We asked Shootclay Forum member, and novice sporting shooter Greg Sinclair to give us his review of the Nad Al Sheba Desert Shooting Competition in Dubai – here’s his first hand report on his trip to the desert.

A novice shooters review of the Nad Al Sheba Desert Shooting Competition

Well, it’s back to snow at work this morning after 20+ degrees all week in Dubai!

During a chance meeting with Ed Solomons and Ed Lyons at Rugby Trap Club the conversation turned to this years Nad Al Sheba competition and following a glowing endorsement of the event by ‘the Eds’ I decided that my son Harry and I should go along for the experience.

Where to start? Well, firstly  a thoroughly enjoyable week spent with the family in Dubai even though the weather was not quite as good as hoped. A few windy days made it a little chilly at times, especially at night. The wind played a major part in the scores for the competition as well and it was merely luck (good or bad) as to which layout you shot in which conditions, evident by some of the scores put in by some very good shooters, especially on the dreaded layout 4. As this was a first time at the event for Harry and I and as we are not a regular sporting shooters we had no expectations of winning anything (evident by my scores) except maybe a car or at least an Ipad.

Getting to the event

We arrived early Sunday morning and checking in our trusty trap guns at the airport was a pretty straightforward affair.  Once serial numbers were checked they put a sticky numbered label on your case and gave you a corresponding numbered tag which you then handed in at the armoury each time you wanted to retrieve your gun.  Just make sure you don’t lose your tag!

We elected to stay down at the Dubai Marina as it was next to the beach (for Mrs and Miss S) and from previous experience working in Dubai I know it is a very nice place to be, especially ‘The Walk’, which has dozens of really nice restaurants and a really relaxed atmosphere.  The only downside to being at the Marina was there were no official hotels so we had a 15/30 minute taxi ride (depending on the traffic) each morning and evening to get to and from the ‘official’ event hotels that were serviced by the event buses, which ran to a pretty strict timetable. From what we saw the event hotels were generally in-land and in built-up areas so we were glad to have elected to stay where we did.

We did catch a taxi to the ground on practice day which cost about 145 Dhirams (£26) from the Marina but  reverted to the buses from therein, with an £8 taxi ride each way instead.  It took a bit of time to find the venue and it was only the fact that I had done my research and knew roughly were it was that we found it at all!  Signposting off the main road was pretty non-existent although the run-in down the Emirates Road was lined with event flags, as was the entrance to the venue once you had left the main road.  We eventually ended up driving across some desert to get to the access road as we could see the flags some way off the main road. The apparent rumour that the Dubai taxi drivers were previously informed about the location of the event seemed somewhat optimistic with several reports from other shooters of long taxi rides to the wrong place!

Practice Day

Practice on Monday was breezyGreg_Nad_Al_Sheba and set the scene for what was ahead, although the targets shot during practice were not necessarily the same as those shot during the competition they gave a good indication of what was to come. Yikes!

Each of the four layouts had five stands of three traps and you shot a combination of 5 sim pairs from each of the three traps (A+B,A+C,B+C,A+B and A+C) so you had to work out which target to shoot first in each of the combinations (not always easy). I shot practice on layout 1 and posted a measly 6 after getting a duck on two stands and two each on the remaining stands – told you I was crap! Harry posted a disappointing 5 on Layout 4 which proved to be to bogey layout for most shooters.

It was time for our first ‘communication cock-up’ – nowhere on any of the event info did it say where the Gala dinner was being held on the Monday evening, nor what time it started.  If I hadn’t asked at the main event reception we would have been none the wiser. Buses were laid on from the official hotels – from 6.00PM onwards – but nobody knew where they were going unless they specifically asked.  As we, and lots of others were not staying at one of the official hotels we had to make our own way there so it would have been good to have been told where it was and what time it started!

As we were shooting pretty much last squad on Monday we didn’t finish shooting until 5.00. After stowing the guns in the armoury and walking out to the bus stop we were greeted with the news that the last bus left at 5.00 and 20 or so shooters were stood about wondering how on earth they would get back to town from the middle of nowhere, particularly as the Gala dinner started at 8.00PM that night!  Some minibuses were quickly organized and we all crammed in for a long trip back to town calling at numerous hotels on the way. Dubai traffic didn’t make this any easier, nor the fact we had to stop for fuel which added another 15 mins due to the queue at the petrol station. Harry and I eventually got back to our hotel at about 7.45 after a run through the Marina, leaving 15 minutes to get washed and brushed before a frantic taxi ride to the Gala dinner, which we eventually arrived at about 8.30.

