Silver, Sickness and Storms in Sunny Marlborough – A Novelette

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Prologue

It was a sunny crisp Canterbury day and in between the warbling of solid gold classics on the inferior taxi stereo, the news presenter was announcing the third significant earthquake of the week in the top of the South Island. This only served to fuel my excitement. Work was over for a few days and a long weekend of shooting was quickly approaching as was the delicious prospect of seeing my husband after a never-ending week away. Even the prospect of shooting in earthquakes couldn’t make me unhappy!

The flight was smooth and tranquil. I was lucky enough to have the much coveted seat ‘1F’ in the Beechwood 1900D and the view over the pilot’s shoulder and through the cockpit window as we flew into the sunset was spectacular. A quick shuttle to the rented house finished off the journey and being the first to arrive, I settled in to wait for the rest of the housemates (and my rifle!) to turn up.

An explosion of noise and activity indicated the arrival of the rest of the crew! In a babble of story swapping and greetings an assortment of shooting equipment was unloaded and made secure. Hot and cold beverages were quaffed, beds were fought over and finally, everyone turned in ready for an early start in the morning.

The next day was ANZAC day so there was no shooting. Almost everyone left the house at 4am to attend dawn parade in Nelson. There wasn’t enough room in the vehicle for us so we had a sleep-in and kicked around Blenheim for the day. I woke up with a sore throat and mild fever which unfortunately was a portent of things to come.

After a casual start and a small amount of sun-bathing, a trek around a spookily quiet city led us through a fascinating heritage-park (to our dismay the miniature railway wasn’t running), past a plethora of olive groves and vineyards and finally to the aviation museum. We decided that the $25 entry fee was better spent on ammunition so we purchased some cheap balsa wood gliders to play with (I already broke mine) and meandered back to the house. After the 17km round trip I was feeling much better and ready for the shooting the next day.

Part One – ANZAC Autumn Championships.

Chapter One – 300 Yards

I woke up a sweaty and feverish mess. Bugger. The scratchy throat was turning into a cold after all! Oh well… it has been shown time after time that I shoot better when I am unwell.

Coffee and electrolytes for breakfast is always a winning combination so after quick refreshment, we packed our gear and headed out into the grey drizzly morning. A big shout out to Kieran for turning up with electrolyte mix!

300 yards at Kaituna is pretty fun to shoot. Tucked away in a valley, the wind flags don’t necessarily reflect the actual wind. I was last down to shoot and noticed by watching other shooters that the danger flag on top of the hill showed the wind direction much more accurately than the wind flags in the valley. I used my sighters to confirm this theory and I was away.

You can just see the danger flag top-right in this photo – the vehicles are parked just behind the 300 yard mound. (Photo: Mark Alexander)

view from 6

All in all, I had a very good shoot at 300 yards. My group was tight except for a couple of low shots (a five and a four) and one lost shot in the wind. The wind was switching back and forth across the range and I still sometimes struggle to get shots away quickly. If you ignore the sighters (at 7/8 oclock) and the low shots, the group isn’t too bad!

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In the end, I was quite pleased with a 48.2. Jared shot a nice tight group but was first down so didn’t learn the red flag trick and got a 47.2.

Another photo of the 300 yard mound (Photo: Mark Alexander)

300

Chapter 2 – 600 yards

By the time we got back to 600 yards the moisture had permeated through all our equipment, ammunition, rifles and vehicles. We were starting to feel slightly damp. The showers weren’t very heavy but just wet enough to make life difficult.

That is until Jared lay down to shoot.

He got ready for his first shot, squeezed the trigger and… Rain Happened… Jared got Wet.

Suddenly it became a real struggle to keep things dry. Jared’s group opened up and he wasn’t sure if it was soggy rifle and ammunition or just him. He walked away with a 46.3

I did little better. I also shot a slightly larger group though in my case, I saw each wonky shot go. They weren’t really that bad but better shots would have saved me from my own wind picking! (The three on the left is a sighter)

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It really is a very pretty range – Shooting over the raw-wine bushes! (Photo: Mark Alexander)

600

Chapter 3 – 900 Yards

Feeling content and warm after delicious nourishing soup in the steamy clubhouse, we headed out into the now persistent precipitation to 900 yards. This time a 15 shot string so 75 points up for grabs!

I have only a couple of memories of this range.

The first is watching Jared wiping out his chamber with a towel after every shot. His cleverly fabricated duct tape umbrella washed away within the first few shots leaving his chamber naked and vulnerable to the driving rain. Struggling with moisture problems, an inability to see the targets, and some tricky wind Jared got up with a 56.2. Not a happy camper.

A brilliant shot of the conditions from 900 yards – the targets are down there somewhere!  (Photo: Coby Snowden.)

weather by Coby

The second clear memory I have is getting up off the mound after my own shoot.

As per the squad list, I was the last shooter down. With some apprehension after seeing other shooters scores, I got down and set up my equipment under a towel. It was vitally important to keep everything dry at this point!

At last I was ready. I had a quick glance at the loopy fluttering flags, screwed on some wind, had one last check that I have the correct elevation… (PRESS the trigger don’t grab the trigger…)

Hmmm… My first sighter is a perfect waterline 1 blown out to the left.

