This year’s Beretta World saw a record entry and Jason Allaway realised his Beretta ambition taking his second title of the season, Don Brunt was there to watch the action
It seems that GMK has found the magic formula when it comes to putting on great shoots, the Benelli Sp’Auto had a record year and the Beretta smashed the previous record making it the biggest in its 25-year history with some 941 entries. Part of the secret perhaps is the choice of ground: Meon Springs is rarely shot on the competition circuit, which gives it something of a novelty factor.
The atmosphere will be another part of the equation; fun, friendly, relaxed; it proves to be as much a social occasion as a competition, something which becomes obvious when you look at the number of families out walking around the course.
Having staged the event at Meon Springs since 2005 you might think the course designers will be running out of options, but far from it – they still manage to put on a real mixture of targets over the 15-stand 120-bird course, that truly offered something for everyone.
Some 11 crossers were put on, along with four teal, five quartering birds, two battues, an equal number of rabbits, four trap birds, one chondel, two driven and one incomer.
By not making the course overly biased in any particular way – such as being too trappy or over laden with incomers – the mix ensured that no matter what the ability, everyone was able to break a good number of targets with less than eight per cent of the entry shooting less than 50 per cent.
Course designers Bob Clarke and Pete Corney are recognised as masters at understanding what makes a good shoot and this year was no different as they stuck to the basics, didn’t try to do anything too clever for the sake of it and made it tough enough for those at the top to find it a challenge without sending home the paying majority from C and B Class tail firmly between their legs.
Things got underway on Thursday with the weather gods smiling, and it was not long before plenty of smiles were out on the ground, along with a certain degree of frustration and laughter.
There were four simultaneous pairs out on the course and each had been designed so either bird could be shot first – much head-scratching was the result along with some interesting decision-making devices, including tossed coins, being used.
Stand 12 proved to be particularly awkward; a pair of quartering crossing targets from the right lulled many into going for the black target first by which time the second blaze target had gone quite some distance, it was very much a “marmite” stand and one that saw more than a few ‘smileys’ shot over the duration of the weekend.
Richard Faulds has almost made this event his own having won it five times and looked on course to make it into the final once again; but dropping three targets on stand three put a dent in his chances and he finished short on 111 – he would have to hope that others had a few slip-ups if he was going to make the cut.
As it was he hoped in vain as the qualifiers for the six-man final on day three from the first day were 2009 champion John Lee and Rick Wyatt, who had finished with scores of 114 and 112 respectively. However, there were plenty of others who looked like they may have made it; 2007 winner Paul Simpson shot a 111ex-120 having dropped three on stand 12 while Phil Gray’s 110 was another victim of stand three.
The second day of competition saw none of the gaps that the Friday morning rotation had seen, the day being completely full meaning a tough day ahead for the ground crew and referees alike.
Fortunately breakdowns and hold-ups were minimal, while the conditions remained on the whole quite benign. Another former winner in the form of 2005 champion Richard Bunning was well on his way to another big score in the morning session finishing on 111; while Pete Dennett’s efforts resulted in a 110.
The big story of the morning, however, was Ben Husthwaite who produced a phenomenal round of 115ex-200 to guarantee him a slot in the final while in the afternoon it was Chris Broomfield who proved himself, dropping eight targets to secure his place in the final and a chance at the title.
The warming sun was back on Sunday morning, reflecting the cheery mood of the competitors as they made their way out along the lakes.
Mark Marshall certainly had plenty to smile about having posted a 110 despite missing four targets on stand five. However, it wasn’t enough and instead the two remaining spaces in the final would go to those who had chosen to make their bid during the shortened afternoon rotation.
Andy Moon was one contender but he came up short on 108, the close rabbit and Trap target on stand seven proved to be his weak link on the day. Those precious last two spots went to two shooters who were competing almost within sight of each other, separated by just two squads Scott Greenfield and 2011 Handicap Classic winner Jason Allaway made the course look easy, the latter carding a 111 while the former would finish on an impressive 114.
