March the 21st 2004 saw the second Plywood Masters to be held at BoulderUK. Forty-eight competitors were divided into three categories (men, women and veterans) to compete for the ACME Hire Trophy, £150 and a mega selection of other prizes supplied by our sponsors.
Qualifying was run on the usual format as used in the British Bouldering Championships with three attempts allowed on each of the 20 problems, and bonus holds to split people even further. Each category had its own set of problems so that the women and vets wouldn’t have an overly hard time on the men’s V9‘s. The route-setting team of Ian Vickers, Percy Bishton and Jamie “Butch” Cassidy were the instigators of an excellent “tour de bloc” ranging from technical fingery horror shows to Percy’s piece de résistance “Percy’s Slippery Slot”. The chimney was the scene of many interesting screams and grunts as competitors entered fresh as a daisy only to be spat out at the end gnarled and pumped and definitely aged.
After three hours qualifying was over and the results were in; as expected, British team members Mark Croxall and Andy Earl were leading the pack with youngsters Ben West, Dan Bradley, Ryan Pasquill and dark horse Tom Jennions completing the top six for the men’s final. In the girls Lucinda Hughes, in her first comp for over a year, made a big impression and qualified first. She was joined by British team junior Katie Whittaker (celebrating her 15th birthday) with Katherine Mills, Hazel Findlay, Rachel Seymour and Sian Oakley taking the remaining places. In the Vets we were in for an exciting final as it was impossible to split Mike Lea and Tim Hatch in qualifying.
The final arrived and we had a surprise for the competitors and a treat for the spectators. The finalists were given 30 minutes to work three very hard problems in no specific order after which they had three attempts in which to red-point them. If you didn’t perform on the first problem you were out i.e. the top four off the first problem went onto problem 2 and then the top two onto problem 3. This may have been considered a little harsh by some - oh well... In fact, the format worked quite well, allowing the spectators a 30-minute viewing period as the finalists worked the problems, followed by some awesome climbing as they bore down in true fashion to try to send them.
The results provided some very interesting reading as it was to be the rank outsiders' day in the men’s and women’s. Fourteen-year-old Hazel Findlay, who was on a special invite because she already trains with the British team, was the only woman to complete a problem, giving her a very impressive win. As for the men’s, the youngsters ruled the roost with 18-year-old Tom Jennions climbing with awesome strength and composure to win, closely followed by 17-year-old Ben West. The vets went true to form with Tim Hatch's fitness triumphing over last year's champion Mike Lea and a bouncy Andy Cassyk taking third.
After the finals the ACME Hire Trophy, along with cash for the top three, was presented. The rest of the finalists received prizes from The North Face. The Vets comp was sponsored by Snow and Rock, who provided some excellent vouchers to be cashed in at their new Manchester outlet. Finally, loads of prizes supplied by all the sponsors were given out in a free raffle, meaning that almost everyone went home with some prizes.
After the comp there was only one thing to do, PARTY. With free tickets supplied by Jumping Jaks in Blackburn we headed into town for an excellent night out, but I suppose that is another story.
Many thanks to the route setters, volunteers and the sponsors without whom the event would not have taken place.
The sponsor list in full:
- ACME Hire
- The North Face
- Snow and Rock
- Entreprise Bolt On Holds
- HB Climbing
Last but not least, thanks to all the competitors - and see you again next year for The Plywood Masters 2005.