The Clay Shooting Classic saw its best entry in four years as over 1,000 competitors headed to West Wycombe estate for a fantastic festival of shooting
For many it is the Sporting event of the season, for others the chance to meet up with old friends. But for everyone who attended this year’s Classic it was an incredible four days of shooting.
Set amid 5,000 acres of prime Buckinghamshire countryside, the quality of the venue was without parallel and offered target presentations that haven’t been seen anywhere before.
Chief course-setter at EJ Churchill Adam Calvert was given the job of setting a course that would test the top shots and entertain the masses and with 1,028 entries over the four-day event there was a wide range of abilities to please. Adam and his team rose to the challenge and did a magnificent job with the help of some 58 Promatic traps, 250,000 CCI clays, 35 referees, five ground boys, one Promatic mechanic and two weeks of preparation.
The shoot consisted of two courses: Red and Blue. Both courses were made up of 75 targets over 14 stands and offered targets testing shooters’ skills at distance, speed and angle over the beautiful game shooting estate owned by Sir Edward Dashwood.
Widely regarded by the shooters as the more challenging of the courses, the Blue course saw slightly lower scores than the Red across the event from 8-11 June.
The first day of the 18th Clay Shooting Classic with EJ Churchill saw shooters from the Services test the course for the main event, buttoning and scoring for themselves.
Great weather and great shooting saw the highest overall score posted by Anthony Dean from the Police. His score of 136ex-150 gave him 1,000 Eley cartridges as well as his trophy.
Second place was a draw on 123 between Richard Baker, Fire, and Simon Fenner and Dean Morris, both of whom are from the Police.
Top of the Army was Stuart Ferguson on 117, Fiona Thompson took top spot in the Navy, Keith Johnson shot the highest score from the RAF and Bernard Taylor was top shot in the Prison Service.
In the team event the honours went to the Police team – Anthony Dean, Simon Fenner, Dean Morris, Steven Smith and Nick Fenner – who retained their title for another year, having shot a total of 622.
When the main event arrived, there was a small army of staff, tractors and four-by-fours on hand to transport shooters from the EJ Churchill shooting ground over to the stands on the estate.
Thursday saw the most challenging weather for the targets as the gusty winds sent them on random paths across the sky, so it is testament to the level of shooting that some of the highest scores were posted. Setting the bar high and finding the course much to their liking were Ben Husthwaite and John Lee, who both scored 73 on the Red course and 71 on the Blue course, giving them an equal total of 144 and top spot on the table after the first day.
George Digweed was also among the leaders, but at the end of the first day he was one target behind the leading two with his score of 143. He said: “It was a great event and a fantastic course.”
Also leading their classes on Thursday were AA Class shooter Nigel Hart with a score of 138 and A Class shooter Nick Channor with a total score of 130. Leading B Class overnight on Thursday was Robert Clarke on 129 and Ian Hall with a score of 113 was top of C Class.
Friday’s shoot was introduced with a rain storm, which lasted for about two hours. Although there were many whose scores were affected by the rain, last year’s Runner-Up Mark Winser wasn’t one of them as he posted a fantastic 144 to tie at the top with Ben and John. Andrew Clifton was the overnight leader in AA Class, having scored 139, while in A Class Matt Nicholson was on a score of 136 and in B Class it was Ted Tustain at the top with a score of 122. C Class Veteran shooter Spencer Basham shot a fantastic 115 to leave him tying for first with Ian Hall from the previous day.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny for the last day’s shooting, and a full squad list packed with top-class shooters turned up to challenge the boys at the top.
The forecast rain showers held off but the sunshine caused some to struggle on a few tricky targets on the Blue course in the first rotation.
Perhaps the big scores of the previous two days put off some of the top shooters as no-one on Saturday managed to match the leading score. However, AAA shooter Scott Greenfield and the old master John Bidwell were not far off the pace, both shooting fine scores of 141.
After all the scores were counted the three-way shoot-off for the top spot took place on the shooting ground between Ben, Mark and John. Three stands of five targets would decide who would take home the Bremont ATL1-Z watch, worth £3,495, 2,000 Eley cartridges and £1,000 cash. For the first single target, the shooter had full use of their gun, then it was on report double targets that were to prove necessary to separate the leaders.
Ready to lock horns on the stands, the three shooters didn’t show any sign of nerves as they gradually went through their routine of attacking the targets. Perhaps surprisingly these big guns did drop the odd target here and there, and after a tense 20-minute shoot-off Ben Husthwaite emerged the winner after a fine display of marksmanship shooting 11ex-15 in front of some 200 spectators.
