Archery - 70 metre Individual

Saturday, May 20, 2006

As Will drove us through the wilds of Witney, we passed this pub. The rain was coming down quite hard, but doing nothing to dampen the wind. I suspected the pub might be as close as we would get to anything archery related last night, but thankfully I was wrong.

After some initial confusion when we arrived at Witney Rugby Club about where exactly the archers were hanging out (there was some sort of caravan convention being held on one of the pitches), we eventually found a couple of members of the Windrush Bowmen (a number of whom later turned up and were clearly women).

People in clubs tend to be either incredibly welcoming and eager for you to join in whatever it is they’re doing, or incredibly aloof and eager for you to go away. I’m delighted to report that the Windrush Bowmen (and bow-women) were all very firmly of the former persuasion. Within ten minutes of finding them, I was handed a target frame and told to follow the man with the tape measure while he very exactly measured out the 70 metres we needed.

The rain came and went, but the wind persisted as this same man gave me a very rough idea of what to do. I shot a couple of arrows into a target that was only ten metres away to give me a feel for what I was doing. I assume doing so was also designed to be an exercise in confidence boosting; if it was, it nearly backfired horribly as my second arrow only just hit the target.

Having established that the sights on the bow were essentially meaningless at this stage, as I’d probably miss the long target anyway, my mentor decided I should get on with it and give them all a laugh. I think he was a little surprised when my first three arrows only missed by feet instead of yards. The gentle mocking turned to gentle encouragement as we walked down to retrieve them (from the ground).

My fourth shot was dead straight (“as an arrow” in fact), but missed slightly high. My fifth shot, however, hit the target and I may have yelped ever so slightly. By this stage, I could no longer really see properly for all the rain on my glasses, so it was the noise the arrow made as it hit that produced the little yelp of triumph. The sixth shot missed high again, but I didn’t really care by then. I walked, rather faster this time, down to retrieve the arrows and to see how many points I’d scored.

The grapefruit was safe, in fact, you could have nailed a prize-winning marrow to the target and it would have survived unscathed, but I’d hit the outer black, and that’s worth three points. I trotted back to the other end, almost oblivious to the rain, to shoot what I promised the patient Bowmen would be my last three arrows.

I missed with all three. The wind was getting up, the members of the club were waiting to use the range, and the rain just wouldn’t go away. It was time to call it a day. Somehow, the photos make it look like it was a reasonably pleasant evening weatherwise. It wasn't. For a bit of archery footage, and some indication of how strong the wind was, take a look at the video.

I scored three points with my nine arrows. Assuming that I had gone on scoring at the same rate (which, as assumptions go, is reasonably heroic) for the full 72 arrows of the Olympic qualifying event, I would have scored 24 points. In 2004, at the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, the Korean Im Dong Hyun broke the world record with a score of 687 points (out of a possible 720). That’s a hell of a lot of grapefruits.

Of the fifteen events I have tried so far, archery has shot to the top of the list of things I’d like to try again sometime; maybe next time on a dry, windless, sunny evening.

Massive thanks to the Windrush Bowmen for their hospitality, and to Will for braving the elements and taking such good photos and video footage. I’m off to Scotland for a few days to continue the rehabilitation of my knee by playing one of the finest golf courses in the world. When I get back, I hope to set about finding some other events I can do while my knee continues to improve.

Archery Preview

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will be attempting to have a go at archery. The Olympic archery discipline is contested by shooting at targets 70 metres away. As so often, I’m going to turn to Dave Wallechinsky’s Complete Book of the Olympics to set the scene:

Archery targets are four feet in diameter. The bullseye is 4.8 inches across. This is the equivalent of shooting across three tennis courts laid end to end and hitting a grapefruit.

I think we all know from experience how tough that can be. Only this morning my grapefruit had made it almost to the end of the garden before I managed to get a shot off.

Archery made its first Olympic appearance at the games of 1900, but after the 1920 games it was dropped as an Olympic sport for want of a uniform set of international rules; presumably the French turned up having prepared to shoot grapefruits, while the Canadians were adamant they had been told to practice shooting at bananas. The French-Canadians arrived with a quiver full of arrows, a fruit salad, and their newly appointed national coach, Carmen Miranda.

Fifty-two years later, the archers of the world had settled on a set of rules (and a type of fruit) and the sport made a comeback in 1972 at the Munich Olympics.

Archery is one of the events at which I will cheat ever so slightly. It accounts for two of the 136 events I could have a go at – the individual and the team contest – however, as the team event is merely a replication of the individual event, I’m only going to do the latter.

I’m also going to cheat in the same way I did when it came to shooting clay pigeons (or were they kumquats?); that is to say, I am not going to shoot quite as many times as the athletes at the Olympics do. To win an Olympic gold, an archer would have to first shoot 72 arrows in a qualifying round and then win 6 matches of 18 arrows each.

Assuming there was no need for any playoff arrows to be shot in the event of a tied match, that’s a minimum of 180 arrows, and to my mind, that means just one thing. I'm not going to waste everyone's time by reconfirming how bad I am at archery 180 times.

My hosts tomorrow are the Windrush Bowmen, who shoot at Witney Rugby Club. If you’re in the area, I’d suggest you run away as fast as you can just in case I don’t quite get the hang of it from the start.

This will be my first event since the fencing in November. The lay off has been largely due to bone idleness, but I’ve also been somewhat hampered by my knee injury. I promised an update on that in my last entry, but to be honest there isn’t much new. My knee still hurts if I try to do much with it, but it gets a little better every time I try. I hope and suspect tomorrow’s antics won’t put too much strain on it.

Robin Who?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The first test match of the summer started at Lords today. In a little over six years, that famous old cricket ground will play host to the 2012 Olympic archery events. Slightly sooner than that (a week tomorrow in fact) Witney Rugby Club will have a similar honour when it plays host to me having a go at archery, thanks to Barry Groves, of the Windrush Bowmen, who has offered to show me through the basics.

From our brief conversation on the phone, I’d say he’s not expecting me to be able to hit the target at all from 70 metres. I suspect he might be right. Will (Clapton, not Scarlet) is going to come along to act as a witness and hopefully capture some footage on the night. In the meantime, I will be spending as much time as I can in the pub playing darts to get my eye in.

A proper update, including the latest on the (improving, but not yet recovered) knee will follow soon – but for now, I’m spending so much time at work that the last thing I want to do when I get home at night is turn on another computer.