Yep. That makes sense. I didn’t think 3 MOA was enough – oh yeah… wet flags! I wound on the extra 5 minutes to get me to the bull and added another 2 minutes for fun (I suspected the wind was building but I wasn’t sure!)…

Second sighter… V-Bull!

Yep I will keep the V-Bull! Uh… Scratch the 1… Thanks!

My next shot was another V-Bull and then a lapse in concentration (or feeling cocky) cost me a 4 in the wind and a 4 over the top. I gathered myself together and brought the shots back to the centre.

X-Bull! Yippee! I need at least one today if only for my own sanity. Unfortunately I didn’t notice the fluctuating flags and was punished with a wind-blown 3 on my next shot. I completely deserved that one. Bugger.

At this point, I was acutely aware that I was only one point behind the C-grade leader coming into this range and that I really needed to perform. Dropping threes really isn’t in my favour.

Once again, I brought my shots back into the V-ring and from then on, all I heard through the pattering raindrops were incredulous voices calling “5! V! X!”.  The calls in my head were completely different – “That one was 5 o clock… That one was 11 o clock… Wobbles to the right there…”

It felt like a dream. The view through my sights was marvelous. The rain blurring the normally crystal-clear target into a soft grey smear was a beautiful thing to look at. I was switching between 9 and 11 minutes windage and my (by now) raging fever was keeping me topped up with warm-fuzzies.

My penultimate shot was a V-Bull and I lined up for my last shot of the day (Don’t mess it up…Don’t mess it up…Don’t mess it up… PRESS the trigger…) CRAP!!!  Shit shot at 10 O Clock!

V-Bull to finish!

I was hurried off the mound as everyone was wet and cold, but in my state of euphoria I did manage to find out my final score… 71.9! Kieran (who has been looking after me all weekend and is also staunch competition) congratulated me on winning C grade and there were high fives all round!

I didn’t actually realise how well I had shot until I saw the final results. I had the second highest score out of everyone on the range… Wow!

Here is my group (Shot 6, the 2, is a “ghost shot” and nothing to do with me)

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Full results from the day can be found here.

Part Two – Tui Teams

Chapter 5 – 900 Yards Teams

I woke up at 5.30am with stomach cramps and a desperate need for the bathroom. By the time the alarm clock  sounded at 6am and around 5 or 6 toilet-trips later, I was ready for a queasy coffee and a somewhat half-hearted and sickly attempt at packing and cleaning. It seems like the flu that I was anticipating had turned into gastro.

The weather was grey and dark with torrential rain, flooding, wind and thunderstorms forecast by midday. Despite my rather delicate state, I was keen to shoot and was prepared for whatever the weather-gods could throw at us. Too unwell to eat breakfast but too hungry to abstain, I nibbled on a single biscuit on the way to the range.

On arrival, we were informed that instead of shooting 300, 600, 900, we would be getting 900 out of the way first. This makes so much sense in the case of cancellations. If you have to win a competition on a single range, it is so much more honourable to win at 900 yards than 300 yards!

Although unwell, I was very excited to have been selected for the Wellington team and was determined not to let everyone down. I managed to force another biscuit and a few sips of water into myself whilst waiting and by the time it was my turn to shoot, I was feeling if not amazing, then at least like I wasn’t going to run to the Portaloo every second shot!

A shot-by shot analysis is a little difficult in a teams event as I don’t see my own score during the shoot but as far as I can tell, my sights are a little different to everyone elses and my sighters were blown far left.

I was brought into the middle and from then on, I did some OK shooting.  After a nasty, low, not-quite-3 and then a loose actual-3, I was asked to reset my position. This brought my group back to the middle again. Looking back, I wish that I had noticed that my position was sliding earlier as it could have saved some points!

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I left the mound not entirely unhappy with he overall shoot and promptly found myself clinging onto the nearest solid object for support… Whoops! I think I might have overdone it a little!

I shot a 46.2 which to my delight was the second highest score in the team – I didn’t let anyone down *phew!*. Jared had a very good shoot in much worse conditions and scored a 44.1

Results can be found here

Chapter 6 – Results

The weather completely packed in so the decision was made to retire to the clubhouse and have lunch and prizegiving.

Through a fuzzy haze, I heard my name being called. I had won C Grade yesterday (which I already knew) and I was also 4th out of everyone for the championship! I stumbled forward to a surprising amount of applause to receive my trophy. This is the trophy I am most proud of so far- I worked hard for it and had  some very stiff competition!

Here I am – Very happy albeit with a slightly greenish complexion. (Photo: John Fleming)

Trophy

As I sat down and lay my head on the table to rest, it was announced  that Wellington had relinquished the Tui Teams trophy to Canterbury. Bugger.

I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Epilogue

(Ten minutes later…)

My eyes burst open as the first wave of nausea swept up my body. “Hey everyone she’s awake!”. It was crucially importnt that I vacate the clubhouse NOW!

Shaking and sweating, I hauled myself upright, went to stand up and…

Nope!  I wasn’t going anywhere.

I heard myself utter the words, “I am going to chuck”, and just as the inevitable happened, a small container was thrust under my face. Nice catch Jared!

Despite the uncontrollable shaking and vomit seemingly coming out of my eyeballs, I distinctly remember two things.

One. I have never repelled a room full of people so fast and, Two. I was grateful that Jared didn’t use the trophy as a bucket!

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