5. Patience is a virtue when it comes to wind. If you think you can wait for the conditions to return to something you recognise, that’s far better than soldiering on and guessing. Don’t be in a hurry to re-start unless you’re sure;
  6. Some people want to leave a successful county for one where they may be an automatic choice, rather than fighting for a place; others want to join a successful county and be part of the team. I, for one, welcome them. I hope all of you remain a part of this squad and, as ever, remain interested in hearing about up-and-coming shooters born or living in London or whose parents or grandparents were born here;
  7. There is no room for complacency. Two 4th places and a 9th prove that there are plenty of competitive counties out there. Each of the matches we didn’t win was won by a different county: Hertfordshire, East of Scotland and Surrey; but
  8. We now know we have it in us to win every match we enter. We won 3 out of the 6 trophy matches we entered this year. Realistically, we should aim to be on the podium every time (which no county achieved this year) and to take the victories that naturally follow;
  9. If Surrey has been our benchmark, we have now ensured that they treat us as theirs. They only managed to edge us into second place by two points in both the Inter-Counties Aggregate (2296.208 vs. 2294.205) and the Grist Cup (2505.239 vs. 2503.261: well done firers on those ‘V’ bulls!). But taking the results of all 6 of this season’s trophy matches in aggregate, the totals are (with these two counties well out in front of the rest): 1. London 5980.608 2. Surrey 5973.588

Well done London.

Matt

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