Anyone that even glimpsed at social media last weekend would find it difficult to miss the Femmes Fatales Cup. Now in it’s third year and bigger than ever (after last year I can’t quite believe I’m saying that is even possible!), the anniversary of Femmes Fatales was certainly celebrated in style. Very generously hosted once again by the fabulous Royal Berkshire Shooting School, this year saw the Cup’s best attendance yet – a sell out event in a matter of weeks, the Femmes Fatales Cup has certainly become a highlight of the Ladies Shooting calendar.
A Girls weekend away like no other
So much more than just a shooting competition, the Cup is a definite highlight of anyone’s social calendar as well as their shooting one. With the festivities starting the evening before at the gorgeous Elephant hotel in Pangbourne (just a short drive away from RBSS), this year there was even more of a “girls weekend away” feeling. The evening was hosted by the wonderful Andrea from DryFire Targets and provided a brilliant excuse to get glammed up, meet everyone before the main event over a yummy buffet supper and drinks, oh and of course – to sharpen those shooting skills with a fun competition using the DryFire simulator. After such a brilliant ice-breaker evening, lots of giggles and a couple of G&Ts, it’s safe to say there was a mixture of nerves, anticipation and excitement about what lay ahead of us the following day.
The main event…
Having attended the 2016 Femmes Fatales Cup (see Girl Power!), I had an inkling of what could be expected from the day but honestly I was totally blown away by the event. I didn’t think last years could be topped but this year certainly managed that! Dylan Williams and his fantastic team ensured the day ran impeccably, starting with hot bacon rolls and smoked salmon bagels to welcome us for breakfast right through to the prize giving and lunch to close the day. Everything was smooth, slick and professional, but most importantly, incredibly enjoyable.
As with previous years, the ladies were split into categories dependent on ability meaning that everyone was in with a shot of winning! Last year, having only two categories to chose from – beginner and experienced, I chose the latter and have to admit felt totally out of my depth. So I was delighted to see the addition of an intermediate category at this year’s cup, splitting the experienced shots into those who are experienced in shooting i.e. they probably do a bit of shooting and have their own gun, and those who are experienced shots – i.e. the Hannah Gibson’s of this world, who shoot competitively week in, week out. Having only entered a competition once before (last years FF Cup), I was definitely suited to the intermediate category. We were grouped with ladies of similar abilities and sent out to shoot the 80 bird sequence..
So to the shooting..
Of course I can’t skim over the shooting element of the day, since it’s kind of the point of the event. The intermediate and experienced categories shot the same targets, 80 birds (clay pigeons, not real birds!) over 9 different stands, including the (in)famous grouse sequence so there was certainly something to suit and challenge everyone. Elected team captain, I was the first to shoot out of my group on a stand that I definitely remembered from last year – but for all the wrong reasons. I have to admit I was pretty nervous walking up to the first stand, not knowing everyone else in my group or what their ability really was (was my classification of ‘intermediate’ the same as theirs?). Our first stand also happened to be one that I did particularly terribly on last year. Add that to the fact I hadn’t even seen my shotgun since January this year and the last thing I had fired my gun at was a pheasant – not particularly good practice (especially as everyone else had been regularly shooting clays in preparation for the big day), it didn’t bode well. Safe to say I had talked myself out of the stand before I’d even got there and I shot appallingly with only 1 kill out of the possible 8 – hardly surprising. Then having to stand there and watch everyone else shoot brilliantly, I was feeling pretty glum about the rest of the day. Not that my team had even noticed – which is the best thing about this group of women (but I’ll come on to that later). Everyone encouraged one another and after a very mediocre second stand, I had started to settle into my shooting. After that, I was away.
