A great two days competition was had over 15/16 March, but unfortunately behind 'closed doors' as far as the public was concerned due to the Foot & Mouth disease precautions. Participation came from many squadrons of USAFE, RAF, and RN/FAA. Every strike Squadron in the RAF was invited to attend, operational circumstances permitting, with £50 as an 'entry fee'. Prize going to the most accurate unit, as last time, was a crate of beer from Batemans, a local brewery in Wainfleet.
This year's 'Top Bomb' went to Lt Cdr Eastauth from 800 Squadron, the pilot of the first Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA2 on the range - he beat the 1999 record by just three inches! Flt Lt Doige of 20(R) Squadron was individual runner-up with 14.25 points.
20(R) Squadron also won the team prize, with a score of 60.82 points, improving vastly over their fifth place finish in '99. Last event winners, 74(R) Squadron, had been disbanded but sister-unit 19(R) Squadron Hawks still produced a creditable result, coming second to the Harrier GR7s (and eighth, as they entered two teams). The Sea Harriers of 800 Squadron would have come second overall except they were just one bomb short of the total required. Some may be surprised that training units seem to outclass the 'regulars', but this is probably because they actually carry more experienced personnel in their instructors. 41 Squadron's excuse is that they only had two aircraft, so had to drop twice.
Rules were the same as '99 with two bombs laydown on the barge and two dives on the circle. Four bombs for the individual prize and sixteen for the group. Unfortunately, one Sea Harrier did not drop all four and the Trials Unit at Boscombe Down could only drop twelve. They did not feature in the top three individual but were twenty percent better than the top group winner! A consolation prize is being sought as they were by far the most consistent in results with 8th, 16th and 17th overall.
Only change for this year is that there was no scenario. Opinion was that it gets in the way of the action, the crews never listening to the background - it is just 'noise'. So, in the best Angus Deighton tradition, to the winners a crate of Bateman's best bitter, to the losers...(insert your own joke here).
Thanks to Roy Brocklebank, CRO RAF Wainfleet for the information.