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High Stakes Archery

"This was probably the most chilled and relaxed I’ve ever been at a competition and I have to thank my club mates for having the best craic ever at a competition. To be nearly crying with laughter in between ends." - Hollie Murdock, Ulster University Archery member

I like to compete in target archery every once in a while. However, I can see why many archers do not attend target rounds, and why they consider them to be boring - static targets, always level, always the same size. If there is a change in distance during the competition, it is still limited by presenting the archer with only a few differing distances - and with so many ends shot per distance, it makes little difference to be considered a diverse feature.

However, the Vegas round can be considered the exception to the above statement; a triple spot of 20cm targets, presented in a triangular pattern, shot at 20yrds.

The hosts of this round were Muckamore Company of Archers, based in County Antrim. MCoA is the largest archery club here in the north and holds the ideal venue for targets rounds. Its club house is an old chicken shed, repurposed of course, hidden away well enough to give the archer the same liberating sense of having escaped the surrounding towns and cities that is found with field rounds. The MCoA club house is better than any leisure centre for a number of reasons: it's an archery venue, built for doing archery, for archers; it is more homely than any leisure centre and does not carry the far-too-intense formal atmosphere often found at archery competitions in sports halls; the social aspect of archery is better amplified by the venue compared to a sports hall, and during this time of year, it's smaller size ensures it is well heated.

Tables and chairs are placed behind the waiting line, great for archers like myself to place and organise my equipment and lunch spread - strawberry fizzy laces, coffee, Lucozade and nuts and raisins - on. This makes the record status competition feel more like a club night, which is good for any level of archer I'd say. Furthermore, the club's love of archery is plastered everywhere, taking the form of parody, banners and trophies. Even the level of lighting was kind to my sensitive eyes.

Better still, the club was using foam bosses! Previously MCoA would use round hay-bale bosses, the kind that hold onto your arrows tighter than my cat to a good leather chair when lifted. No worries about shoulder injuries.

The attendance was predominantly sighted archers, which makes sense given this round was designed for them. Merlin Archery ambassador Hollie Murdock was present in Merlin colours with a bow that looked as if it had been sculpted out of pure gold and took to the shooting line with the expert poise and form of a professional archer. Other than myself, Lough Cuan Bowmen had four archers present, three barebow and one compound barebow in the form of Raymond Brown, Peter Gilmore, Bill Latimer and David Turner. I was the only traditionally orientated archer present, taken in by the allure of this competition and of bettering last year's score, increasing my NI record. 20cm targets at 20yrds, to me, just sound like fun. It is the field equivalent of shooting bunnies at 18.2m, and something that will only hone my shooting abilities and work to build greater confidence in myself. Frankly I'd rather take on such difficulties and do poorly, rather than pass them up, because at least I can take satisfaction in the fact that I was bold in my actions and with archery.

Sharing the far right side of the hall with me was Peter Gilmore and my father, Bill Latimer. Neither of them were feeling particularly confident with what was before them, and this was their first time shooting a Vegas round too. The night before, the three of us and Raymond Brown were hammering Vegas targets in the club in a last-minute-revision-the-morning-of-the-exam style of preparation.

The sighter ends were a necessity to say the least. Sometimes standing in front of a target with no real knowledge on how to approach it can work as an advantage to an intuitive archer such as myself - the less you try and think, the more you let your unconscious work - however I needed a bit of an assurance, and loosed three arrows as a warm up. Two were on target which I was ecstatic about - I'd have settled for one.

When the competition began proper, I had three arrows all on by the second end, but before I was done patting myself on the back, I shot an end of miss, miss, miss. I can only report this competition from the perspective of a longbow archer, so bare with me, but what I noted was that each end would score either low in single digits mostly due to only one arrow being on target, or score high, with two or three arrows on target. It was a binary affair which led to a sort of bi-polar experience through out the event. It was never, alright, or not bad. It was either elation, or despair.

The indoor setup I use for shooting - an archery setup I have talked about in posts on the website before - worked wonders, with the arrows manifesting as stability and grace in flight. By comparison, last year I was shooting cedar wood arrows with four inch flights and nothing more, and put in 129 for a final score. With my refined setup I ended on 230, a 101 point increase. Whilst I will always point out that the most vital and fundamental element is the archer, this demonstrates how important it is evaluate equipment and refine it to the nth degree for optimal shooting.

Peter Gilmore and Bill Latimer were both lamenting their performances by the end, however both put in good scores and did their damedest, maintaining determination and resiliency throughout. Afterall, bunnies at 18.2m, what would you expect from yourself? David Turner and I managed to beat the records we set last year with significant increases. However, as last year was the first year a Vegas round had been held by Archery NI, we were, back then, able to claim the records by showing up. The increase in our scores by such a large amount, along with beating the old scores themselves, were victories both us are more than happy with nonetheless, and at least we were able to solidly reinforce our standings in the Archery NI ranks. Raymond Brown on the other hand beat the previous year's barebow record, held by another archer, and can certainly brag about that.

As always, it was a great afternoon provided by Muckamore Company of Archers in the best indoor venue for target archery. And in concluding this post, I'd like to mention that a FITA 25 is being hosted by MCoA in their club house next month, on February 18th - see their Facebook page for the entry form.

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