Gala Dinner & Exploring Dubai

The gala dinner was being held at the Armani Hotel which is in the base of the Burj Khalifa. Nice!

It was time for ‘communication cock-up number two’ – unfortunately we had not been told it was being held outside on the large terrace so we were unprepared to sit outside in windy, cool conditions. I should have suspected something was amiss when we arrived at the Armani hotel as people were already leaving when we arrived at 8.30!  We stayed  long enough to sample some  food but it was just not a nice place to be because of the conditions so abandoned the gala after 20 minutes or so to seek out a cracking steak house down in the Marina.   To make matters worse Mrs S stumbled down a kerb on the way out and twisted here ankle so she was out of serous walking action for the next day.

Tuesday was a day off so with Mrs S being unable to walk very far – just about a hobbled 75 yards to the beach. The kids and I headed down to the Dubai Mall for a look see. We caught the Metro from the Marina to the Dubai Mall which was all very simple and cheap(ish) although be prepare for about a half mile walk (all within an air conditioned, elevated walkway) from the station to the Mall itself!  Incredible place just to walk around and people watch but we didn’t buy anything. The massive aquarium, waterfall feature and the like, as well as the stunning close-up views of the Khalifa make this a place worth a visit.

Competition Time – Day One

Harry_NAS_photo_1Wednesday was first day of the competition and so we headed off late morning as we were shooting late in the day again. We collected our goody bag on the way in – with a logo’ed holdall, tee shirt and cap, and then headed in to the main tent area which was busy but not overcrowded. We skipped the catering as it was too busy but the spread looked very good indeed. The free access WiFi was also an added bonus.

Conditions were breezy againm and the wind was whipping the sand up a bit and making the targets, particularly those on the downwind side of the road (2 and 4) quite tricky as the already distant targets were pushed even further away!  It was not much better on the upwind side of the road (1 and 3) as while the higher targets were being pushed in a bit, some low targets were being driven in to the sand before shooters could even get a shot off!

I started off on Layout 1 and although I was shown 50 targets I think I only shot at about 44 of them because the second target was either already in the sand or I simply did not see it!  I finished off with an 8 – five of those coming on the last stand!  I’m sure more experienced shooters fared better though as layout 1 was probably the 2nd easiest layout.  Harry started off on the dreaded Layout 4 and posted a disappointing 5.  He was obviously gutted but many top shooters also struggled with the conditions on 4 and that was the main point of discussion throughout the day.  Gebben Miles on the other hand shot layout 2 and posted a day high score of 48 and walked off $15,000 richer with the daily HG prize.

We hung around for the prize draw, along with about 1000 others but unfortunately no luck today.

We had no repeat of the bus issues from Monday evening and we and a thousand others headed off for the numerous waiting buses. We hopped off at the Grand Excelsior hotel and arrived back at base about 7.00PM. Very pleasant meal at ‘The Cheesecake Factory’ on The Walk but unfortunately Penny was not on duty that night (ed. clever Big Bang Theory reference!)

Day Two – Thursday

We had a very early start on Thursday morning so we headed off before the crack of dawn. A rrived at the ground about 7.45 for a 9.00am start so headed off to the tent for some breakfast. The quality of the food was excellent.  Only a slight breeze at the ground but it was pretty bloody hot all day. I shot Layout 2 (which was generally considered to be the easiest layout) and posted a 19 (gutted I didn’t crack 20). Harry shot Layout 1 and posted a 15 so he was quite chipper, after his previous days score anyway. We were booked to go up the Burj Khalifa on Thursday evening so left the ground about 1pm.

A very nice late lunch on ‘The Boardwalk’ at the Dubai Creek Yacht Club, followed by a Metro ride back to the Dubai Mall for our trip up the world’s tallest building which rounded off a very pleasant day.

Day Three – Friday

Friday morning dawned and was very breezy with a stiff 20 + mph wind blowing in from the Gulf. Gulp! This is going to be a challenge!

The blustery wind was just the same at the ground and some noticeable shots had a nightmare. Gebben shot Layout 4 and posted a 20!  Previous shooters were moaning about putting in mid to low 30’s on the first day so a 20 was a real shock to everyone, including Gebben!  The sand was being whipped up constantly all day and shooters struggled to keep the sand out of actions and just about everywhere else! Referees were wearing facemasks, cameramen had covered their equipment with cartridge boxes and it was generally not a nice place to be all day, with most taking refuge in the tent unless shooting. I managed to brave the elements long enough to watch George Digweed shoot Layout 2 and post a creditable 43 but it was fairly apparent he was not impressed with the conditions.

I shot Layout 3 and posted a 15 and Harry shot Layout 2 and posted a very creditable 22.  Again we waited in vain to win the car but ended up having to get a bus back to the City Max Hotel.

