Ever dreamed about seeing how you stack up against the best in the world? You can, says Patrick Huston, as there are several world ranking shoots open to all archers
For a big shoot we want to attend we will probably book a hotel the Friday and Saturday night and drive to wherever the shoot is, have dinner, sleep, compete, dinner, sleep, compete and drive home. This is probably a pattern many of you have gone through and wondered why on earth we choose to spend our weekends getting so tired to go back to work and sleep most of Monday morning! Regardless, obsession is a wonderful thing and passion for archery is the reason we all do it. However, all this can quite often total £150, and sometimes more. What I want to convince you of here is that you can get yourself onto the world rankings, experience the international circuit and meet top archers from other countries, have a foreign holiday and enjoy the sights and sounds of a different country for only a little bit more.
A few weekends ago I flew off to Slovenia to compete in the Veronica’s Cup. We shot a 720 ranking round, did team and mixed team head-to-heads, and flew home. I won the individual and mixed team events here and got a good number of World Ranking points. This makes me very happy as I’m now ranked 16th in the world. The thing most people don’t realise is that this tournament is open to anyone! That means that any archer that wants to could get a world ranking, and that’s pretty cool, right?
A lot of us travel all over the county and even the country for tournaments. We work our way up the levels of tournament, hopefully with some nice achievements along the way. Archery is wonderfully broken down into score badges, classifications and national rankings, and if you’re really good you can make the national team and compete abroad. We watch international archers on YouTube competing at World Cups and wish and wonder about how we could get there. Believe me, I did that for years!
So, I want to break down my trip to Slovenia and illustrate how you can do something similar. Wednesday finished off with the usual frenzied packing at 1:30am… I always leave the packing till the last minute, if not I’ll take all the time between when I start packing and 1:30am the morning before flying by procrastinating and being ineffective. In bed by 2am, I had a 7am start to look forward to. The lateness of the packing isn’t a mandatory part of getting a world rank – I think that might just be me. Note to self *passport and toothpaste*.
Packing for regular trips abroad teaches you to be very stringent and thorough with your packing; you can’t necessarily rely on borrowing any needed kit so you must be totally self sufficient while abroad.
Thursday I drag myself from bed, jump in the shower, brush my teeth and shave. All my stuff is neatly arranged at the front door, almost like I’ve done this before. I make a quick smoothie and head out, only to find my neighbour has parked directly behind my car. Who does that? She usually parks nearby, but this is a good three metres closer to my car, and literally directly behind it. This is a lesson as to why you should always try and leave extra time for travel! Anything like this can cause delays. Eventually she answers my knocking at the door and moves her car.
Thankfully, this delay has given me time to remember to fetch my passport. This is a common trait of mine that I definitely need to fix! Driving to Susan’s house is a little more congested than planned given I’d left at 7:30 rather than 7am, but that’s the M6 for you. These trips can be made a lot cheaper by sharing a lift, so I drive to Susan’s house in Northampton and she drives to the airport – it’s less fuel and only one car parking cost between us.
Leaving buffer time for travel is a very good habit to get into; motorways are terrible for having delays. Shoots will never run early but it’s much better to arrive early than late – and this is even more vital for international travel as the opportunities for holdups are greater.
London airports are always busy. We went with Stansted simply as it was cheapest. I recommend using SkyScanner to look for flights as I’ve found it by far the easiest way to find the cheapest route by air. Rome to Rio is another very useful website, showing you various options to travel somewhere. Airport security decided they would be very thorough checking our baggage, keeping us about 20 minutes in the oversize room which was a right hassle. It’s not always that bad – in fact it’s really quite rare – but it’s another illustration of the reasons you need to leave buffer time.
Ljubljana airport is tiny, with just two luggage carousels. Having checked the distance before we get a taxi, it’s only 20 minutes. Our accommodation is on the same road as the field so we get dropped off at the field. Unfortunately, the club shoots on straw bosses, but to our relief we see the field is being set up with soft core foam bosses. We are welcomed to shoot in the club’s range and have a nice bit of practice. There’s already a Swedish archer here along with the Slovenians. Something to be aware of is that on travel days you are likely to shoot badly, don’t worry – it’s just travel fatigue, it’ll pass.
Learning to shoot in different levels of fatigue is incredibly good for your development, if you can force yourself to shoot well when physically or mentally knackered then it gets so much easier when rested.
For our accommodation I used AirBnb. I cannot recommend this site enough. Through it you book rooms in a house or a whole house itself. They are often very cheap, and even when not cheap they are often still very good value for money. For the price of a room in a hotel you can have a double room in a nice house, and for the price of a few rooms in a hotel you can often have an entire house. The system works by people putting their own homes or rooms up on the site. You review people and they review you after staying so there is no worries. In my message when I request to book I mention I’m an archer coming to a tournament and have never had any issues. Our AirBnb was really cheap, £40 a night for the three of us. The official hotel was £59 for a single room.
I really recommend AirBnb for travel in the UK as well. I can’t speak highly enough of it, you can save money and have awesome experience; in Marrakech a group of us had a wonderful apartment in the city!
