Les Grands Finales

When ex-pat Theresa Lawrence heard that the 2007 French Agility Championships were being hosted by Brittany this year and that all the local clubs were being asked for volunteers, she wrote her name down on the piece of paper. It was not until the week before the Championships that she was informed that she would be the official in charge of interpreting and would be looking after the Norwegian Judge Yngve Sommer who, later in the year, would be judging the FCI World Agility Championships.

My judge Yngve (pronounced Ingva) would be judging on the Saturday and the Sunday for the Level 3 dogs (Senior) for the championships.  In the French Agility Championships, there is a title for the Level 2 (Novice) and Level 3 (Senior) handlers. This would consist of an Agility and a Jumping course on the Saturday with the second Agility course on the Sunday. 

Yngve arrived on the Friday afternoon after flying via Paris to arrive in Rennes – a long day for Ingve.  I was introduced to him and then accompanied him to his ring to check the equipment etc.  The ring had a new set of equipment which was made in Brittany, excellent quality and the contact equipment was made of a new material which I can only describe as cork-like, which worked really well.  Ingve decided that we would not set out the course until the Saturday thus not giving anyone an unfair advantage of seeing the course in advance.

By this time, around 55 camping cars had arrived, and the venue was very busy with officials and competitors wandering around the site. People from all the regions of France were there,  some of who had as much as an 8-11 hour journey to get to this competition. There may not be so many people competing in France at the moment but the ones that do take their sport very seriously.

The venue was absolutely great. It was a top class equestrian centre with very large seating stadiums. Just two minutes walk down the road, and you were on Dinard beach and the Dinard/St Malo cove which was absolutely beautiful. The weather the previous weekend had been really bad weather so no-one knew what to expect weather wise for the weekend. At around 8pm the judges left for their hotels and I left with the helpers for an evening meal and, of course, lots of aperitifs and flowing red wine.

For the first time at the French Agility Championships it was decided to have two contact judges for each agility course, in line with the decision for two judges at the World Championships this year. The second contact judge for our ring was the French Team coach, Guy (pronounced Gee).

Saturday morning arrived with a little bit of mist. It looked as though it was going to be good weather. Ingve arrived, and we put up the first agility course. The course which he erected was challenging for the finalists. The course time was tight but not impossible but it kept the handlers on their toes.  One section of the course was a 3-jump parallel which quite a few handlers found difficult as in France I have only seen this once or twice.  There were no major problems and there was some very good clear rounds.  During the morning, the temperature rose and by lunchtime it was very hot indeed.  We broke for lunch with the Jumping to commence after lunch.  Lunch was very nice indeed with a traditional moules ét frits (French muscles and chips.)

Sunday arrived and proved to be just as hot - in fact, hotter - than the Saturday. We set up Ingve's second agility course. I thought it was a very good course with a very challenging weave entry, but French weave entries are very good so it did not cause a problem for most people. The one obstacle which did cause a problem for many was the spread. The reason being, I think, that not many courses have spreads in France so it is not well practised. There were many different breeds competing in the French Championships but I feel that a large Golden Retriever must be mentioned as it worked so well.  It worked at the same speed as many of the border collies and was a pleasure to watch.

The Sunday afternoon the French World Agility Team were officially presented to everyone. Ingve was asked to set an Agility course and judge the Team. This year for the first time at the French Agility Championships, there were two contact judges for each agility course, in line with the decision to have two judges this year at the World Agility Championships. 

I was very honoured when Ingve asked if I could be the second contact judge for the French World Team. Well, I was very honoured but also very nervous. I must admit that I was very impressed with the French Team. They have definitely improved on their contact points this year. Their speed has never been a problem. The crowd loved watching the French World Team, and it was an honour to participate in the  judging.

Ingve was approached by many of the competitors and complemented on his courses and also his judging which, in my opinion, was very good.

We were now ready for the presentations. There were all the top officials of the SCC and the CNEA for the presentations and, of course, all the judges. I stood with all my club members in the crowd, waiting for the presentations. The equivalent of the Vice President of the Kennel club then announced that he would like me to join him and the judges for the presentations and thanked me for my help. I was shocked, embarrassed but at the same time very honoured. I have now been accepted in agility here in France and it is a good feeling.

About a judge
Yngve is a very down to earth international judge and is very easy to talk to. Both he and his wife have competed in agility for many years and have both been Norwegian Champions. Nowadays his one remaining dog lives on their large farm in Norway with his two children, two horses, birds and fish. He doesn’t get time to train his dog much but has shown his dog, a beautiful Belgium Terv which has done very well in the breed ring and has just had her first litter of puppies.  His spare time – as well as running his own business in Norway – is taken up judging all over the world. In the coming weeks, he is booked to judge in Italy, then Belgium and then Japan.  As a judge he believes that you should not make a course that is so difficult that it is not fun for the handler or the dog.  He believes in putting in subtle distance chances, angle changes and he definitely likes challenging weave entries. I watched his contact judging, and he was very good, watching both the front and back legs which isn't always done in Europe.

It was a pleasure and honour to meet Ingve and we are definitely keeping in touch.

Sam & the dogsAbout the author...
Theresa Lawrence
likes the life in Brittany especially for her daughter Sam and the dogs. She says you don't have to worry about children when they are out of your sight like you do in the UK, but work is very difficult to come by. The French government seems to be against people setting up small businesses and taxes them to the hilt i.e., 40% social charges out of your income and then 45% tax of what is left! 

Nevertheless, Theresa has just passed her French examination allowing her to board, breed and privately train dogs in France which she will be doing in the near future. She and her family will be moving house soon and intend to offer caravan facilities for those who want to bring their own caravan to Brittany and plan to enter a show or two in the area - or just want to have a holiday with their dogs. When she has new new house renovated, she will be offering B & B facilities, too.

She has just picked up a new WSD puppy from Chris Bolton. Quinn (Lunarlite X Factor) will be starting his sheepdog career in France. Maybe Theresa will write another article on his progress in la belle France!

First posted 16/07/07


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