Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Archery Challenge: Training Day 1 / Boris Hood

Saturday at noon I was met by Richard Hennessy who rescued me from posh-looking, independent shopping destination, the Rutland Rural Centre, because I'd got lost on the way to the home of the Bowmen of Glen Archery Society.

The clubhouse sits on the right side of a private field which has distance markers running along the left fence, so that the bosses (the frames upon which the targets sit) can be measured out away from tram lines set into the ground near the start of the field that mark where archers stand to fire their arrows.

Coach Hennessy and his wife Chris, along with Kev (also a Coach, but I've yet to learn his last name), are all extremely welcoming and seem already to have worked out the schedule and how the 'final' will work - I felt right at home almost immediately, though worried slightly when Phil (a chap who was firing arrows as I arrived) mentioned that he'd been learning since May and as yet hasn't reached the distance of my competition (which will be 70 metres).

Over a cup of coffee I learn the various Health & Safety aspects and tried to settle the nerves of Bertie the Great Dane - a beautiful yet giant dog, owned by the already lovely Hennessy's.

There is a safety line, from which non-active competitors and spectators can stand, while active archers are at the slightly advanced, firing line. Ahead in the field, in line with the different distance markers, sit the bosses (easel-like stands) and affixed in front of these are the targets.

I learn that there are two different sized targets, the smallest obviously being the more difficult.

Normally beginners would start by practising firing arrows into the ground, to get used to using the bow, then they would progress to firing at a blank boss (one without a target) which is set at 15 yards.

However, I am being fast tracked and so I'll start by firing at a blank boss, 30 yards away...no pressure then!

Chris, Kev and Coach Hennessy kit me out in all manner of garb; including a bow made from various sections of smoothed wood, an arm guard (to stop the string from peeling my bow-arm of skin once I'd fired an arrow), a strap that would stop me dropping the bow, a little leather thing to stop the string taking the skin off of my firing fingers (I'm starting to get the idea that this was quite a dangerous sport) and later I would add a shoulder harness with breast 'plate' to stop the string from flaying my left pec after an arrow is fired.

Kev teaches me the basics of how to fire the bow and I take my first shot...the arrow whistles past the boss and off into the field beyond.

Tips, encouragement and adjustments to my posture are given and once fired my second arrow finds its target with a satisfactory thump - I soon learn the pleasure of this unique sound.

After failing to meet my target of getting all 6 arrows onto the boss in one go (I managed 5 a few times but that was my best on a blank boss), Coach Hennessy moves me onto a boss with a target and begins to fine tune my sight; this is a small round piece of plastic mounted onto the bow, featuring a lolly pop shape in the middle - the trick is to line the head of the lolly pop with the centre of the gold (the bulls eye equivalent) on the target, then release the arrow...as a fat lad I know how to maneuver a lolly pop!

5 Scoring Arrows...on Day 1!
My efforts start to pay off and I soon manage 5 scoring arrows - just call me Boris Hood!

Encouraged by my display I continue to focus on what my coach tells me and look to improve with every shot, meanwhile Phil and Chris have a mini shout-out against once another at 50 yards.

Coach Hennessy later remarked that he'd have been really happy if I'd scored one in the blue ring, to my sheer delight I managed to go a lot better with my next 6 arrows...

The Everyman Olympian stands proud next to 6 scoring arrows...including my first gold!
There's a maximum of 60 points available per round, this can only be achieved by getting all 6 arrows into the centre of the gold circle, with my second from last go I fire a whopping 37:

The Everyman Olympian: Chuffed to bits - 37/60...on day one!!!
Another piece of kit is added, this time it's a device to help balance the bow, providing better accuracy.

I weight up the increasingly heavy kit - the bow I'm using is set at 24lbs of tension.
After a few hours, Bertie and I are on stroking terms, my collective coaches are pleased and I'm as happy as a pig in poop.

The Everyman Olympian thanks Coach Richard Hennessy, formerly GB No.10 - it's a true honour to meet the great man, his lovely wife Chris and Coach Kev.
I leave the field 'of battle' knowing that soon I'll return, I may not be up to splitting apples atop peoples heads as yet, but in my mind I will be...some day.

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