Final Day – Saturday

Saturday dawned nice and sunny with little breeze although I think it did build a little in the afternoon when the last rounds and the finals were being shot.

I shot Layout 4 needing to hit a massive 8 to crack 50 for the tournament and actually hit a even bigger 12 so finished on 54. Harry shot Layout 3 and posted another 15 for a total of 57 to beat me by 3! Blast that boy!

We stayed around for the finals and quite frankly I was glad I didn’t qualify because in my view the targets were simply ridiculous and as for the skimmers going over the pond (or not as some were hitting the pond rim!) Wow! That three-quartering, bolting rabbit was also a real doozy! Must have been 50 yards away when taken as the second target of the pair. Have to take my hat off to the finalists for actually hitting anything but I guess they had to be pretty good to be there in the first place.  Not sure why but I was slightly surprised that finalists scores were added to their qualifying scores? I assumed that it would be a straight forward final shoot off (as ISSF events) but in reality I think the added scores was fairer, especially as Cheryl Hall won. Well done to Phil Gray also for his 4th place.

One minor gripe about the final presentations – when the finals were finished everyone vacated the grandstand and accumulated on open ground to the right of the grandstand – I assume because they wanted a quick exit for the buses after the prize draw.  Unfortunately the PA system was only set up for the grandstands so nobody heard a word of the prize giving and only applauded when one of the winners raised their trophies. In my view this was a real shame for the organisers as the whole prize giving was very flat, so hopefully they will learn from this for next year.

The final prize draw was mainly won by locals? (including the car) so a lot of the proceedings were in Arabic. I must say I had expected the prize draw to be limited to competitors only but it would seem that anyone entering the venue during the day (including referees, staff, visitors and Uncle Tom Cobbly) was issued a ticket. Some people standing close by during the prize draws had as many as 6 tickets!

As soon as the car winner was announced everyone else ran for the buses for the final time.

Leaving Dubai

Very early flight out on Sunday morning meant that Saturday evening was spent packing and a another meal out in the Marina.

Gun collection at the airport was pretty straightforward although a bit chaotic and several shooters arrived at the collection point to find their gun had not yet arrived!  Flight check-in was in the area directly next to the gun collection point but the desks were still marked as First/Business Class check-in so we checked in as normal at the Economy desks in the adjacent hall only to be told we needed to take the guns back to the First Class check-in where we had just come from.  A few others had done this so it wasn’t just me. A bit of explanation would not have gone amiss.

 Competition Memories

As for the shooting itself, both Harry and I were disappointed with our scores although neither of us expected anything else and at least we didn’t finish last. As trap shooters, working out lead on fast crossing and dropping targets was complete guess work and the act of shooting at fresh air 12 feet in front of the target is difficult to come to terms with although I think both of us were starting to get the hang of it as the week went on.

Course management was crucial to maximize scores and that is something we must both work on. It was not always apparent which of the two targets was the easier but when it was it was better to take two shots at the easier target than miss the easy one with the first barrel and then chase an impossible target with the second. Did that on numerous occasions. I even shot the second barrel at one target which I had broken with the first? Doh!

Memorable targets? Too many to choose from (and some I would rather forget) but the rabbit almost below the tower on Layout 4, stand 4 (I think) was a bas very tough. Oh and the close in rabbit on Layout 2, stand 3 was a bit quick as well. The C target on Layout 2 stand 5 (from the tower) only because I hit it twice in a row. I think I even managed an occasional pair during the four days!

Refereeing was a little variable and the rules need looking at. I saw one shooter hit both targets with the first barrel and was given a Kill-zero. No amount of discussion with the ref changed that result. Elsewhere I heard of people being given more kills than they actually hit. I also saw clays which had clearly been hit just above the ground given as losses as the ref believed it had broken on the ground and vice-versa. Harry and I even witnessed one clay break without the shooter actually pulling the trigger. Obviously hit by a pellet from an adjacent stand but it did cause a laugh.

Met some really nice people from lots of different countries and met a couple of faces from ShootClay Forum but not as many as I had hoped. Good to meet Don Brunt and thanks for the excellent photos.

The event lived up to its billing and the targets were as difficult, if not more so than I expected them to be. Now if they could sort out the minor communications and organizational hiccups it would be even better in my opinion.

All in all a fantastic experience and Harry and I have already discussed going again next year, although I think we may need to a bit of practice before going next time! In the meantime I am going to change my forum name to ‘Zero-Zero’ as I heard that a lot during the week!

Greg Sinclair – Dog Tyred on ShootClay Forum