Two thirty pea em. I wandered over to the window and gazed out over the harbour. Through sheets of squally rain, I could just make out the approaching ferry grinding its way through the white caps.
I started to feel excited… in another hour, the long weekend would begin and we would be awaiting to board the return sailing over the Cook Strait to the South Island.
Of course we aren’t planning on courageously crossing tumultuous oceans for nothing! We are heading to Blenheim for the first championship of the season, and it is a biggie! A sea voyage, 10 ranges plus a 15 shot team shoot. All this in one 3-day weekend.
The Overseas Trip
Three thirty pea em. Freedom at last! I bounced out of work to where Jared was patiently waiting (when I say patient, I mean with the engine idling and the car already in gear!)
We met up with the rest of the Petone team in the Interislander holding pen and settled down for the bladder-stretching wait to board the boat.
Whilst waiting, we realised that
- We haven’t yet introduced the newest addition to the HotloadeD team,
- It is his first trip away, first championship and first time on the ferry!
Without further ado, we would like to introduced Ralf the HotloadeD Kiwi. He is looking quite nervous about the impending adventure. This wasn’t entirely unjustified as he managed to live up to his name on the lumpy ride.
Ten thirty pea em. After a largely uneventful trip (In which Vic managed to play “Bonanza” in the team scrabble game), we arrived tired and travel worn at our the house of our lovely hosts in Blenheim. Huge thank you to Malcolm and Gail for putting us up and putting up with us for three days. It was so much fun!
We tucked the rifles in for the night and melted into bed.
A cloudless crisp Marlborough morning dragged us out of bed. The sun was already eroding the half-hearted frost. Snow-speckled hills framed the regimental rows of raw Sauvignon Blanc.
The South Island sparkled.
After the usual coffee/pie/registration/gossip malarkey, we found ourselves once again on the 300yard mound. A carnival atmosphere prevailed and the sun was warm. The wind was delicate with the mirage often showing opposite to the flags. It turned out that the mirage was the thing to watch!
Vic: I found myself in trouble straight away. I need a raiser for my rear sights (one is on the way!) but I have been coping without it whilst in training and while shooting at Trentham. Because of the unusual angle of the 300yard mound in Blenheim, the problem was accentuated and I discovered that I could not see through my sights! I was looking through my eyebrow, the foresight was drifting out the top of my peep and it felt like I was going vertically crosseyed which not only was very painful but I was also seeing double, triple, and occasionally just black blurry goo… I did not think that there was anything that I could do about it in the middle of a match so I sucked it up, blinked a lot and kept shooting.
I made sure that I was paying good attention to the wind to help minimise the problem but I was mostly just using intuition as to when the aiming mark was centered. The saving grace was that the targets were bright, the sighting was (probably) lovely and I am used to gritting my way through pain from all the long distance running that I partake in. I lost a shot to wind and also lost my last shot when the eye-pain was starting to get unbearable and I completely lost my sight picture just as I fired. All in all, I am not unhappy with a 48.something!
I took the opportunity between shoots to do some quick modifications to my rifle. I wound both front and back sights up by 5moa (about 1mm in real life!) and after some suggestions from others, dropped my buttplate by half an inch. I got down into position and…
Aaaaah… that feels nice! Lovely sight picture, and not too much eye strain. I had a bit of a struggle with the wind on this one – a gentle fishtail from behind kept me on my toes and caught me out a couple of times! My group was much better although the score not so much. 46.5.
Jared: This range was a lesson in following the crowds. We had chosen the target with the smallest number of shooters and it quickly became apparent why this was the case. The mound sloped left to right more than front to back. It instantly became a fight with gravity to get an NPA. Unfortunately the force of gravity was slightly stronger than my determination and it kept winning. I battled on and by the time my scorers gave me the go-ahead, I was under the impression that I had found a workable position.
How wrong I was! The sighters were ok, and I had found the middle. Unfortunately, after the initial honeymoon period, the recoil was just enough to give the aforementioned gravity the upper hand. The slightly wobbly shots turned into if-that-hit-the-target-then-i’m-impressed shots. It took four counters and endless shuffling to find a more stable position. I proceeded to hammer the bull but the damage had been done… 46.3!
I used the break to adjust everything. Butt-plate, hand-stop, sling and sights… hopefully this would help for the second 300.
So here we go again… I got down on the mound and tried to get comfortable – not a hope! The changes had helped somewhat but my left elbow was determined to have an intimate tete-a-tete with my right elbow. It crossed my mind that I would be better off sitting and shooting. I discovered that my wind zero was different on this side of the ditch which made wind picking a bit sketchy. After a disappointing 44.2, I also decide my foresight was to tight and left it in for the 500 yard shoot.
Soup for lunch: Chicken and Pumpkin. Delicious!
Vic: I arrived back after lunch raring to go. Maybe a bit too raring… I felt quite tense and antsy in this shoot. It certainly reflected in my group. The wind was also a bit trickier in this one too. On the plus side, I saw every sub-optimal shot so at least I can see what is happening and therefore, fix it! I suspect it is to do with the position change this morning. I also discovered the importance of the correct foresight element. During lunch, the sun had fallen off the targets, the sighting was a lot darker and the sighting very, very tight. I probably could have gone up a couple of ring sizes.
Even If my shooting is not up to standard this time, at least my legs look good! I really love shooting this range. Sun and grapes – could it get any better?!
Jared: With a belly full of delectable soup, it was time to get serious about picking up some of the points I had lost in the morning. The wind was picking up and it was starting to look a bit more exciting downrange. When I lay down, I found that my sling was too tight. I knocked three notches out if it and it felt much more stable. Yes, the bigger foresight was an improvement too! with Ralf and Vic cheering me on (and inexplicably taking photographs when they should be preparing to shoot!), I managed a 48.4 where I had just over-read the wind twice. The group was not pretty but did no end of good for my confidence.
Vic: I am not going to say much about this shoot except there is room to improve! Never fear, I have a plan… I will visualise relaxing and squeezing off good shots overnight and be ready to nail the centers tomorrow!
Jared: Having a bit more confidence after the 500, I was keen to get into this range. I got down got my NPA sorted and started firing away. The group was not pretty and I got kicked around by the wind. After a few line burners I got up with a 46.2. I was keen for a beer after a rough day.
The grapes glistened in the sinking sun. Beer bubbles twinkled, conversation sparkled, sport-ball happened and Vic…
She went for a run.
A run through the grapes.