The BFTA Masters and Showdown are two of my favourite competitions. I’m not sure why, it could be that the format is different to our usual Grand Prix shoots. It may be that one of my earliest successes in FT came in the Showdown final of 1990. Whatever the reason, I was particularly looking forward to this one.
The Masters was held on the Saturday and consists of 60 targets split over 2 separate 30 shot courses. This format is great, it allows for a break after the first course before the second one. This means we get to shoot more targets than we would normally for a single day competition. The weather was dry and warm which helped to complete the relaxed atmosphere that always seems to surround this shoot; maybe it’s an ‘end of term’ type feeling.
That’s not to say the competition wasn’t hard fought over the two very demanding courses. Long targets were fairly rare on either course, but that is one of the things that make Blaenau Gwent such a good shooting venue. The steep terrain of the valley provides the course designer lots of scope for interesting angles. While the wind seems to come from all directions at once. Many competitors came off complaining about missing seemingly easy targets blaming aching necks and backs from shooting those unusual angles.
The day ended with a familiar name holding the Masters trophy. Jack Harris missed only 2 targets, finishing 2 shots ahead of his nearest rivals and well ahead of the rest of the field. 5th, 6th and 7th spots in this open competition were taken by Air Arms team members Justin Wood, James Head and Dorian Falconer.
The Showdown is a wonderful contrast to the Masters and relaxed is not something it can be accused of. The knockout format really focuses the mind. The aim is to beat your shooting partner and progress to the following round, where you have to do the same again. Oh yes, you only get one minute, yes just one minute, for both targets on each lane. Blaenau Gwent had taken some pity on us after the exertions of the Masters. The Showdown courses were on flatter ground although all had a slight uphill bias adding yet another complication.
64 shooters were randomly paired up for the first round first thing in the morning and the fun began. Some big names always fall by the wayside in the first round, but luckily for them they get a second chance in the Plate competition, which runs alongside the showdown so everyone gets to shoot at least 40 competitive targets. To reach the final round you need to shoot 100, and then you still have another 20 to go in the final round itself. Trust me that is a lot of shooting, especially as the sun came out as the summer returned.
One of the more unlikely first round victims was the new BFTA Masters Champion Jack Harris. Jack didn’t let that bother him too much though as he pulled himself together and steadily progressed through the rounds in the Plate competition to beat Andy Pearson in the final. And the Showdown Champion? Well after a frustrating season, and 28 years after my first win in the Showdown, I managed to get my act together and win myself a title this summer after shooting against fellow team member Dave Robinson in the final round.