EJ Churchill’s new world order

The 41st World FITASC Championship returned to the UK after a 14 year break. Don Brunt went along to watch the action.

The festival atmosphere created by EJ Churchill helped the event to go with a bang

When it comes to hosting large-scale Sporting events in the UK, EJ Churchill has gained something of a monopoly, which is understandable as there are very few venues that combine the necessary acreage and facilities with the type of enthusiastic team that can cope with the vast logistical effort required.

Fortunately for the shooting public, it doesn’t look like Churchill’s is taking that monopoly for granted; the amount of effort involved in the event was clear for all to see.

The village area around the clubhouse was the perfect place to relax and soak up the plentiful atmosphere. With the Pavillion bar, assorted street food vendors, and suppliers from the industry in attendance, it was easy enough to kill an hour or three in comfort.

Out on the layouts, much had been done to ensure a solid, even footing on every shooting position, and a considerable amount of money had been spent on scaffold towers and platforms to add some variety to the targets. At the transport drop off point of every layout was a marquee serving refreshments and providing a rest stop; there was even a fully mobile coffee shop!

Layout 1 was Gamebore and it snaked down the side of a wide valley. This proved to be the softest of the eight parcours, with an average score of 19.9 ex-25.

It was followed by Krieghoff, which was a target and a half tougher but had a similar feel, with plenty of quartering birds. Peg 2 saw one of the biggest birds of the event, with a low, speedy midi chondel that was thrown downhill at a distance. 

Layout 3 was Hull. The first three pegs were located on a treeline, shooting out into open flat fields. Quartering birds featured quite strongly again. Peg 4 caused a controversy that sadly lasted the duration of the event.

It was about as extreme a peg as you might imagine, consisting of a rocket-powered quartering-away bird at distance; a grass-skimming incomer that hardly got off the ground until it landed more than 20 yards in front of the hoop; a huge midi crosser that needed a massive gap yet presented only about a third of its belly to the shooter; and a long distance battue that stayed edge-on for the majority of its flight, effectively making it pencil thin while it was within range. 

It appears – according to statements made after the shoot – that the battue trap hadn’t been completely locked down and on the first morning it started incrementally turning away from the shooter each time it fired a bird.

Over time the target, which was incredibly hard to start with, became completely unshootable. Eventually the referee called in target setter Graham Brown and the course team, at which point the clay was apparently restored to its original flightpath.

Several high-profile shooters were unhappy about this, especially when it was made clear that those who shot it at its toughest would not be allowed to reshoot it.

The reason given for this was that it had been the ref’s fault for not calling it a no-bird sooner and that there was nothing more that the governing body could do about it.

With a world title in the balance, tensions rose swiftly and soon social media was awash with comment, some of which prompted threats of exclusion from the discipline.

This rumbled on for the duration of the event, and although it in no way reflected on the excellent job that EJ Churchill had done on the infrastructure and preparation of the event, there was still much talk around the village suggesting that the governing body could have handled things in a more even-handed and equitable manner. 

The fourth layout was the Beretta, which started out gently before peg 3 offered up a selection of quartering birds that wrecked plenty of hopes. The final peg saw a similar mix, but this time over the head of the shooter.

The Blaser layout started off with a lightning-quick midi that shot across an opening. It looked like it should be easy enough… it wasn’t. Several struggled to even see it. In fact, with pink clays used liberally over the eight layouts there were several birds that proved difficult to pick up and focus on. 

The start of Browning was friendly enough for most, and the second peg wasn’t too tough either, but peg 3 was awkward. A pink quartering-away chondel that never cleared the treeline was presented at more than 50 yards, twinned with a long crow that was slow but also at distance.

This changed substantially over the week, with the chondel coming some 20 yards closer and somewhat higher later in the week, which one assumes must have been the effect of the wind.

The final peg saw some low quartering birds among the foliage of a pheasant pen. Two shots were just about feasible on some of them, but they were better tackled as one shot targets.

Rizzini started with a really tough peg, and like the majority of the shoot it didn’t offer a lot that you could really feel at ease with. There were no gimmes over the four days, and if you failed to concentrate completely then you were likely to be punished hard.

Perazzi started with one of the most pleasant pegs of the event, which overlooked a valley. Pegs 2 and 3 saw a selection of super-slow targets at distance than needed plenty of accuracy and control.

The final peg went the other way with a super-fast, crossing, quartering battue and a quartering right-to-left that also had some pace to it. 

With so many targets that responded well to being shot quickly, it was always going to be a shoot that suited some better than others, and the top of the leader board reflected that. Sam Green has been getting better and better in recent years and his positive, attacking style really delivered for him.

He took a magnificent victory with a score of 189 that included 25-straights on Perazzi and Hull! With a shooting career that reaches back to his early teens, Sam thoroughly deserves his success and his place in the history books. 

David Radulovich and Richard Faulds tied on 187 for silver, so a shoot-off was needed, and it was Faulds who won out, shooting 22 to Radulovich’s 21. This second place finish comes some 15 years after Faulds won the event when it was last on UK soil at Southern Counties. 

Beatriz Laparra Cuenca (ESP) took Ladies ahead of Haylyn Hanks (USA) and Desi Edmunds (USA), while in Juniors Joe Fanizzi (USA) led the way ahead of Adrien Lelodet (Fra) and James Bradley Day. 

In seniors, Bill McGuire (USA) won by a margin of six targets over team mate Nadim Nasir (USA) while Dave Kempley took third after a good shoot-off against Andy Armstrong and Mickey Rouse. Steve Brightwell brought home the win in Vets ahead of Bryan Summerhayes and Juan Gardeazabal (Esp). 

Masters was won by Eric Mallet (FRA), with Dave Asher taking second and John Hackethorn (USA) third.

There was a moment in the third day when it looked like it wasn’t going to be quite the American steamroller in team events that had been expected, but it wasn’t long before the strength of the US contingent reasserted itself.

At the end of the event the Americans took gold in Mens, Ladies, Juniors, and Seniors, while Team GB had to make do with Veterans Gold and Ladies Bronze.

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