A tennis court is a tennis court, a rugby pitch a rugby pitch but for some sports the design of the course makes all the difference. Golf, motor racing and of course shooting are all affected by the layout, the set-up, and make-up of the ground. For the first time, 20 times world champion, George Digweed is designing a competitive shoot, the FITASC British Grand Prix. So what is he bringing to the party?
George wants everybody to be able to walk onto every stand and think “I can hit that target”.
Yet the subtle changes in speed angle, line of the target, takes targets off people. So they may think it looks like a walk over but they will finish with missing a couple.
George works closely with Promatic’s Jamie Peackham. George describes him as being like his golf caddy, working with him to get the best out of each stand. There’s a lot of tinkering going on especially with a virgin ground.
George throws a torrent of requests at Jamie: “Can you just move that out a touch?” … “Have to go out a touch so it goes through that gap rather than into the oak tree” … “Is there any way we could tilt that?” … “That way.”
“The targets at any ground, where ever you go are going to be similar, in-comers going away” explains Jamie. What Jamie likes most is that the settings are different at each stand. There are different aspects for each stands. Cover crops, trees, pegged down platforms, rabbit stands are some of the variants George has incorporated. Most importantly Jamie notes that everyone has been very friendly and helpful. Jamie is a pro at setting up these targets and it is Mr Digweed who is the novice today. But George has shot enough targets to know what he wants. As long as he is directing Jamie then Jamie is happy.
To give you an idea of what George is trying to achieve he takes us through the subtleties of a target. He guides us through target A. It comes from under the shooters feet and heads away straight across the field towards the trees. There is a tilt on the trap so the clay tails ever so slightly right. Shooters will expect a straight flight and a few may end up shooting up the side of it.
George is not only designing this competition but competing too. Some might find this odd but, George is not into foul play and hasn’t fired a single shot here. George does not think there is a home advantage because a “target is a target” He may work out some of the subtleties but that he can still over read them and miss.. All will become apparent at the end of the weekend. There is a high standard in British shooting now and George will be up against as many as 50 competitors.
Hicknaham Farm does have a game shoot but it’s the first time a clay competition will be hosted here, with help from Gamebore, CCI clays and Promatic. So why would you put yourself through it especially when the ground is so wet?
The event organiser, Ludovic Antony, was with George and Hugh Smith at the world FITASC in Orvil last year. While in a restaurant they decided to raise the profile of FITASC in the UK. So the idea of a competition at Hicknaham Farm was born with George to design the course.
Is he regretting it now?
“Yes” jokes Ludovic.
“No, we are going to deliver a fantastic venue. The location is fantastic. Nobody else has shot the targets. It is on virgin ground, it is a one off and it is going to be fantastic” he says.
Of course George can’t just turn up stick out a few traps and open the doors. It all has to be checked and verified. Hugh Smith is the Chief Referee and with notepad at the ready he’s making sure everything is in order. Hugh’s main jobs are to make sure the course is shootable, targets are visible, the are good challenging targets. His top priority is to ensure that they are safe. He does not want to step on George’s toes as he is the artist. This means they both have to work together to come to an agreement. Hugh describes FITSAC as the Formula 1 of shooting sports. Jean-Francois Palinkas is president of FITASC. He believes that it comes down to technicalities. A sporting shooter needs good technique. On fixed trajectories such as a big drop or double trap it comes down to technique and talent. But this is only a mechanical shoot. The FITASC discipline requires intelligence. The shooter must understand the targets speed, distance and direction to understand the subtleties. Therefore they need careful people with great attention to detail. Hence George Digweed.
There is a desire to promote FITASC here. It is a discipline that really pushes the competitors. The 260 plus field may be down to the novelty of a Digweed designed competition or the attention of FITASC, but it does show there is a thirst for shooting in the UK.