I’m actually really proud of how well I did shoot, scoring highly on all of the remaining targets particularly the simulated driven stands. I even got a nod from one of the instructors on a particularly challenging high left-to-right simulated pheasant – apparently I had scored the highest of the day on that stand which I was thrilled with. I have to point out here that it wasn’t the end of the day so I’m sure someone else will have smashed my score, but only dropping a couple on this stand really made my day – I didn’t mind if I shot terribly again from that point onwards! I managed to conquer the grouse sequence this year too which was the biggest adreneline rush. 14 targets come in a continual manner, simulating the extremely fast and challenging grouse shooting. I was amazed I even managed to get one on this sequence, let alone more than that. Although I did get a little over excited towards the end, where 4 clays come at you at the same time and you have just 2 shots to attempt all 4, and aimed at nothing which lost me 4 precious points. Overall, I scored just above half thanks to my appalling start and over zealous end to the grouse sequence – not that it matters in the slightest. Yes, there was some amazing prizes on offer and it was a competition after all but the scorecard really didn’t matter to me. I was never going to come close to winning – no shooting practice for almost 4 months and having only 1 previous competition under my belt – hardly conducive to a winning formula. But I came away from the day knowing that I had achieved some of my best clay shooting to date on some stands and seeing the improvement from this time last year was more than enough of a win for me.
Of course I have to mention the shooting but what I really wanted to talk about in this blog is the Femmes Fatales ethos. If you want to become an expert shot, the chances are you’ll be more inclined to have a series of one-to-one tuition. Femmes Fatales is more than shooting. Don’t get me wrong, introducing people to the sport and improving ability is at the top of the priority list for the club and this is absolutely achieved by offering events at the very best grounds with the very best instructors. But more importantly, in my eyes at least, Femmes Fatales is a community for like-minded ladies to get together and make friends. offering solidarity and safety in numbers against a male dominated field – although thanks to the club – and others like it – this is definitely changing.
I can 100% categorically say that through Femmes Fatales, I have met some of my very best friends and that is something that I never imagined possible when I first joined. Sure I thought I would meet new people and perhaps even go shooting with them aside from the organised events, but what I’ve actually found is so much more than that. I now am privileged to know some of the craziest, kindest, inspirational and amazing women who I can say are my closest of friends – we’re all very different in lots of ways but have so much in common too. From daily whatsapp messages, to evenings out and even holidays I’ve found a she-wolf pack for sure – all from joining a shooting club! And that’s the reason why I have to urge everyone to attend just one Femmes Fatales events this year – who knows where it could lead you!
Back to the day then – I have to mention the hospitality and the prizes!
Last year’s prize pile was pretty epic to say the least but this year somehow managed to surpass that. The winners of each category were quite literally weighed down with amazing goodies, from my favourites Fairfax & Favor to the top shooting brands and everywhere in between, there was so much on offer (I really should have practised!!). But prizes weren’t just limited to the winning shots, there were prizes for just attending (the Fairfax & Favor Hurlingham Tote being one!), a prize for the lady who came ‘glorious 12th’ overall – the DryFire simulator, which I am thrilled to say went to my good friend Chloe – very well deserved. There was also an amazing prize on offer for the lady who shot best on the grouse sequence – a peg for two on one of the very famous Really Wild Clay Days (some of which are run on the Highclere estate!) And for everyone else? the most amazing goody bags – jam packed full of treats from the best House of Bruar choccies to discounts galore, it’s definitely worth being a Femme Fatale – you’d be fooled in thinking we all won!
Not only were we treated to some amazing prizes and goodies, there was so much going on aside from the shooting including selfie competitions and even a specially designed snapchat filter! We were also very honoured to have Johnathon Young – only the Editor of The Field Magazine on board for the day to find out more about our club and womens shooting in general. I can’t wait to pick up my copy in July to see the full write up. And to top the day off the food was also delicious, as it always is from the Wild Fork – the restaurant at RBSS. More of a gourmet restaurant or gastro-pub, this was definitely a treat compared to the usual bacon roll or sarnie that’s on offer at most other grounds.
Johnathon Young, Editor of The Field learning what it’s like to be a Femme Fatale!
So all in all a very memorable day and fantastic experience. I am walking away from this year’s Cup with a whole host of lovely new friends, lots of amazing goodies and feeling very satisfied with my shooting – bring on next year! (which, FYI is the 28th April – make sure you get it in your diary because after this years experience, you definitely don’t want to miss next year!).
One last thing…
I couldn’t round up the day without mentioning one very special Femme Fatale, without which the day, or any of the other Femmes Fatales events would be possible. Our Queen Bee and founder of Femmes Fatales – Lydia, who has worked so so hard to make the club a success. Focusing on introducing as many ladies as possible to the sport, spreading the word and ensuring everyone has a brilliant time as well as bringing the ladies shooting community together to make new friends and show everyone that girls really do rule the world!