This year’s Hampshire Open Fencing competition, held over two days at the magnificent modernist Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth, saw New Forest Fencers at all levels of competition in what was a demanding but friendly event.
In the Women’s events, Sway’s Dawn Townsend fought the double of Senior Foil and Veterans Foil, while Victoria Pritchard made her first foray outside County and Regional events to her first Open, at which a large field of National and International competitors presented her biggest challenge to date.
In the first round of pools, a poor opening bout focussed the mind of Pritchard; from there, the current Hampshire county champion closed in second. Builing confidence, she won the next round’s pool to earn a bye and the third seed for the Direct Elimination (DE) stage.
For her Last 16 match, Maidstone’s cheerful Helen Easter gave Pritchard a ‘value for money’ bout, going down 10-15. For the Last 8 match, Pritchard out-classed Swindon’s Zoe Sheehan with a series of devastatingly accurate foot and arm hits, taking the bout convincingly, 15-5.
The semi-final bout put Pritchard against the highly agile, counter-attacking style of Hungary’s Erika Cserny, in which a new mental toughness came to the fore. Matching Cserny point-for-point, the lead changed repeatedly through a fast-paced bout. Seemingly in a set-back at 12-12, Pritchard realised a weapon failure had cost two points and the lead, but this only redoubled her determination to make the final. Pushing Cserny to 14-all, the tense fifteenth hit was a double and was annulled. The deciding last point went to Pritchard, 15-14.
The final, with Reading’s Verity Howell, pitted Pritchard against a vastly more experienced opponent currently ranked 33 in the country, and so Howell proved in tactics and timing. Taking the fight to Howell, Pritchard launched determined attacks against a wily opponent, landed some well-executed counter-attacks and refused to crumble as Howell maintained a slim lead into the second period. Ultimately experience won out, but with Howell made to work for the title, the score 15-10 brought Pritchard’s first Open final to an end with a silver medal.
Sway’s indefatigable Dawn Townsend made a regular return to the DE stage of the Women’s foil, comfortably beating London’s Virgitti 15-2, before a tougher 15-10 victory against Shortlands’ Cassandra Pritchard. The luck of the draw brought her a one-sided semi-final against eventual title winner Chiara McDermott. Townsend matched her third place in the Seniors on Saturday with a third in the veterans on Sunday, only going out 7-10 against old nemesis and this year’s title winner Jane Clayton.
Elsewhere, the Forest’s younger fencers took on all-comers in the sabre events. Alex Stones’ first Open yielded 25th place. It was a strong field of fast-charging cadets and Internationals, making thirteen-year old Asher White’s 28th all the more remarkable for only his second competition. In the Women’s sabre, Grace Marrs began slowly but looked like a different fencer by the end. Having qualified for the British Youth Championships in Foil, Marrs’ initial 12th place in a new discipline was always going to be a learning experience and there were no easy bouts. All are working hard for results at next month’s Southern Region Age Groups event.
[Photo: Dawn Townsend and Victoria Pritchard at the Hempshire Open. Photo by Robin Catling]