Murray Thomson reports from a memorable Alpa Sporting Grand Prix, contested over 100 Sporting and 100 Sportrap at Bisley at Braidwood
Nearly every serious northern clay shooter will ensure at the start of the year that the ‘Alpa Sporting Grand Prix’ is firmly printed into their calendar, and it was clear that a huge number of them were well organised enough to do so. This two day event, which is now in its third year, boasts a 200 target objective that is split evenly into a National Sporting and a Sportrap.
Max Jeffery, who runs and organises the event, decided to move it to Bisley at Braidwood in the Scottish Borders this year, after having held it at The National Shooting Centre Scotland near Falkirk for the last two years.
Max said his hope was that by moving the event further south it would come into the reach of some northern-based English competitors who previously would have found the travelling enough to put them off.
He was also hugely impressed by the way that Bisley at Braidwood had run the Scottish Sporting Championship in 2018, showing him that it would be an ideal new venue to host such a well known event. With a prize fund of over £8000 and class payouts all the way to 8th place, it certainly has an appeal to a large cross section of elite and intermediate shots.
The event attracts some big names such as Martin Myers, who had previously attended and was High Gun for the first two years of the event. This year’s celebrity gun was Nick Hendrick, who had ventured north to throw his name into the list of well known shots.
The Bisley team were tasked with setting an entertaining course, and under the supervision of Ian Braithwaite they did not disappoint.
The Sporting layout covered the full distance of the ground, and was made up of 13 stands, three of which were styled like Super Sporting, with the final stand throwing five different targets with full use of gun permitted on each.
The course was hugely entertaining, and allowed Ian to take full advantage of trying to trick the gun by using fast and slow combinations, as well as using Braidwood’s superb terrain to make targets look like they were doing something totally different to what they were.
The ground displayed a master class in tight angle and small window shots, complimented by steady targets on low spring at distance that demanded soft hands and attention to detail.
The course was set so that the gun setting out with a heavy opposite pocket of 6.5’s would have returned to his car equally as laden as when they set out, meaning there was something for everyone.
Staggered into the Sporting course were four Sportrap layouts placed perfectly in the terrain to throw a plethora of different target presentations, meaning that no two targets were alike across the course.
On the large open Skeet area, there were birds thrown that demanded sound technique and firm concentration, which was an assault on the senses compared to the other three more compact layouts.
The Sportrap targets were a testament to the skill and imagination of GB shooter Struan Brodie, who had spent several days in the run-up to the event adjusting each of the traps in his role as course setter.
Struan took full advantage of the steep banks that run parallel to the main track, throwing birds coming towards the stands that gave enough flight line viewing time to coax the gun into a battle of wills, mesmerising the competitor into pulling the trigger a little too early or a little too late. On the final Sportrap layout, a tight, close-quarter group of five birds were presented that caught a few guns off guard.
The star of this layout was an orange uphill rabbit which was slightly quartering away, launched near to the fifth gun. The fate of this clay was being either vaporised or missed cleanly.
As if all this were not enough to enjoy, there were also two vastly entertaining A/AA and B/C pool shoots that were bathed in the phrase “I’ll just have one more go” on many occasions.
Max Jeffery said “I would like to thank Bisley at Braidwood for the unparalleled hospitality and expertise in hosting this event, which is now in its third year and going from strength to strength. It has taken months of planning to get to this weekend and we are delighted with how smoothly the event has been run.
The standard through all the classes this weekend has been incredible and I know there was something this weekend for everyone. I am hugely grateful to all of our sponsors for their generosity.
I am also humbled by all those who contributed goods to our silent auction, as all the proceeds from it are going to the Scottish Junior Sporting team. This year totalled £1800 to help with the Junior team’s ambitions (£900 in 2018). We are already starting to get ready for next year’s event.”
On Sunday, there was a Super Final which included those with the top 5 scratch scores combined over the two days. Stewart Cummings was the favourite going into the Final after shooting an impressive 190/200.
He was joined by Alan Harris, Colin Will, James Carter and Nick Hendrick for the final, which shaped up to be a real spectacle for the large crowd that gathered to watch. After one round of Sportrap and a shoot-off, Scotland’s Alan Harris emerged victorious after a thrilling exchange of skill with James Carter, who took runner up.