David Williams, Chairman of the Bournemouth Archery Club, talks about what makes the sport unique in the South…
“Archery is a unique sport because you can compete against yourself. You’re not relying on other people so you can progress at your own rate,” explains David Williams, the Chairman of the Bournemouth Archery Club.
Bournemouth Archery Club teaches its members the skill of one of the oldest sports. Its history can be traced back to the late Palaeolithic period, around 10,000 BC.
Located at Bournemouth University Sports Campus, the club’s location was formerly called the Bournemouth Sports Club until it was sold to the university in 2019.
The club has existed for almost 60 years and has 100 members. Senior archers are aged 18 and over, while juniors are between eight and 12 years-old. David has been a member for over 20 years and has held his position as Chairman for 14 of them.
The chairman believes that the club allows its members to test their skills with a bow and socialise in a safe environment.
WHAT IS ARCHERY?
In its most simple form, archery is using a bow to shoot an arrow at a designated target. As a competitive sport or just recreational activity, it requires technical skill, focus, and patience. With many styles of bows available, there are two styles of archery: field and target.
While the sport allows people to develop skills in shooting arrows, David believes that archery’s diversity is also an important part of the sport.
DIVERSE BOURNEMOUTH ARCHERY CLUB
“Today, we have exactly 100 members. 89 seniors and 11 junior members”, explains David. “We normally wait until the archer is 18, until they become an adult at the club.
“We have a broad mix of archers. Some members are there for the social part, and on the other side, we have also strongly competitive archers. Some start as social archers but develop to become great competitors.”
“Archery is a very inclusive sport. It’s a sport where you can have disabled archers shoot with able-bodied artists on the same shooting line, both enjoying their sport. Currently, eight disabled archers are members of our club.
“In the past, we’ve had juniors in wheelchairs with perhaps impaired eyesight as well. The best thing is that everyone can learn archery skills and join in because it’s an individual sport. Most of the time, you’re competing against yourself for a personal best.”
“We have a small team of eight very committed and knowledgeable coaches. One of our coaches for the club is in a wheelchair, showing how everyone can get involved.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF ARCHERY
There are two types of archery: traditional target archery and field archery.
Bournemouth Archery Club is a traditional target club, using longbows and hitting traditional targets made of foam or straw.
“Field archery involves archers shooting at cut-out figures of animals or other three-dimensional objects in the woods,” explained David. “Some archers practice both types. Our club focuses on traditional target shooting.
“The primary focus is always safety in our club. We have our own safeguarding officer, and we take the safety of where and how we shoot very seriously. The shooting is controlled by a field captain who blows the whistle to shoot and then collect arrows.”
DIFFERENT TYPES OF ARROWS
Traditional arrows for longbows are made of wood with a metal point and a pile of feathers called fletching to help the arrows fly.
As the sport has progressed into popular competitions, the arrows have also evolved to give the archers the best chance to hit high scores on a target.
“Compound bows use more sophisticated aluminium arrows. They have an aluminium core surrounded by carbon; this makes them lighter and more accurate.
“The more competitive archers would tend to use carbon aluminium arrows. Most beginners also will choose to buy a set of aluminium arrows, because they are very sturdy.”
There are several types of bows for archers to use as well as the different styles of archery.
“The most common bows are called a recurve bow; this is the bow you would have seen if you watch archery at the Olympics.
“Then we have compound archers. The compound bow is more sophisticated and more engineered. Compound bows have a magnifier sight on the curve, and they can also have a metal site so the accuracy is far greater with compound archers. The accuracy is very high, and they would get upset if they didn’t get an almost perfect shot.
“Another type of bows is called the traditional longbow. Films popularised these types of bows. Robin Hood uses traditional longbow in the films.
“They tend to be made with a yew tree and laminated with other woods and even include a strip of bamboo to give it more flex, more whip.
“We also use crossbows, which is quite unusual, but we’ve got about two or three members who now shoot with a crossbow. It’s not that common to see in the South because crossbows tend to be more common in the Midlands and further north. We have additional training sessions on crossbows at the club for those who want to try it.”
David believes that archery competitions allow people to socialise with their fellow archers as well as win silverware.
“The competitions are very social. Some people just enjoy doing club competitions because they know the people and want to shoot together. Some archers end up shooting 100 yards, which is a pretty amazing distance.”
“We run two major competitions a year across the South. Having competitions that involve people from different clubs can help draw more competitors and spectators alike.
“There are more national competitions normally run at places like Lilleshall, the home of archery in the Midlands. Also, Archery GB, the national governing body for archery, is based in Lilleshall.
“Members have a choice. If people just want to do local competitions, we have our own club championships. This way, people can get trophies and medals from competing at our club.”
ARCHERY DURING THE PANDEMIC
“I’m hoping the competitions will run this year. Our indoor open one, which we run at the campus in January, had to cancel this year because of lockdown.
“Coronavirus pandemic affected us like any other sports club. We stopped shooting last March and didn’t restart until the end of June. Then we had to stop again.
“Most of our members renewed their membership last year, although the pandemic restricted our activities. Hopefully, at the end of May, we will be on the field again.
“We’ve appointed a COVID-19 safety officer and now have a stronger emphasis on social distancing. We also marked our range in compliance with Archery GB’s requirements. We have a new booking system too.
“We’ve set an outdoor range to ensure that we follow social distancing requirements. Now people just come to practise and leave. There is no socialising anymore. Hopefully, that comes back as we get released from the restrictions.
“People have had to adapt to the changes but it’s something you have to take seriously.”
HOW CAN YOU TAKE UP ARCHERY?
“Our practice sessions last a couple of hours and usually have around 12 people on the course”, David explained.
“We run around three training courses a year in normal circumstances; in March, May and September.
“The first course is fully booked already. They’re extremely popular. It’s great news for the club as we get a good take-up from people who go on the course. Over 50% of people from the training course join the club as official members. It’s a good source of new members and a way to mix junior and senior candidates altogether.
“We always ensure that a parent or guardian accompanies every junior whilst they’re at the club.”
“You don’t have to spend a fortune and buy the most expensive bow. You can develop as you progress and can always upgrade.
“But it’s all a case of when we can get back out and the shooting again. That’s the target… no pun intended.”
For more information about Bournemouth Archery Club, click here to visit their website. For more local Sport stories, click here. And don’t forget to follow HQB News on our social channels. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.