Thursday, 21 April 2011

Catch Up time Pt II : Crufts 2011

I accepted the invitation to judge Crufts four years ago and before I knew it the time had arrived. I found the whole experience quite daunting but ended up really enjoying it thanks to the support of my friends, Andy and the fantastic team of people at Crufts itself.

I wrote a report for the various magazines which outlined my experience so here it is for posterity published on my blog as it does sum up the event as I remember.

I received the invitation to judge at Crufts 2011 in July 2007 and was delighted to accept; it seemed so far in the future that there wasn’t anything to worry about, but boy those four years flew by!

In 2010 I was at Crufts to support Andy when he judged the championship finals. I watched him up on the big screen looking very smart and I watched Natasha looking beautiful and slim and then I had a melt-down. Next year that would be me up on the big screen and you know what they say about television adding 10lbs to you. That triggered a big change in my eating habits and I have Crufts to thank for losing a good deal of weight. Let’s hope I can maintain that!

Before I knew it 2011 had arrived and in January I received an e-mail from Dave Jolly letting me know which classes I would be judging – I had twelve courses to design. Shock horror, it takes me ages to design one course! I had a deadline to work to and as always I went to the wire (why do I do that?) I had several bouts of histrionics but eventually the courses were designed and I felt a huge sense of relief as I sent them off to Dave. Thanks to Andy for his support, how he put up with me during that time is a miracle!

I am very lucky that I am able to set up courses to try things out at home, with friends and on training days. That said I didn’t have a lot of time to do this but I did manage to work on my international agility final and some elements of other courses. I guess it should go without saying, (but I’d better say it anyway) naturally I didn’t share the courses with anyone who was competing at Crufts and in most instances people were oblivious to what I was trying out as I didn’t tell them! Thank you to all my friends, some knowingly and others unknowingly, for indulging me in this.

I travelled to Birmingham on the Wednesday for rehearsal day and it was well worth the effort as I had the chance to set up five of my courses. The ring party provided dogs and handlers to run the courses and it was a great confidence-booster for me knowing that the courses ran as I had hoped with just a few minor tweaks. That said they could still end up a little different on the day as the courses aren’t marked out in advance; they still have to go down from the plan but in the main they all got set up pretty darn well thanks to a great ring manager and ring party.

Several people said to me to make sure I enjoyed it because it would all be over before I knew it and those words proved very true. I kind of did enjoy it despite my anxiety. I am a very nervous judge and fret terribly about getting the courses right for the level and not letting down the competitors. Having competed at Crufts many times over the years I am very aware of how important it is to everyone and how nervous people get. Funnily enough I wasn’t nervous about judging in front of lots of people or the television cameras, it’s getting it right for the dogs and handlers that makes me worry and that’s the same wherever and whenever I judge. It is also quite stressful getting the courses set up within very limited time frames.

I found I enjoyed each class retrospectively rather than at the time. I got lots of comments from friends asking me to SMILE more but to be honest it’s not something I could think about as I was concentrating so hard. Smiling just wasn’t on my agenda!

Overall I was happy with the way my courses ran and wouldn’t change very much at all so I guess that kind of says I achieved what I set out to.

The support team at Crufts is phenomenal and I was looked after really well both in and outside the arena. Nothing was too much trouble and every single one of them helped to make my experience one which I will always remember with pride. The amount of work these people take on is quite incredible and I for one will never ever take what they do for granted even if I have been guilty of doing so in the past.

I think I could go down as the first and probably last judge to dance in the main arena at Crufts. There was a gap before the finals in the circular knockout partly to allow the competitors to recover and partly because the event was running ahead of schedule. So, on came the popular Scissor Sisters track; what was I supposed to do, stand there like a lemon or dance around like an idiot. Naturally I opted for the latter. Another bonus was meeting Ant and Dec; lovely guys even though I don’t watch their show and didn’t have a clue what it was all about!

I think my last word should be about the competitors. This report isn’t about results as I was asked to write about the experience rather than report on who did what. However, I would like to say that all the competitors were fantastic and I got to see some awesome runs on all my courses. I have to mention by name Dawn Weaver and her exceptional dogs; they gave me nothing to judge, just amazing displays of near-perfect agility; the awesome Zen and Bernadette Bay who ran clear in all of their seven classes; Will Rolfe who won the Crufts singles when I truly thought it was in the bag for Dawn and lastly all of the international competitors who attacked the courses with such energy and enthusiasm. You all inspire me to train better and harder! Good luck for 2011.

Below are some pictures, thanks to Maria for the photos of me with the lovely Declan. I met Ant as well but didn't get a photo with him. They are both lovely but Dec is the nicest (IMO!)

I look a bit shocked in this photo, Declan is signing my niece's book for her. He was so lovely.

Looking a little perplexed. Perhaps I couldn't remember the course pattern!

Obviously I got one clear round along the way, although I think I clapped everyone!

Thanks to Lian for catching me in judging mode, it's nice to have pictures to go with my memories of this amazing experience!

Here are my course plans from Crufts 2011:

No comments:

Post a Comment