We arrived at the accommodation, after a long uphill walk, and discovered that our host doesn’t speak much English. The accommodation itself was perfectly fine though, if a little cold when we arrived, with some eclectic furnishings and an open-fronted range.
We walk into town for dinner, about a 10-minute walk. Kamnik is a wonderfully picturesque town. Set in the foothills of the Alps there are fields around and mountains further away. The houses are quaint and organised in the most haphazard manner, with seemingly undefined boundaries and no organisation. There are tall wood shelters dotted around and the air carries the distinct smell of wood smoke. While very pretty, Kamnik does seem to be lacking in restaurants. We stick our heads into four bars before asking a couple to point us to a restaurant. Eventually we enter a small pizzeria. The food is brilliant and fast, cannot fault it. Being close to Italy, Slovenia does very good pizzas.
Friday gives us three hours of unofficial practice. We head into town in the morning to stock up on supplies and grab some lunch. For practice we are shooting on the competition field. We are in the middle of a running track by the Kamnik Sports Centre, with a steep hill to our right and a low stand to our left. There is a light breeze, but shooting is good. I shoot a 672 in practice, which I am very happy with. Stephanie Clason, our other housemate for the event, arrives and gets some shooting in. The other travelling Brits Bryony Pitman, Hope Greenwood and honorary Brit (Slovakian) Vlado Hurban arrive too.
Unofficial and official practice times are great experiences for an archer. You can chat to your competitors in a more relaxed environment but, most importantly, you can learn what the field is like in terms of wind. This kind of prep and scouting is a useful skill to have for all tournaments.
There is a little bit of a strange schedule for Saturday, with unofficial practice followed by official practice, lunch, then qualification. We decide to go down mid-morning rather than tire ourselves out with loads of shooting. Lunch is provided as part of the €60 entry fee. We have pasta and bolognese which is pretty good, though admittedly I’m not a fussy eater!
Unfortunately, the afternoon was not anywhere near as still as the morning was, which was very frustrating. After the first 360 I have 326, well off the standard I would like to have shot and I’m rather annoyed. My frustration lifts noticeably when they read out the leaderboard with me at the top. It looks like others have struggled too.
I’ve never shot target archery at a place as picturesque as this. The snow-covered mountains with granite outcrops are framing the picture with rolling green fields between us and them. It truly is stunning. This is another reason I’d suggest trying to go to some completions abroad; the UK just doesn’t have scenery like it!
The second half of qualification improves in terms of the weather and I put seven points on my score. I finish with 659, 12 points clear of the field. Bryony finishes a solid second in the recurve women’s division while Susan Corless puts in a stonking 347 for a 680 and third position going into the head to heads in the compound women’s class.
Shooting scored rounds at major tournaments brings a lot more pressure into your head. You will spot the flaws in your mental and physical routines quicker and develop more effective coping mechanisms.
Friday and Saturday night prove little more hopeful in terms of feeding, though our pizzeria does a range of pasta and pizzas so our bellies do not go empty. I have to say I was very impressed by their mushroom and mincemeat lasagne! We spend quite a lot of the evenings playing Dobble and Pick-Up-Sticks. Something I’ve learnt from all my travel is that portable games are a must – cards are good, but there are plenty of options.
Sunday means one thing: head to heads. We shoot our individual matches in the morning. I have a bye first round and then I’m straight into a tough match against Pit Klein of Luxembourg. He shoots brilliantly against me; I don’t even get a point with my 29 to open! We finish with a shoot-off after five sets (I scored 143/150) and I clinch it with a 10. My next match against a Turkish archer is fairly straightforward, and then there’s a long break with practice on offer until the gold medal match. Susan wins bronze shooting against Hope with a match PB of 144.
Shooting head to heads against foreign archers in international tournaments is brilliant experience for developing your competitive edge. The feel is totally different and you will very much find that National Series and other big domestic shoots are much easier!
I have a long break, enjoy some practice and shoot my gold match against Andreas Gstoettner of Austria. I get to shoot on a finals target with alternating shooting and a crew; this is a very rare opportunity and great experience for bigger shoots.
Later in the day Bryony and I have our mixed team round. Not many countries have mixed teams so there is only four. We win our semi against hosts Slovenia and then go on to demolish Austria in the gold medal final.
Few archers get the opportunity to shoot international team matches, though given the smaller number of archers at these events it makes it very likely to give you the chance. If we had two more recurve men or recurve women with us they would have got the chance to shoot head to heads against international teams, no matter what level they are at.
After all the team matches are finished we have the prize giving. This is a pretty drawn-out affair given that there are juniors, cadets, team, individual and mixed team categories, though rightly so everyone gets their chance to be on the podium. It’s great for Britain to be on top twice with two other medals.
I have written this article as a combination of a dairy of my experiences with comments on where parts of it are relevant to people wanting to do the same. I hope you’ve found it interesting and engaging. For any archer looking to improve their competition shooting there is little better than testing yourself against higher level archers and the experience of international shoots. Any archer can enter world-ranking events such as the Veronica’s Cup in Slovenia, the Arizona Cup in the USA and the European Grand Prix. Shooting theses events gives you a pressure shooting opportunity early in the season, which is bound to improve your game, bump you up the national target rankings, and, who knows, maybe even push you high into the World Rankings.