Euskadi Open 2013
Firstly may I congratulate the Asociación Field Target Euskadi, this Open competition was first organised in 2005 by a small number of FT enthusiasts in the Basque region and has grown and developed progressively year on year to become one of the top premier events on the FT calendar. The hosts’ hospitality, generosity, friendliness, food and liquid refreshments are unequalled anywhere in the world. Furthermore the organisation of the actual competition, course design and facilities are to the highest standard and go above and beyond the normal standard. Two days of shooting, 100 targets and not one single ‘ceasefire’ whistle demonstrates the attention to detail.
This event epitomises the sheer generosity of the Asociación Field Target Euskadi who have developed strong links with the BFTA and NEFTA. Under the guidance and direction of their charismatic Chairman Antinio (Bastlar) they kindly sponsor 1st prize to the overall winner of the NEFTA Classic. On offer to the winner of the NEFTA Classic is a voucher to participate in the Euskadi Open, two nights’ accommodation for two people, their food, drink and transport to and from Bilbao airport. Over the years Jesus (Tesla) and Sanjon have made strong friendships with the BFTA and have recognised that having the winner of a special event, like the NEFTA Classic, attend their event would perhaps publicise, promote and encourage the growth FT in Spain. Tesla and Sanjon have actively sought the direction and experience of BFTA stalwarts like Roger Moy and Andy Calpin in the process of learning and developing the sport of FT, striving to make it flourish in Euskadi. They have encouraged the likes of 2010 World Champion Jose Redondo (Pepone) and this year’s spring gun/piston World Champion Roberto Caballero (Rupher) to attend the NEFTA Classic. This ultimately brings a more international flavour to the event and also makes it even more highly competitive. Indeed Pepone and I had to be separated by an intense shoo-off at the Classic in 2011, he returned a year later to be crowned the Champion in 2012. Rupher this year gave a standing demonstration with a spring gun on the silhouette range hitting an unbelievable 35 on the first day and overall a close 2nd in the spring class to the one and only Mr Nick Murphy. I had been to the Euskadi event previously in 2011 with my wife Briege, so it was an offer I just couldn’t refuse only this time I travelled alone leaving a very jealous mum at home with our two daughters.
I was greeted at the airport by the cheerful Ander (Okondo) who’s very limited English is much better than my Spanish, and his close friend Eduardo (Jedu) who spoke English very well indeed. Eduardo drove me from the airport back to the luxurious Etxeberri hotel in Zumarraga, a small town deep in the Basque region of Spain, which is about a 1hr drive from Bilbao airport. On the Thursday afternoon and Friday morning I helped prepare the course and zero range which was the least I could do to help my hosts in preparation for the event. The meal on the Friday night before the competition is always special, the vast majority of the shooters all get together, share experiences of their journey, reacquaint with old friends, discuss the million and one topics of FT shooting and eat lots of the ample servings of delicious food which was washed down with refreshingly cold and tasty local cider.
Saturday morning arrived and after a short period on the zero range my gun and scope both appeared fine even though it had begun to heat up dramatically indicating a scorching hot day was imminent. Another large social meal was consumed in the same restaurant at midday, in order to allow it to settle a little just in time for the shoot. Belgium, England, Portugal, France, Spain and Ireland were the nations represented at the event demonstrating its spreading appeal. The competition and safety brief got underway at 3pm after which shooting commenced at 3.30pm. A stiffening hot 35 degrees air temperature meant hydration, concentration and the physical nature of the course would be significant factors. Add to that a wicked and devilish wind which sometimes blew undetectably and you definitely had the recipe for a truly demanding course.
