Well the results are no secret and you’ve probably noticed on the Air Arms website already that Jack Harris has retained his World title using his trusty Air Arms EV2. To be honest none of the FT community is really surprised by this result, his current run of form is now at least a couple of years long and shows no sign of coming to an end. Well-done Jack!
So, I’ll try to give an insight on what it is like to compete at a World Championships while reporting on aspects of the shoot that perhaps haven’t made the headlines of the FT World Wide Web.
Now, it is a good few years since I competed at a Field Target World Championships but I do remember that it can be a strange experience and this year’s was no exception. Placed on the calendar at the end of the British FT season we’ve had the whole summer to build up to it, raise our expectations and worry about embarrassing ourselves in front of the whole FT world. And by world I do mean world, just under 30 countries were represented at Glanusk in the beautiful Usk Valley of Wales, a truly international event.
I’ve been to Wales before and I like the place (along with its FT population) but I’d never visited the area in which the Glanusk estate sits. And frankly, wow! What a beautiful spot, well kept estate grounds surrounded by the mountains with red kites wheeling overhead. It was even sunny when I arrived, although rain was forecast for our first day of competition. The weather I think it is fair to say was always a bit of a concern for everyone involved with the competition but even the weather gods were smiling down on us. We did get the forecast rain (not as much as forecast luckily) but I’m glad we did, it somehow wouldn’t have felt right otherwise on a visit to Wales and I wanted the overseas shooters to experience all Wales has to offer!
So, the Worlds is basically like any other FT shoot, consisting of three 50 target FT courses, every target to be shot by each and every shooter over the three days of competition shooting. Not only that but about 350 shooters made the trip to Wales so a massive practice area was set up and the event opened two days before the first competitive shot was fired for registration, practice and of course socialising. A welcome dinner at the nearby Manor Hotel got everyone together before the shoot and it also closed the event with a presentation dinner.
Adding to the overall feel of the championships surrounding the registration area there was a good choice of food available (including a bar for when you’d finished shooting), a silhouette competition for those who felt they weren’t doing enough shooting and various display and have-a-go stands hosted by sponsors for us to be nosey at; so plenty to keep us occupied. At registration we were all furnished with goody bags containing some nice little gifts. Also all our equipment was thoroughly inspected, a good policy hopefully avoiding any embarrassment during the competition proper.
5:30am is not a time I am familiar with, but unfortunately that is when I had to get up on day one of the competition, we pulled into the car park when it was still dark; madness! These are the sacrifices we have to make! 8:00am and the competition got underway, and for me a pair of standing shots, just great. Nerves play a huge part in FT and a couple of sitting shots to begin with would have been nice to settle them. Fortunately the targets fell and any nerves disappeared as my group got into a routine moving from one lane to the next.
Surprisingly the target distances weren’t as extreme as you might expect for a World Championships and to be honest I expected more wind in the open estate grounds than there seemed to be. Still the courses were far from easy as we shot around in a huge circle with targets positioned cleverly to catch the wind of which there was sometimes little indication. Day one is always about keeping your hopes of a good finishing position alive, trying to learn from any missed targets and not let the occasion get the better of you. The pace of shooting was fast and smooth, as the organisers had planned, and we were off the course at lunchtime allowing the next session to get shooting while the early shooters refuelled empty tummies and shared their experiences and opinions of the morning’s efforts.
5:30am comes around so quickly! Day two and everyone knows the routine, 8am start, sit down start the timer, shoot (and hopefully hit) the targets, get up, marshal your partners and move on to the next lane. The dynamic is slightly different for those at the top of the leader board, they have the pressure not to let their guard drop and position slip. For the chasing pack (of which I was one) it’s make or break, a good score is needed to stand a chance on day three of finishing with a good position. And the shooters who didn’t do so well on the first day can perhaps relax a little, but still there are those personal goals and little competitions between friends to think about.
Day three and the knowledge that this is the last 5:30am alarm call for a while. At this stage the competition was still wide open with at least half a dozen shooters still in with a chance of the World title. As the courses were spread over large area it was very difficult to get news from around the course, no one really knew how their direct competitors were doing which added nicely to the tension. The gossip and rumours began as we started to leave the course and while obviously there was no official news, we can add up and it was clear that Jack had retained his title by a single target. Some had slipped back on the final day while others had done well but too late in the competition, everybody I’m sure had plenty of ‘if only’ thoughts (well maybe everybody apart from Jack).
For me it was a great sense of relief to come off the final course knowing it was all over for a while at least. I’d enjoyed shooting the competition enormously, despite the early starts. The whole shoot was a great experience and that is down to all those who worked so hard to host the event and the competitors from around the globe without which it wouldn’t have been a World Championships.