After he had won Ben said: “I didn’t really expect to shoot so well when I came on Thursday. I have been away in the States for the last three months so have done hardly any practice and this is a sport where you really get out what you put in, so I felt I did well to hit 144 on Thursday – although afterwards I thought I was probably two or three targets light of a winning score. In the shoot-off I probably shot the best I have done all year so I’m really pleased – even with a cold!”
He added: “I’ve taken a year off shooting so I’ve been setting courses and teaching but the hunger and want of competition is always there – sometimes the abilities just don’t come up to it.
“The three people in the shoot-off certainly enjoyed the shoot, but for me the best two in the world at the minute are myself and George, so I’m really in a two-way battle and somebody always comes through. It was nice to come out on top for once.”
“I’ve shot every Classic since it started way back in the 90s, and this is the third time I’ve won it. This year they’ve put a fantastic event on – the weather has hindered them and they got through it, the organisation is what you would expect and Adam’s done a fantastic job on the targets. A really good shoot!”
John Lee took the Runner-Up place, while third overall and AAA Class winner was Mark Winser. Second place in AAA went to George Digweed with his score of 143 and in third place was Scott Greenfield on 141.
AA Class saw John Bidwell take the spoils followed by Andrew Clifton on 139. Third place was split between Nigel Hart and Michael Pennington on 138.
In the classes things changed quite a bit on Saturday as Karl Hagan was to top the A Class with 140 followed by Matt Nicholson on 136 and Fred Barker on 134.
Paul Crumpton in B Class equalled Roger Clarke’s score of 129, which he shot on Thursday, and a head-to-head shoot-off was required to settle it. Paul kept his cool in the shoot-off to take the Bremont ATL1-Z watch and 1,000 Eley cartridges, leaving Robert in second and Gael Poinsot in third on 128.
C Class shooter Didier Marteen put in a great score of 125 to take the top prize followed by Petros Ioannou on 123 and Malcolm Nattriss on 122.
The Ladies Class was once again won by Cheryl Hall with a score of 129 closely followed by Georgina Bartholomew, who has recently returned to clay shooting, on a total of 128. Janine Preece’s 122 on Thursday gave her third place.
John Bidwell’s score was enough to top the Veterans Class, some eight targets ahead of Fred Townsend in second who hit a single target more than Peter Butler in third on 132.
Colts shooter Jake Moore had put in a fine score of 125 winning his class on Saturday. Second in the Colts went to Oliver Johnson on 117 and rising star Amber Hill took third place on 116.
The Junior Class saw a trio of familiar faces on the podium as Essex Masters winner Phil Gray shot a whopping 140, giving him first place ahead of Jack Lovick on 129 and Chris Papworth on 127. These three are set to cause a stir in the Senior Class in the coming years.
EJ Churchill manager Rob Fenwick said “I was really happy with the whole event. It had more than 1,000 entrants, which is bigger than it has been for years, and for it to go so well is a real credit to the team here. I am very proud of them and I know they are all looking forward to next year and already thinking of ways to make it even bigger and better.
“I would like to thank the competitors for participating and making it such a good event. I’m going to aim to arrange a bit more sunshine for next year!”
To hold an event on this scale requires more than just a shooting ground; all the staff involved did a fantastic job and thanks must also go to the sponsors.
Clay Shooting publisher Wes Stanton said: “It gives us a warm feeling to know that our trade is prepared to unite to promote our sport under the Classic brand – now in partnership with EJ Churchill – with clays, cartridges, traps and vehicles to make this event a true festival of shooting offering a total prize fund of just under £50,000.”
CCI supplied over 250,000 clay pigeons; Eley Hawk donated 25,000 cartridges; Promatic supplied the Classic with traps, batteries, buttons and wiring, and significantly supported the Classic with staff.
Outside of the trade this year’s event enjoyed support from Bremont watches, which has identified shooting as an ideal market through which to communicate its brand values, and put up a hugely generous prize pot worth just shy of £25,000.
Cub Cadet provided ATVs to help with set-up. This made filling the traps and ferrying scorecards far easier.
Ian Robertson, editor of Clay Shooting’s sister magazine Diesel Car, made a big contribution this year by helping secure a new sponsorship deal with Citroen, who provided 4x4s. Other valuable sponsors of the 2011 event were Toyota; Lookers Landrover; and Adrenaline ATV for providing transport and vehicles and Perazzi, who supplied the prize gun offered as a prize for the pool shoot raffle.