I started on lane 3 on the yellow course; virtually at the top of the steep hill at the far side of the course, and after walking some 400m downhill from the brief, I was beginning to think someone didn’t like me! I was greeted by new friend Eduardo, otherwise known as Jedu who was shooting a Daystate GP and big Nikko scope. Our first lane involved a slightly downward angled shot into the bowl of the valley, the first target 47yrds and the second 51yrds; not the easiest of starts to a competition. A brisk wind was blowing the tops of the trees however there was nothing indicating just how much movement there was deep down in the valley below. It was easy to spot my first shot land on a clean target, it had just slipped inside 9 o’clock so it was clearly drifting more than I had expected. I gave the longer shot a little more windage than the first only to see it just slip inside 3 o’clock amazingly in what appeared to be the same conditions. This would be the story of the day for much of the course, when you were sure you had the wind direction and strength worked out, upon firing it had changed direction like the flick of a switch almost undetectably in the heat. It was so warm, attempting to feel any wind on the skin was difficult and it was nigh on impossible trying to see it. From the onset this course clearly demanded respect and with a 33yrd 25mm and 22yrd 15mm in successive lanes it would require top shooting. By my third lane I was beginning to suspect the heat was affecting my scope, which it doesn’t back in the UK. I didn’t have a rifle case with me and I was using my towel to mop perspiration off my face and neck so the scope was getting the full attention of the sun’s rays. Incredibly the only time my March had ever moved in high temperature was two years ago at the VI Euskadi Open! I was prepared however with a Jon Harris double pointer, the second reference point counteracted the shift on my sidewheel ranges. The reason I had suspected it was the previous target I saw my pellet just slip in, very low at 6 o’clock on a long target. I used the March’s FT reticule, which exactly brackets a full kill exactly at 50yrds on x40 magnification. The target I had just shot was coming in at 50yrds on my parallax wheel but on closer inspection it didn’t bracket inside the reticule, it was smaller indicating the target was actually further away, my other pointer revealed it was 54yrds. I used the second pointer for the rest of the shoot and it worked perfectly although unfortunately it didn’t tell me where to aim for wind. I missed a 20yrd 15mm on the wrong side by misjudging the wind direction completely. A 16yrd 25mm and 33yrd 40mm standing lane was followed by a 37yrd and 42yrd kneeling lane, a clear indication the course was set out to examine both technique and ability. The kneeling lane was cunningly designed with both targets elevated in trees which were just inside the edge of a small wood; they were in dark shadow however the firing lane was out in the bright sunlight making accurate range finding difficult. A brisk direct wind was blowing; however it blew across both targets in opposite directions for my shots which carried a disc (40mm). The longer target was the only compulsory target that John Costello missed in the whole competition. Both Jedu and I reached the field where the wind was stronger than in the bowl and it should at least be more detectable and one directional, but how wrong I was. Jedu unfortunately and frustratingly had a big issue with his top turret, which somehow had come loose. With no sure way of knowing exactly where it should be, he had to sacrifice four targets in order to estimate roughly where it should be reset. The wind caught me again on a 53yrd target deep inside the wood, it was difficult to rangefind due to the darkness and I underestimated the wind strength. I completely misread the wind again only this time aiming at the wrong side of a 52yrd. The part of the course where I felt would be the simplest was really beginning to bite into my scorecard. A close 15mm target, 10yrds to be exact also kicked my butt, somehow I dialled the wrong setting as I had forgotten exactly the correct number clicks required, perhaps the heat had got to me! Two more standing lanes each one with a 25mm killzone at 20yrds and another kneeling lane had me wanting to see an end to this unrelenting beast that was taking its toll both physically and mentally. I missed a long diagonal target in the open field which carried more than the 60mm of wind I gave it. Having completed the field and 7 targets down, I had to make the long journey back to the beginning of the course at the top of the steep hill. Perhaps the shot of the day and the best target on the yellow course was target number 1, an Italian owl 53yrds downhill at 30 degrees angle. I witnessed the four previous shooters all miss the plate completely so it had me thinking what was happening. Sitting under a dense bush in a sheltered shooting position, there was nothing to indicate any wind movement at the target. Looking at the tall trees at the edge of the valley I could see them sway considerably in the wind which told me it was probably channelling along the valley also. I gave it 60mm of wind and it dropped satisfyingly with a loud ‘clonk’. I applied the same theory to target no 2 which was placed up on a tree at only 44yrds, however the wind carried it right across by a further half disc. My final lane was also steeply angled and long, 47yrds and 53yrds downhill. The wind caught me yet again on the 47yrd rabbit, I overestimated it too much so I was glad to see my final target drop for a well-earned 41. I was very pleased to have hit all compulsory targets on what was a very demanding course in a difficult wind, with only two ‘bad’ shots by me. Speaking with various seasoned and experienced shooters about the yellow course it appeared that various different aspects of the course seemed to damage scorecards in different sections. Last year’s winner Miguel (Delphinus) only hit one stander, whilst the downward shots into the valley proved the downfall for many and the wind out in the open field just killed me and a lot of others. PCP class on day one was taken by storm by Spanish shooter Perdigón on a simply unbelievable score of 45 on the yellow course. Gil Gil had 43 with Costello and Pepone both on 42, Delphinus was on 40 and last year’s lady world champ Ana Pereira on 38. Nick Murphy was in the lead with 38 in the spring class with fellow Dowry Hill club member Val S hot on his heels on 36. Rupher having missed his last seven targets had 32, along with Camionety also on 32.
