When Judgement Day first burst onto the scene at Copehill Down in 2014 they made an instant impact. They were big, they were loud and they were innovative. Their branding and dedication to quality obstacle builds, use of terrain and well organised marshals set them up as one to watch.
2015 saw them continue to innovate and raise their own standards returning to Copehill Down and made great use once more of the FIBUA (fighting in built up areas) village. They were fast becoming one of the UK’s premier multi venue OCR companies which led to them being asked to host the 2016 UK OCR Championships, a decision that many were excited to hear of. A lot has been said since about the event and the influence OCRAUK had over certain decisions, and in the fallout, I think JD ended up shouldering the blame as OCRAUK slowly and silently disappeared into the ether.
The effect on JD was felt both on and off the course; with numbers down heading into their 2017 Pippingford Park weekend it was announced that it would be a farewell to the brand that brought us the trident, and they put on a great leaving party. When Dean announced in December that JD would be returning in 2018, like a phoenix from the ashes, there was a lot of goodwill put forth, but the events in 2018 just didn’t seem to have the same attention to detail and quality that had been the hallmark of Judgement Day since the beginning. Disappointment prevailed, as well as doubts over the future of the event.
Dean though is not one to give up, and this year seems to have put all he has into bringing Judgement Day back to where it once was... Including a return to its spiritual home of the FIBUA training area of Copehill Down on the Salisbury plains.
Pre event communication was great, including a helpful reminder to everyone that, as this is used as an army training facility, it may not be recognised by your sat nav so detailed directions were given. Once along the long gravel track leading to the hard ground parking (always a bonus) and registration area, you are greeted with the imposing site of the FIBUA village which would form the centerpiece of the event. An entire purpose built village designed to test the mental and physical attributes of soldiers makes the perfect OCR playground.
Registration was smooth, with wave bands and the stunning new tees handed out without fuss. It would however have benefitted from an extra hand or two to speed up the process as there were a few mumbles in the queue, but nobody had to wait an overly long time. The event village itself was in the centre of the confidence course and included the new JD merchandise stand which was full of some great quality branded gear. It would have benefited from a coffee or food vendor for the masses though, especially after finishing the course.
The last visit to Copehill Down led runners out for a full OCR over the plains before finishing with section of the confidence course itself. This time the buildings, tunnels and abandoned trains played a much more prominent role in proceedings. The course was brilliantly designed, weaving in and out of sections of the village and surrounding features while still spending plenty of time taking in the natural hills and water features around the village. Climbing in and out of second story windows using rope and ladders will never not be fun, and Dean knows this, making sure you have multiple opportunities to do so. One particular highlight was the beam walk, a pair of iron beams connecting two second story windows bridging a gap of about 12 feet. There are multiple ways to attack it, a foot on each beam, on all fours or, for the fearless, a single beam. It’s a great feature that forces even those without a fear of heights to have second thoughts. The village offers fantastic opportunities to play on other fears too, those who struggle with tight dark spaces will not enjoy the concrete sewer pipe crawl between two buildings. It is, however, a fantastic and unique element of the venue, taking a classic pipe crawl and adding length with changes of direction and elevation. It is a uniquely challenging element that is impossible to recreate. The iconic moment though, the one that everyone was waiting for throughout the entirety of the course was the ‘infinity jump’. Two platforms at different heights with a large gap between sees people leap from the higher platform to the lower. Like the Dragon's Back, it is a mentally challenging obstacle rather than a physical one, your mind making the gap appear far larger than it is in reality. You do get some amazing photos though if you make the jump.
This being JD, there were also the legendary carries. The first sandbag carry was a simple affair coming after a section involving climbing in and out of multiple shipping containers, and was a long slog around a fairly flat course. This was clearly designed to lull people into a false sense of security, as the next time you saw a sandbag you were taking it up 4 flights of stairs and round a roof, before coming back down again in one of their most challenging carries to date. The strength challenges didn’t end there, with a giant tyre flip and keg carry following later in the course.
A partnership with Stronghold scaffolding has also had the desired effect. Obstacles like the monkey bars and hang tough rings which had become tired and started to fall into disrepair have been refreshed and improved. They also lent their hand to one of the largest firemen's poles at a UK OCR leading into the finish line.
This was a hugely successful comeback for Judgement Day; everything their 2018 relaunch should have been, and makes me hugely optimistic for their Pippingford weekend this summer. If they can keep up the build quality and add some food and coffee options to the event village then there will be plenty of smiling faces come this summer.