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Talking with Tracey Richardson & Alistair Pearson, of Clements Bowmen that meet on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday mornings at Watermans School
(2nd October 2011)
On an unseasonably warm, bright and sunny October Sunday morning we went along to meet the Clements Bowmen (Google them and you’ll find them in various places). Alistair and Tracey are clearly total enthusiasts. All the Club members are dressed in uniform black tee-shirts with either their Christian name or their nickname identifying them (later you will meet ‘the Bear’). There is a relaxed and very warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
Rochford Life: How long have you been running?
Alistair: The club’s been going for almost three years now. It was originally set up by Mark Hammond our coach. Some are still the original members, Tracy and I started a little over two years ago.
RL: Looking around, you clearly cater for all ages?
Tracey: Eight to eighty!
RL: And you meet throughout the whole year?
Al: Yes, we have the outdoor season which tends to be May to September, unless the weather
is unusually good like today, when we stay outside, but otherwise we go in the hall over the Winter, but we’re limited there to 25 metres maximum. Of course most people prefer to stay outside to do the longer distances where we can go up to a hundred yards. These today are 60 yards and reducing by 10 yards, so our shortest one is 20 yards which is what a lot of our trainees and juniors work on.
Tr: That’s the most popular distance and used for competitions.
Al: But it’s on a lot smaller face than you see at the moment because the faces we use out doors are 122 cm. When you go indoors you see 60 cm or 40 cm faces.
RL: Do you have a membership and membership fee?
Tr: Yes we do. It’s £40 pa for seniors and £30pa for juniors. We probably have about thirty five members, seniors and juniors. Mark is our county coach; Mark, Graham and I all coach, in descending order of qualification.
RL: Do you train and coach beginners?
Al: We have a five week training course that everyone has to go through, for £35, which teaches you the very basics of archery, how to shoot, all the health and safety issues, the way the range is set up, all the calls that we use – you can have whistle calls or voice commands – the whistle goes and everyone will step up and shoot, and once you finish you all step back and there will be two whistles and you can go safely and collect your arrows.
RL: How many arrows do you shoot each time?
Al: We tend to shoot six but a lot of people will step up and do three and then let somebody else shoot and then go back and do your other three. That’s how they do it in competitions. In some of the rounds that you do you can do up to twelve dozen arrows for a recognised round, down to four dozen. The good thing about doing three and stepping back is it gives your arm time to relax a little.
RL: You have a number of different types of bow here, I see.
Al: Yes, I’ll go through them. This blue one is called a recurve bow which tends to be the most popular. This blue bow is an intermediate to advanced level bow, probably worth about eight or nine hundred pounds. The handle piece, the blue riser, is probably about £350 and the limbs at either end, they were £210 for a set of two
Tr: You get what you pay for. You can get a set of limbs for £70 which won’t be as good but if you’re beginning the sport you invest in what you can.
Al: The sight on here is about £100. The rod out the front helps to stabilise the bow.
Tr: And hanging down is the wrist sling to help keep you in contact with the bow and stops you dropping it.
Al: The one that Mark has (left) is what we call a compound bow and it has a lot more power in it. That blue one has about 40 pound pull and the arrow leaves the bow at maybe 150 mph but Mark’s one leaves the bow in excess of 200mph. With a compound bow you pull it back but it doesn’t feel you are pulling that weight. Mark’s one is worth a little over three thousand pounds. Everything in it is top quality.
Here we have the traditional long bow. This one has about 46 pound pull to it. It does depend on the length of pull of the archer, so a smaller person wouldn’t pull back so far and would not obtain the same pull. The other one has on it 66 pound draw weight but now it’s about 96 pound because it has dried out in the eighteen months of its life. Bear here, is the only one who can pull this one back fully.
Tr: For trainees we use bows with low poundage pulls because people do not use these muscles very much normally, so we like them to build their strength up.
RL: Bear, how long have you been shooting?
Bear: Well, I’ve been in the club about two years but I started when I was about seven or eight.
Al: Bear does the more traditional archery with the long bow with The Fraternity of St. George.
RL: Do you enter competitions.
Al: Yes. We took the juniors to a shoot in Billericay last year. It was a team event so we picked the five most consistent of our juniors for one team and four in another, and we took second place and fourth place. My first competition was about eight months after I’d started. It was an indoor event and it really scared me with the numbers and skill there. Mark was there the first year I went, and Tracey and I went last year with one of the juniors. We also did a competition at Southend District Archery about two weekends ago at King Edmund’s School. If was my first outdoor competition and I came second. I love it. This is a nice club and very friendly and relaxed. We have some good juniors coming through.
We then talked to Mark Hammond, President and Founder of the Club, and a County Coach
RL: Mark, being a county coach presumably requires a fair bit of training?
Mark: Yes it’s four to five years of training. A series of coaching scenarios are set up and ultimately you’re doing training for that. So you’re taking on beginners – some of the others here I’ve trained up - the training is expensive and you have to pay for it yourself. It can be soul destroying ; it’s not hard to do but there’s so much time involved and, because the courses for a county coach only come up every three years in the whole of the UK, there’s lots of waiting around to do. It’s hard work because they set you tasks. For example, to be county coach you’ve got to find two people who are of bowman standard – that’s Olympic standard and you’ve got to coach with them.
I’m doing some coaching at the moment with a lad who is disabled, no use of legs, no use of one arm and he’s up for the paraplegic squad. It’s really rewarding seeing these guys go out and shoot after you’ve taught them the basics and you let them go and see what they can do. Once they get up to a certain level it’s really nice to see them perform, and you push them on a bit further and do some more coaching with them. There are two of our juniors shooting now.
RL: So how long have you been doing archery?
Mark: I started in 2001. I’ve been away in London for eighteen months and have only just come back recently to the Club and we’re building it up again.
In my view the Club is ticking over nicely and Tracey and Alistair have done well, but there’s still more work to be done. If you come back in a year’s time you’ll see a big difference. It’s so relaxing doing it, it’s amazing. And the results at the end of it are really great. For closing stuff we normally do a hundred yards, the length of a football pitch aiming at the little gold spot in the middle. When you start hitting them into that and into the red at a hundred yards, that is beginning to feel like you’re really doing something. That’s what some of these guys are up to - Alistair does it, Graham does it, Roger does it, I do it, the Bear does it, so we’re getting there.
The Bear and myself do a different sort of archery as well, hitting the Mark. It’s the Fraternity of St. George which is the predecessor of the Honourable Artillery Company in London. We were initiated in 1509, the Fraternity, set up by Henry V and Graham, Bear and myself go and shoot there. We shoot the more traditional type of Service shooting archery, originally for the warfare. We’re actually going to the Honourable Artillery Company next Sunday to shoot at a yearly event; we’ve got an invite to shoot there. You shoot on hallowed ground there because that is the last place that they have one of the original ‘Marks’ which was a stone pillar at Finsbury in Henry VIII’s day. There is one Mark left and we have it in the museum and we shoot on that ground, so it’s quite a highlight for us.
RL: Well, Mark, thank you for giving us your time, and to the group. It’s been really good. Thank you again.
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