Zero range plenty of boards, paper targets 40mm out to 50m, 25mm and 40mm up to 35m, with a few metal spinners mixed in.
Day 2 got under way early, 7.15am arrived quickly after the previous late evening meal, and also the energy zapping hot sun meant a few more hours sleep would have been nice for my un-acclimatized body. The early morning was much more hospitable in terms of temperature although the thermometer was still reading 24 degrees and rising. After a quick plink on the zero range, I headed back to lane 3 at the top of the hill, this time the white course awaited us. Jedu was again my partner and he told me he had reset his turret correctly and secured it correctly, he even had charged the batteries on his Daystate! Waiting on the 9am signal to start a dense mist/fog rose rapidly up from the bowl of doom; the overnight dew on the grass was quickly evaporating by the heat of the powerful morning sun. In fact it was something I hadn’t shot in before and was another factor to think about whilst addressing the targets, luckily though it had all but disappeared by the start proving the strength of the sun’s heat so early in the morning. A 50yrd crow and 53yrd rabbit were the target distances of the first lane so again it was straight in at the deep end from the start. The wind was lighter than the previous day and although some targets allowed you to aim inside the kill zone, the wind frequently was just strong enough to ensure that you had to ensure to aim out of the kill on the correct edge. The only two standers on the white course were well placed, a 32yrd full size kill placed just high enough off the hip to make it awkward and a 25mm frog target at 15yrds nicely paced in a small stream just behind a fork in a tree. Most shooters were doing better on day 2, the conditions were much more favourable and perhaps the previous days’ course had taught some hard lessons. My partner Jedu was in much better form and was knocking down some difficult targets in his first major competition. Just as I was getting into the swing of things and confidence was high, I split the 9 o’clock edge of a 46yrd target for my first miss of the day; the shot landing exactly where I had aimed in what appeared to me was a light left to right drift, the wind had dropped again and I hadn’t noticed it. The first of three challenging kneeling lanes, situated just before the field was catching a few shooters out. Both targets were placed up trees, in the shadows just inside the edge of the wood. The first shot 37yrds was angled slightly into the wind with the other longer shot at 40yrds taking just over a disc of wind to ensure a clean hit. A few lanes later the longest shot on both courses awaited us, a 54yrd crow situated in a tree inside the wood in dark shadows. It made range finding was very difficult and I used up some valuable time ensuring I had it ranged accurately. Noticing all misses were on the right side, I aimed 60mm to the leaf of centre and the target dropped satisfyingly. As we continued along the field the targets began to get closer but also smaller, with no fewer than 6 reducers placed in the field, four 25mm and two 15mm. Another kneeling lane had me scratching my head, one target clearly looked further away than the other but upon rangefinding several times I had both exactly the same at 42yrds. Heat mirage was perhaps playing tricks with my eyes’ ability to focus but I trusted the March scope and saw the pellet strike central on the paddle. The last target in the field, number 50 was a crow target placed high in a tree and was a beautiful shot although intimidating also as I had saw both shooters in the lane before me and my shooting partner miss it. Ranged at 53yrds with the heat mirage moving across the image on my scope from left to right, I gave a disc from centre which was just enough to allow the pellet to slip just inside 3 o’clock. I had survived the field with only one zero on my scorecard and had only two lanes left. Lane one target one