The 20th Clay Shooting Classic was held over three very different days, with early bird shooters on Thursday and Friday being deluged with heavy rain and gusty wind, before the sun shone on the final day and allowed the Saturday shooters to stay dry.
Just shy of 1100 shooters converged on the EJ Churchill Shooting Ground and the Dashwood Estate in Buckinghamshire to shoot two layouts of 75 targets designed by ex-World FITASC champion Duncan Lawton in an attempt to take their share of a £50,000 pot with prizes from Perazzi, Eley and Bremont. The Blue layout took part on the well-respected EJ Churchill Shooting Ground with 14 testing stands laid out around the ground. Targets were varied and well thought out with distant rabbits, close-up and quick crossers, as well as the well-known Churchill towers providing some driven tests.
The Red course was set out along a valley in the Dashwood Estate, another 14 stands but using the natural topography to put some distance between the shooter and the targets – including some long-range incoming birds which were unpredictable in the wind and some fearsome sim-pairs in the wooded areas. The use of bright clays, both blaze and white against the backgrounds on both courses was a particular feature with even the top shots misreading pace and over or under leading – the eventual winner, Matt Hance told Shootclay, “On one (Blue Course) stand I missed a blaze crosser three times in front, completely believing I was behind it. Only when I wound back to 12 or 18 inches in front did I find the target!”
General feedback was that this Classic was considerably stiffer than last years, with the Blue course shooting a bit easier than the Red Course. Some of that will come from the wind and rain affected first days, but also due to combinations of targets that were deceptive based on pace and line rather than pure distance. The final results certainly bear that theory out, with most classes of shooters coming in under their average. It was great to see the course setters rising to the feedback that last year’s Classic was a bit too easy, and turning the heat up on the competitors this year.
After two days, Matt Hance and George Digweed were sitting atop the leaderboard with 137ex150 and 136ex150 respectively, despite having shot in abysmal conditions. One competitor remarked that it was, “like shooting clays in a car wash”. When Saturday arrived, there were still a number of big names due to shoot who could mount a challenge on the podium, with the added advantage of sunshine and a drop in the breeze.
A fairly large crowd had gathered by the clubhouse as the final competitors started arriving back from the Red Course to hear the latest updates – but no-one could match the scores from Friday, with Matt Hance holding onto his one shot lead to take the High Gun prize of a Perazzi MX-12 Sporter & 2000 Eley Cartridges. George Digweed finished Runner-Up with a Bremont watch and 1250 Eley Cartridges.
The AAA class was a close run affair – with three shooters tied on 132ex150, Ben Husthwaite was not available for the shoot-off, so Paul Simpson and Sam Green gathered in the evening sunshine for a tense finish watched by a big crowd, with Simpson eventually winning out.
AA was won by Chris Biddlecombe on 135ex150, and A-Class was won by Bastien Havart from France on 127. B-Class was won by Tony Mills on 114ex150 and C-Class was decided by another shoot-off between Nigel Rock and Nigel Wright who both finished on 102ex150, Rock taking the Bremont Watch and 1000 Eley Cartridges.
Ladies class was won by Tracey Riddington on 105ex150, and the Junior Class was won by Phil Gray on an excellent 125ex150. The Vet Class was won by John Bidwell on 129ex150 and the Colt Class was won by Taylor Hedgecock (previously featured on ShootClay) with a creditable 107ex150.
Full results are available here
Overall feedback was that whilst two testing courses had been laid out, the targets were fair and challenging, and despite the weather on Thursday and Friday the event was well organised and well subscribed. The team at EJ Churchill led by Adam Calvert were excellent, with few trap breakdowns and only very short delays for trap refills. Transport between the two layouts was excellent, with large beaters trailers to move everyone around with minimal delay. The ground looked excellent, with good signage and a few new stands implemented to make use of the space and create some new angles and approaches. The Car Parks were well organised, despite torrential rain and the Club House provided great facilities for shooters and spectators alike, including pool shoots and some concession stands.
Congratulations to all the winners at the Classic, and to all the team at EJ Churchill for making this event a resounding success!