The 45th European FITASC Sporting Championship took place at Vale das Pedras, in wooded countryside 45 minutes north of Portugal from the 21st to the 24th June. The parcours were set-up across a vast area of land, using surrounding hills and woodland to create eight very different layouts to challenge nearly seven hundred shooters who had made the journey. Feedback from shooters we spoke to across the four days was that targets were well set, with great use of the terrain and landscape to deceive shooters with pace and line.
The Opening Ceremony took place on Thursday evening with a parade of national teams, an aerobatic display and an exhibition of shooting from six of the top competitors from the main event. A large crowd gathered to watch Cheryl Hall, Christophe Auvret, Beatriz Laparra, Sofia Alberquerque, Enzo Gibellini and George Digweed MBE as they took on a testing Compak layout set up to display their skills. After the ceremony, everyone gathered for an international scrum to gather their squad details and back numbers for the main event.
Thursday morning arrived with bright sunshine and broken cloud cover; shooters were able to use a well organised bus system to reach the remote parcours, with the two closer layouts reachable by foot. All squads had fifty targets on two parcours to shoot each day, and particular attention had to paid to staying hydrated and protected from the sun in hot conditions.
Despite the heat, shooters got off to a high scoring start. Stuart Hart was top of the leaderboards on day one with a 50 ex50 straight. Phil Gray, Matt Hance, and Christophe Auvret followed on 49 ex50 with Ed Solomons, Carl Bloxham, Mark Winser, Mark Marshall and Dennis Webb one shot back on 48 ex50. George Digweed and Ben Husthwaite were on 47ex 50. Ladies was led on day one by Carole Sawkins on 46, with Becky Bream one shot back on 45. The veterans class was headed by the Swedish shooter Conny Petters and Martin Reynolds on 49, and Super Vets was being led by Paddy Howe on 49.
Day two bought the same fierce sunshine, but with the addition of a stiff breeze which made for some tricky targets, especially on the more exposed layouts on the hillside surrounding Vale Das Pedras.
At the halfway mark at the end of Friday , a new leader had emerged with the Lithuanian shooter Virgilijus Grybe sitting on 98 ex100 – surely one to watch in the future. A trio of shooters, George Digweed, Mark Winser and Fabio Chiarapini of Italy were one shot back on 97 ex100. Cheryl Hall led the ladies class on 91 ex100.
As the weekend arrived, so did the heat, with temperatures of 32deg on Saturday to welcome shooters as they went out. The heat didn’t seem to affect the top guns as they started to pile on the big scores, George Digweed shot 49 ex 50 to take the lead on 146, Mark Winser was just one shot back at 145, with Mark Marshall, Chris Daniels and Virgilijus Grybe sitting on 144 ex 150. The final day was going to be exciting with a clutch of shooters able to win the Championship.
For the final day, the shooting ground was bathed in the hottest weather of the tournament so far, with the wind dropping and temperatures reaching 36 degrees. George Digweed started the day knowing a near perfect score would bring home the trophy, with recent English Open Mark Winser only one shot back and hot on his heels. Further down the pack, there were a number of really close run competitions, and as a crowd gathered in the large marquee to watch the rolling scoreboard, it was inevitable that some shoot offs were needed.
Digweed managed a 49 ex50 across his final two layouts to come home on 195 ex 200, with Winser scoring a 48 for 193 ex50, so whilst the senior class was clear, other classifications needed deciding with tied positions in the Super-Vets, Veterans, Ladies AND Junior divisions.
So, as the late afternoon sun fell across the Shooting Ground, a massive crowd gathered around a shoot-off parcours and two squads were established to resolve the last places. In the first, the super-vets division would be decided, with Michael Taylor (USA), Paddy Howe and Enzo Gibbelini (ITA) shooting off for 1st place. Michael Taylor took the first place on 18, with Howe and Gibbelini ending up in a sudden death shoot-off for second place, the Norfold based shooter taking the honours when the Italian missed his third shot. The veterans group had three people tied in third place, with John Pool, John Bidwell and Jean-Francois Loyen (FRA), taking on the shoot-off parcours with Pool edging it by one shot on 19.
The second squad saw the ladies and juniors divisions being decided, with Celine Rodde (FRA), Beatriz Laparra Cuenca (FRA) and Janine Preece shooting off for third place. The British shooter took the bronze by one shot on 18, from Laparra on 17 and Rodde on 16. The Junior class shoot-off was for second place with Phil Gray and Frederik Malstrom (SWE) tied on 187, the GB shooter held out in a tense finish, winning by one shot on 21.
So – the final results had been decided, with British shooters taking a huge amount of the top places:
Individuals (GB shooters in bold)
- Seniors – 1st George Digweed MBE / 2nd Mark Winser / 3rd Felix Soldado-Folch (ESP)
- Juniors – 1st Guillame Gay (FRA) / 2nd Phil Gray / 3rd Frederik Malstrom (SWE)
- Ladies – 1st Cheryl Hall / 2nd Sofia Alberquerque (ESP) / 3rd Janine Preece
- Veterans – 1st Steve Brightwell / 2nd John Wells / 3rd John Pool
- Super Veterans – 1st Michael Taylor (USA) / 2nd Paddy Howe / 3rd Enzo Gibellini (ITA)
- Seniors – 1st Spain / 2nd Portugal/ 3rd Italy
- Juniors – 1st Spain / 2nd Italy/ 3rd France
- Ladies – 1st Great Britain / 2nd Spain / 3rd France
- Veterans – 1st Great Britain / 2nd France / 3rd Italy
- Super Veterans – 1st Great Britain / 2nd Italy / 3rd USA
Gallery from the event