was a steeply angled downward kneeling shot at a 25mm target placed at 20yrds. I first had to ensure that I had adopted a legal position with my supporting hand ensuring my wrist and the gun was not resting on my leg or forearm, which can happen with a downward kneeler due to the much lower muzzle position required. The other shot was a full size kill at 38yrds and the steep downward angle was just enough to make the shot less steady than usual. I was pleased to get both and perhaps they now will be a shot that won’t be alien to me when I arrive in Germany for the Worlds. My final lane and a possible 49 on the card, which I needed to try to drag myself into contention, although deep down I knew scores would be higher and the white course in my opinion had been slightly easier than the yellow. I hit the 41yrd rabbit down the hill, and a steeply angled 15mm at 20yrds awaited my last shot of the day and of course the last shot of my Euskadi Open 2013. Concentration and energy levels were diminishing rapidly due to hunger, I wasn’t comfortable but I ignored my brain and took the shot to result in my second error of the day! I didn’t see where it went but those little 15mm holes don’t take any prisoners and it punished my technique. Anyway I was more than happy with my 48, I had got all my six kneelers and two standers. In fact I had hit all the compulsory discipline shots over the two days, eight standers and ten kneelers. I had missed eleven sitting shots. Just as I marked Jedu for his last two shots and complimented him on his drastically improved performance, I overheard Sanjon on the walkie-talkie radio behind us, “Costello cincuenta de los cincuenta”! Now my Spanish isn’t great but I instantly knew what it meant, Costello 50 out of 50! A clear round which was truly impressive shooting and fair play to the young man he told me he wanted a txapela (winner’s beret) and he did just that, in convincing fashion. It has been the first ever clear round at the Euskadi Open and also in a Spanish competition and gave him an overall score of 92. Pepone also finished on a 48 to take 2nd place overall on 90 points. I was in 3rd with 89 points whilst the Spanish duo of Perdigón and Gil Gil fell back into 4th and 5th respectively with 87 and 85.
The spring gun class saw the inaugural winner Nick Murphy take 1st place yet again, his 4th consecutive win in this special event. Nick hit an outstanding 75, his score on the yellow course just one less than the white course demonstrating his skill and consistency with a piston. What is perhaps even more galling, the man shot a right handed ProSport, left handed! Rupher had a much better day with a 38 giving him an overall 2nd place on 70 points. Val S was just a single point behind with a 69 giving him 3rd.
All shooters were invited to attend the customary big celebratory meal to mark the end of yet another highly successful Euskadi Open. Cider flowed freely on the tables with lots of laughter and smiling faces, whilst stomachs filling satisfyingly with delicious portions of food. It is a meal that I had been looking forward to but one that brought a little sadness also, as it was the last gathering of friends (some foreign) who have each shared a fantastic weekend together. I would like to thank Lilly, her husband Jose (Untzi) and daughter Irene, Sanjon and wife Aintzane (Shenia), Jesus (Tesla) Eduardo (Jedu) Ander (Okondo), Julian, Rupher and Monica and finally the chairman of the Asociación Antonio (Bastlar) for everything over the weekend. I am sure I have missed people but it is perhaps better to thank everyone for attending the event and making it a special FT occasion that shouldn’t be missed. I would urge anyone who had yet attended it to do so as it has to be experienced to be believed!
PS I apologise that I do not have any photographs to support the write up but unfortunately the memory card in the camera was somehow erased. The person who wiped them all shall be left unnamed but they know who they are…Val.