As shooting venues go, there cannot be many more beautiful sights than West Wycombe House bathed in evening sunshine, but as the six shooters were getting ready for the super final on Sunday evening it seemed that the whole shooting world was focused on the arena in front of us.
More on the Super Final later on, but first a quick recap of the seven days leading up to the focal point.
Well over a thousand shooters descended on EJ Churchill Shooting Ground for a week of events, opening with a preliminary FITASC Sporting won by Dave Carrie and then the World Sportrap which was won by Paul Lovick. Later in the week, the ground held a preliminary Sporting event, which was won by Richard King. This festival of shooting was well underway and the scene was set nicely for the main event, the World English Sporting Championship starting on Thursday morning.
Thursday arrived, along with the worst weather of the whole week, early starters had to contend with heavy showers throughout the day as well as overcast skies. The two layouts were set out across the West Wycombe estate with the Blue layout using some of the land previously used for the Classic in 2012, there was a mixture of woodland stands, with especially cleared areas being used to give smaller window presentations as well as some more open stands across the rolling landscape of the estate. There were some testing targets thrown from concealed telehandlers in the woods, with a strong mixture of quick quartering or going away targets, as well as some slower but more deceptive loopers.
I started on Blue 6 – a pair of bright coloured crossers shot down a slope, fast and tricky to see, but breakable. There was a sim-pair of a going away looper and a high stalling midi which caught a lot of people out, and then back down to the rolling fields for stand 12-14 which had some bright crossers set out into a valley as well as a close up rabbit on stand 12. Transport back to stand 1 was prompt and quick and we faced into a sim-pair of overhead targets which really needed some respect, as well as a high battue on report with right to left crosser over the right shoulder which was a fun target to shoot. The entire round was a great mix of targets, with white and coloured clays being used against dark backgrounds to deceive on speed and line and some big aerial targets set over some of the rolling landscape.
George Digweed MBE was amongst the early starters on day one, and shot the latter part of his first round on the blue course in intermittent showers. Rumours were buzzing when I arrived on the 3pm rotation that he was building a big score, and certainly watching him straight Blue 6 was an indication that he was shooting well despite the conditions.
At the end of the first day George finished on a 96ex100, with Ben Husthwaite scoring 92ex100 on the Red Course, there was clearly still a lot to play for with many of the world’s top shooters in town.
Friday saw drier, but breezier weather. I tackled the Red Course, which many said was a trickier, more technical course. The layout consisted of three sections, Stands 1-6 on the side of a hill back toward the ground had some very tricky stands, a clever driven pair on report which needed lots of respect, then a benign looking pair of crossers which caught LOADS of shooters out.
At the top of the hill was a tricky quartering flattish blaze teal with a simple looking crosser, and a pair of battues which caught some of the top shooters out. Stands 5 and 6 were set out across a rolling field with an incoming pink clay and some long crossers including a really testing sim par of bright green crossers out into the void! The ‘middle section’ of the layout was three stands set in a small valley, mainly shooting uphill – with another close incomer and a high stalling target, some very tricky pink and green crossers and a pair of fairly distant rabbits before you disappeared into woodland for the last part of the round. In the woods there was a good variety of stands, including some very close up floppy crossers that were easier to miss than they looked! Stand 12 and 13 were into a wide clearing and there were two stands with high crossers flown from a telehandler including another sim-pair of high crossers. Finally to finish a tricky little stand in the woods with one pink ‘woodcock’ going straight with an on report blaze curling into the same line.
At the halfway point, George Digweed had shot another 96ex100 to give a total of 192ex200, and Ben Husthwaite had scored 92ex100 again, leaving him on 184ex200 – a further three shots back was Andy Moon on 181ex200. However, with most of the national teams still to shoot on Saturday and Sunday, it was all still to play for.
Saturday saw some of the best conditions and the full rotations made the site feel and look really busy. The central ‘village’ was arranged around a massive screen, with an impressive entry lined in flags. With trade stands, food outlets and the CPSA and EJ Churchill hospitality tents the whole place had a real buzz about it.
Shooters starting out on Saturday included Richard Faulds who finished on 94ex100 and Team USA shooters Anthony Matarese and Gebben Miles, all pitching for a place in the super six final.
Transport from the hub to each of the layouts was by large tractor trailers, and despite the long and bumpy ride spirits were good. On the layouts there were plenty of Polaris buggies to drive people between the ends of layouts and also to ferry less able shooters around the ground, especially important on the red layout where the steep hill at the beginning of the course was a challenge!
On the final day, Sunday, conditions were almost perfect and once again the central village was buzzing, with all eyes on the giant scoreboard and the 192 score at the top, shooters were on the course for 9am and the main team groups were out on the 3pm rotation. The tension was there, despite a huge lead for the top spot, there were still 5 more places to claim in the Super Six final, and plenty of shooters in with a chance.
As the day progressed, it became clear that the top spot wasn’t going to be taken, but plenty of good scores were being built. Ed Solomons came in with a 182, alongside Arnie Palmer. Anthony Matarese scored 183, and Ben Husthwaite and Martin Myers shot 184. So the final six were Nigel Hart on 186, Paul Simpson, Bill McGuire (US), Nick Hendrick and Richard Faulds all tied on 187 and George Digweed carrying a 5 shot lead into the final on 192.
The Super Six Final
So – to the Sunday evening final, and an arena with grandstand had been built on the lawn in front of West Wycombe house and a large crowd, included invited guests from a celebration garden party at the house assembled to watch the final.
After some initial shoot-offs for Colts and Ladies positions, the six stepped up, with part of the shooting order being decided by drawing lots. Targets were huge, a left to right battue, a quartering going away target, a massive teal and a huge hanging crosser which must have been 60 or 70 yards out. Each shooter tackled 8 from the left cage, and then 8 from the right cage followed by a sim pair of massive loopers from the center cage. There was some stunning shooting, with flash clays providing spectators a chance to see breaks at distance. The final target of the final was a monster crosser from a huge crane which none of the shooters hit with full use of the gun. Of note should be the sportsmanship shown in the final, with plenty of smiles and high fives as the six shooters took to their task, especially a lovely moment when George Digweed and other shooters raised their hands to correct a mistaken call made by a referee which allowed Bill McGuire to narrow the gap.
When the final shots were fired, George Digweed had extended his lead to 9 shots from Bill McGuire to take his 23rd World Title – a truly stunning achievement which was well received by a cheering crowd. Third place was decided between Richard Faulds MBE and Nick Hendrick, who both took another shot of the crosser, with Faulds killing it first barrel to more huge applause from the crowd, who really wanted to see that target broken!
Speaking to shooters all through the event, and after the final, I heard 99% positive feedback, with many stating this was one of the best events they had shot in the UK. With fantastic commitment & organisation, both Rob Fenwick, Mark Marshall and the team from EJ Churchill deserve rich congratulations from all the shooters and spectators involved. The CPSA staff should also be commended for managing the shoot onsite, and getting results and regular updates online quickly.
Finally, I must applaud George Digweed MBE for a stunning win, 23 world titles over 4 decades is a monumental achievement – and the rest of the shooters in the final and throughout the entire week who made the event have such a great atmosphere.
Fulle results from the World English Sporting and all of the preliminary events at EJ Churchills are online at the CPSA site.
Roll on Florida in 2015!
A gallery of photos from the event: