With Welly Ball only just passed, there is perhaps no better time to draw light on the St Andrews Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Welly Ball is one of St Andrews’ most popular and unique events, yet it is perhaps a relatively unknown fact that the ball was started by the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club.
Whilst the event has grown in size and has had to create its own committee to manage the event, the event still remains a key part of one of the biggest days for the St Andrews Clay Pigeon Shooting Club’s year. In layman’s terms, clay pigeon shooting is a sport which involves one individual shooting a shotgun and aiming to hit a clay disc out of the sky. Through speaking to Edward Sheasby (Men’s Captain) and Alex Brown (Club President) it quickly became apparent that the ways in which this plays out in competitive format can vary. There are many different variants of the sport.
On the university circuit, the competitors take part in the sporting format. In this format, the way in which the clay disks are launched into the air is unpredictable, with the disks following different trajectories. This naturally makes it a difficult challenge to any competitor as there is no room for muscle memory or being able to follow a pattern.
On the university circuit, the sport combines individual performance with teamwork. The individual aspect of the event can be seen in the sense that every contestant must shoot at 50 different clay disks across different stands. The more disks that are hit, the better the performance. Then teamwork has to be used in the Flush part of the competition: four people from each team take part in this aspect of the competition. Eight tracks (the apparatus which launch the clay pigeons) project 100 clay disks non stop. This leads to there being a high volume of disks being launched from multiple directions. The four members of the team must combine teamwork and accuracy to shoot as many of these discs out of the sky. It is important to emphasize each shotgun that is used only had two round before needing to be reloaded. As a result, coordination of who is shooting and who is reloading is an essential part of this competition.
Unlike many sports played at the University, clay pigeon shooting does not do team against team (head-to-head) fixtures. Instead, they take part in challenge events where multiple teams from all over the country take part in a tournament, which typically lasts a whole day. Each year the St Andrews University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club hosts one of these tournaments. Sheasby explained that, after BUCS, it is probably one of the most famous university clay pigeon shooting events in the country. Teams travel from far and wide to take part in it. This year there were over 250 competitors.
This event is unique due to the size of the competition and the added glamour of Welly Ball as the after-party venue. This certainly makes the trip up north worthwhile for the traveling teams. Sheasby emphasised how fun and action-packed the weekend was. However, St Andrews is by no means the only university clay pigeon club that puts on a show. Brown spoke of how there are many upcoming events, such as a Durham Challenge and York Challenge, as well as Oxford Challenge which took place last Saturday. It is held at the esteemed EJ Churchill Shooting Ground. Brown emphasised how these weekend challenges, which clearly have a very social side after the event, leads to a very special community being formed between the university clay pigeon shooting clubs of the UK.
Through speaking to Sheasby and Brown, many myths and mystery of clay pigeon shooting were dispelled. It goes without saying that clay pigeon shooting is seen as a quintessentially rural British past time for many. But the following of clay pigeon shooting goes far beyond the greenery of rural Britain. Just this year, the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club received an invitation to attend a challenge event in Chicago. Further there is an ever-growing European alumni network of former St Andrews Clay Pigeon Club members.
Furthermore, the stereotype that you need to be born into a certain background to take part is not necessarily true. Or, at least certainly not the case in St Andrews. Sheasby commented on how approximately 70 per cent of those taking part the club had never shot a shotgun prior to attending university. Sheasby, who is currently the Men’s captain, was a novice in his first year.
Further, so long as you can brave an escape to the breath-taking Angus countryside, a shooting session will only cost you £15 which is by far the most affordable cost for clay pigeon shooting locally or in comparison to any other university shooting club. This is a fantastic bargain considering that it takes into account the cost of transport, the clay disks, use of the premise, and ammunition for the shotgun. So, clearly, you do not need to wear tweed and red trousers to take part in the St Andrews Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Brown and Sheasby really emphasized the re-energised nature of the Club. Over the past few years, the club has continued to try and push itself forward. This can be seen in the social side of the Club; with their highly popular socials, the Club is garnering an increased number of social members. In terms of charity work, the Club is looking to increase what it does. Many of its members are looking to do a charity skydive this year. Brown jokes that this will also help gain a new-found empathy for the clay pigeon disks that they so often see fly through the sky. This year has seen a substantial increase in sponsorship for the club.
With notable sponsors, such as Barrett making, shooting clothing more affordable. So, whilst gilets are in no way required, if so desired the club clearly has made it more affordable for its members. This does not stop at clothing: the club is constantly striving to find ways to make the club as affordable as possible. In terms of competition, the club is constantly looking to find new competitions to enter. There are talks of trying to start an Edinburgh-St Andrews clay pigeon varsity. Yet Sheasby is quick to emphasise that for the Clay Pigeon Club, enjoyment is the principal objective. Whilst the club keeps pushing itself forward, it will not be at the expense of members having a good time.
Clearly, there is no better time to get involved with the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Whether you are a novice who has never held a shotgun, or a seasoned competitor, the Clay Pigeon team welcomes you. If you’d like to give it a shot, be sure to attend one of their “give it a go” sessions, or contact them on Facebook.