Recurve Archery Outdoors SKPhotography

For many people, archery likely evokes memories of fantasy movie scenes or childhood tales of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men; however, what does the modern sport of archery really entail?

Cambridge University Bowmen is the University’s Archery Club, competing in a range of disciplines and bow styles. We mainly focus on target archery, a highly disciplined and precise form of archery – a far cry from the longbows of Agincourt!

Annual Alumni Shoot Abigail Pearce

What actually happens at an archery competition?

Archery competitions vary in their structure depending on whether they are indoors or outdoors, though the primary goal is the same: get all your arrows into the little gold ring at the centre of the target. Despite changes in the size of the ring, shooting from different distances, and the number of arrows you shoot – this part never changes.

Indoors, we typically shoot from 20 yards, though this can increase to 100 yards (the length of a football pitch) when we head to the glorious outdoors. Trying to hit a 12 cm ring from that distance is no mean feat!

...enthusiasm and a willingness to listen and improve always helps, this resulted in a Half-Blue award for one of our novices at the last Varsity Match!

Competitions consist of a named round which defines the number of arrows to be shot, and at what distance. For example an “Albion” round (shot at the Men’s Varsity) consists of 3 sets of 36 arrows, shot at 80 yards, 60 yards and 50 yards respectively, whilst a “Portsmouth” round (shot at indoor competitions) consists of 60 arrows shot at a much smaller face at 20 yards.

Each arrow’s score is recorded, and then totalled across the round to give a final score. Winners are then determined based on your total score, though some competitions may proceed to Head-to-Head knockout rounds, using your initial score to determine your starting position.

Team scores can also be calculated from the highest 3 or 4 individuals, with team medals on offer at many competitions too.

Scoring ArrowsSKPhotography

How often do you train and compete?

The club caters to a wide range of abilities and bow styles, with members shooting everything from a high-range compound to traditional 90 lb warbows, though our main focus is on the “Olympic Style” recurve archery.

On a typical week during the indoor season (October-March), we hold 5 training sessions per week, split between the Sports Centre and Elizabeth Way Rifle Range, whilst in the outdoor season (April-September) we shoot most days of the week on the grounds of Churchill College (weather permitting of course!).

We also encourage members to attend our weekly Strength and Conditioning training, provided by the club at the bleary-eyed time of 7am on a Thursday morning. The programme is designed to focus on the unusual muscle groups required by archers for good form and consistent shooting, as well as improving all-round fitness and mental fortitude.

Club members also have access to top-quality coaching from the county coaches to improve their technique, and can enrol in our “Development Squad”, set up to help further support intermediate and advanced level archers.

...the club is a friendly and sociable community of students, staff and alumni...

This extensive range of training options allows our archers to shoot at the top of their game, ready for competitions in our regional (B.U.T.T.S.) and national (B.U.C.S.) leagues, as well as other shoots around the county.

As a result, the 2019-2020 indoor season saw a number of successes for our archers, with two of our archers achieving first and second place at the National Indoor Finals, and another two achieving County Champions titles at the Indoor County Championships!

The highlight of the competitive calendar is the Annual Varsity Match, where we hope to smash O****d in an effort to claim the coveted Rose Bowl Trophy and Novice Plate, and competitors can achieve their Half-Blue awards. Held at either Merton College or St. John’s backs (alternating each year), the shoot is an outdoor round, taking place in either glorious sunshine or driving rain, though it’s impossible to predict which!

Barebow Archery Indoors SKPhotography

What tips would you give to incoming freshers?

Archery is a more accessible sport than you may initially think. We host taster sessions at the start of Michaelmas (Autumn) Term, and if you’ve been bitten by the bug after that, new members can enrol on our beginners’ course continuing over the rest of the term.

For those who are interested in competing straight away, we also recruit for our novice squad, with the only requirements for this being a determination to succeed and being new to the sport. Showing enthusiasm and a willingness to listen and improve always helps, this resulted in a Half-Blue award for one of our novices at the last Varsity Match!


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The club has free-to-use equipment for all members as well as a range of bow kits which can be hired on a termly basis for your own personal use.

If you’re an experienced archer new to Cambridge, there is also a place for you! We welcome archers who have shot in the past, and can help you get back into the sport, or continue your development in the sport.

For more information on joining the club, keep an eye on our social media accounts over the summer and towards the start of the new academic year.

B.U.T.T.S. League Clubs Malcolm Rees

What else do we do?

We are not just archers - the club is a friendly and sociable community of students, staff and alumni, and we host regular events throughout the academic year to ensure there’s always something to do on the nights you aren’t shooting!

Previous years have seen a plethora of activities, ranging from meals, pub trips, socials with other teams, board game nights, cinema trips, rock-climbing and even paintballing – something which we hope will continue in the future!

For this, we need you! Our club needs friendly, enthusiastic people to keep the spirit alive, so when you return to Cambridge in Michaelmas, why not consider giving archery a try? Who knows – you may be Cambridge’s next Katniss Everdeen!

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