In recent years the final has proved to be a big ask, even for shooters of the highest calibre, but this year things were a little more straightforward. The singles themselves were not especially tricky but the combinations of the doubles were well thought out to force the shooters to have their gun out of position for the second target or to draw the eye by throwing one across the other.
That being said, all the finalists handled themselves well, though Broomfield would have been kicking himself for missing his first bird out in the singles. John Lee blotted his copybook with his fifth bird, while Greenfield was straight until his seventh. Wyatt was the next to trip up, which left just Allaway and Husthwaite straight.
Ben had been fighting his own separate battle throughout the final; on arrival at the ground some hours earlier he looked ashen, sweating and in pain from stomach cramps. His condition grew steadily worse throughout the day, by the time the shoot-off begun he dug deep to focus on the job at hand. The big man could take it for only so long and displaying obvious signs of discomfort he dropped the first target of his last pair before bolting out of the cage to answer the demands of his complaining stomach once more.
That left Jason Allaway to take the win; his name to be added to the roll of honour that adorns the World Beretta Trophy, something that he has coveted for some time as he explained: “I have always shot with Berettas and winning this has been an ambition of mine for many years, so to finally get my hands on the trophy and realise that ambition makes me very proud.
“I have to admit during the qualifying round I thought I had thrown it away, I was on for a 113 going into my last stand – stand three – but then missed two of the teal and I had a terrible feeling that I had just fallen short of getting into the final. I was so relieved when I heard I had made it and as the final began I just tried to shut everything else out of mind and stay focussed – there was only one person who could stop me from winning and that was me.
“When it came down to the last pair I admit it did pop into my head that this was the chance I had been waiting for, but then I just reminded myself to stay calm, slow down and be smooth.
“Watching the targets come off the arm they looked as though they were in slow motion and then they were gone, turned into balls of dust. I wanted to jump up and down at that point but I knew that the shooter next to me was still shooting so stayed calm until they were done.
“As to the course I think it was very good, cleverly set out and I don’t see how anyone could criticise it, though I have to admit it is always at the top of my list of my favourite shoots every year.”
Last month’s Clay Shooting Classic winner, Ben Husthwaite, was equally impressed by the event. He said: “it’s undoubtedly the best course they have put on here, they used varying speed extremely well as opposed to distance and I really enjoyed it, it was very good. As to the result: Jason thoroughly deserved the win, he shot fantastically well and he beat me, simple as that.”
After the top two spots were decided a shoot-off was called to separate John Lee, Rick Wyatt and Chris Broomfield. After a 12-bird eliminator John was out of the running and Chris and Rick went head to head – Chris came out on top to take third place.
Chris Pratt shot with some style to take the honours in A ahead of James Frary and D Kidner. Top of the podium in B was Matt Bedford, Lindsey Gordon and Justin Stannard taking second and third respectively whilst Stuart Grosser collected the Class winner’s Breitling watch and Eley cartridges in C ahead of Simon Ellett and David Frazer.
The Ladies event had been settled on the first day of competition with Cheryl Hall demonstrating why she is judged to be in a different league to the rest of the field with a 108, Audrey Boyd got closest behind her on 102 with Amber Hill winning the bronze on 95.
Fred Townsend carried all before him in the Veterans, leading home Brian Jewell and John Hughes. Meanwhile Phil Gray continued to shine, taking the Junior win over Brett Winstanley by a margin of two, Jason Attwood took third place a further target adrift.
So as the crowd headed for home and a few die hards swapped their guns for a glass of Kings Ginger and a trout rod, it was time to reflect on yet another successful championship, an event that GMK boss Karl Waktare considers one of the highlights of the year. “We always enjoy coming to this event” he said, “the atmosphere is great, the venue is beautiful and the course team do a great job. The other reason we enjoy it is because we get to meet and talk to our customers, and only by listening to them can we continue to produce the guns they want to shoot. I look forward to welcoming them back for next year’s event”.