What a difference a string makes!

AoR Archers at the NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013. Left to Right: Louis Paul, Ryan Abbott, Lauren Phillips, Martin Davis & Katie Bayliss.
AoR Archers at the NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013.
Left to Right: Louis Paul, Ryan Abbott, Lauren Phillips, Martin Davis & Katie Bayliss.

Why is it that tournament shoots always begin several days before the actual event?

For everyone, that means checking, checking and triple checking sight marks for the day.  For others, it can mean going a little further.  That was the case for three of the AoR archers that would be shooting at the NCAS 2nd Caswell Open tournament at Targetcraft, Desborough this weekend.

Tuesday saw Lauren and Louis heading over to Desborough to get sight marks for the event.  They have often proved to be different between the two locations and good sight marks can mean a big difference following the changeover of distances.  As this was to be Louis’ second only major tournament, he took another session on the Wednesday to become settled at the venue.  Coursework kept Lauren away.  Katie is well used to shooting at Desborough and the sight marks were therefore less of an issue, but Friday turned out to be a traumatic session that would change all that but it would ultimately be a hugely rewarding evening for her.

Katiefound that her nocks had become very tight on the string and that they were clearly interfering with the flight of the arrows.  Bob Kaminski was kind enough to step in and he undertook a field based string repair that involved stripping the centre serving from the bow, putting on a new serving with a Beiter nocking point.  Following a short ten minute walk back and test, all seemed OK.  Saturday would see a hurried trip to Desborough to get last minute sight marks first thing in the morning before hurrying off for a family commitment.

Talk about a big equipment change at the last minute.  However, it was needed because it addressed a clear issue with her bow and she was not phased by the issue one bit.  It would also prove to the making of young Katie on the Sunday with her confidence back to 110%.

So Sunday, an early start for Lauren and I, but not quite as early as last week, fortunately.  Everything checked and loaded the night before, we headed over to Targetcraft to arrive around 08.00, nice and early as the assembly was not until 09.15 with an anticipated start at 09.30.  The weatherman had promised another scorching day, but over at the field there was an overcast sky, mist across the field that was slightly obscuring the furthest targets and it was a little too cold for me in shorts and tea-shirt.

Anyway, over the next hour the tent line filled and the equipment line became packed with a mixture of recurve, compound, long and other types of bows.  With the air warming, the judges called assembly and Val ran through the usual introductions and set the rules for the day.  We’d be shooting Bristol, Hereford and York rounds to GNAS rules with the juniors all shooting Bristols, (Ryan the Bristol IV, with Katie, Lauren and Louis all on boss 11 shooting the Bristol II).  Martin would be shooting the Hereford and AoR associated members Christine, John and Simon would be shooting further down the shooting line.  A good turn out of AoR archers sporting both club and NCAS county shirts (as seen in the image above).

With Heather off working with the judges, I did my usual quizzing of the girls – “Have you checked you sights? Are your fletchings all sound?  Have you double checked everything?”, I’m sure that my wittering did not help the nerves of the archers, but they all confirmed that everything had been checked and we settled into a one and only end of 6 sighters.  The Bristol round consists of 144 arrows made up of 6 dozen arrows at the furthest distance, 4 dozen at the middle distance and then just 2 dozen at the archer’s closest distance.  For Ryan that would be 40, 30 and 20 yards, for the girls and Louis it would be 60, 50 and 40 yards and for Martin the Hereford would have him striving for 80 yards and then a more comfortable 60 and 50 yards.

tt at the NCAS 2nd Caswell
Ryan Abbott at the NCAS 2nd Caswell

This tournament would be Ryan’s first major shoot away from home and his nerves were sure to be high given the archers he was to shoot against.  As expected, it took him a few ends to settle the nerves, especially as all six sighters would fly straight over the top of the boss.  Some big sight movements saw his first scoring end with 3 arrows on and 3 off the boss and more sight adjustment needed.  However with all six arrows scoring for the next end he settled down to score an impressive 850 for his first big tournament, with 141 hits and 28 smashing golds.  Some work is needed back at AoR, but I was very, very pleased with his performance given his experience and the pressure of a big tournament.

Martin Davis - NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013
Martin Davis – NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013

Martin has been attending a number of local club tournaments recently and he looked calm and collected going into the scoring part of the round.  Martin told me that his sighters were good and I clearly got the message that all was well with him.  He opened with a nice 34 for the first end and he topped that with a 40 to make 74 for the first dozen.  He would continue to shoot consistently throughout the 80 yard distance with a wonderful 82 scored for his highest scoring end and another 80 in the mix for good measure.  Martin went on to score an impressive 928, with 144 hits and 29 golds for the round and smashed his person best by some margin.

Lauren put in another solid and consistent performance throughout the day.  She opened the scoring round with a nice 80 for the first dozen and kept the scores in the high 70’s and low 80’s for the 60 yard distance with the exception of a troublesome 5th dozen that shook her confidence and she pulled her 6th into the low 60’s.  After the lunch break she settled down and digging deep she told me that she would put the last few ends behind her and finish strongly and that she did.   She opened the fist dozen at 50 yards with a solid 84, raised that to 88 for the next and then that to 92 for the next and finally an 80 to finish the 50 yard distance.  With a fine 84 and 90 for the 40 yards distance she finished the tournament with a nice 957, with 143 hots and 37 golds, just 31 points shy of her great performance and PB at the Nationals the week before.

Katie and Louis shooting at the NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013.
Katie and Louis shooting at the NCAS 2nd Caswell 2013.

However, the real story from the weekend was provided by Katie and Louis, experience vs inexperience, talent vs talent and both with nerves of steel.  With Katie’s equipment issue behind her and Louis determined to make up for the 1st Caswell, this was a battle worthy of Champions.

The field was superbly presented and Targetcraft had finally turned off those wind turbines that normally see a strong breeze to full on wind swirling around the field.  Today, the whole day would see near to perfect shooting conditions with only a slight breeze to cool everyone down after lunch when the sun came out.

With the sighters out of the way, both Louis and Katie took to the line.  Both archers shooting first detail would have them standing back to back throughout the shoot and shooting arrow for arrow.  The way things went, I would not have been surprised if they were watching each others arrows just as much as their own.

Katie opened up with a 92 for the first dozen arrows with Louis taking slightly longer to settle into the shoot with a fine 86.  However, that 6 point deficit would be zero’d by the end of the second dozen with Louis shooting a wonderful 96 to Katie’s 90.  A quick check of the score sheets and “Oh Dear – Game on!!”.  Heather was to miss much of the excitement as she was judging, but, Louis’ Mum Leza, was anxiously watching every arrow the two shot and was often found to be giving a running commentary as each of the archers dropped or gained points against each other.  I know the feeling Leza and it’s great when you have two archers sparing for points, just like Lauren and Katie did at the 1st Caswell.

So into the third dozen and Katie experienced an unusual wobble and dropped a full 18 points to Louis (KB-80 and LP-98 for the dozen).  With Louis oblivious to the change in his fortune, Leza’s excitement quadrupled.  As always, Katie thrives on a challenge and she pulled back the deficit to just two points during the fourth dozen with a fine 94 to Louis’ 78.  Katie was back in the game, Louis was a cool as a cucumber and I can’t say what it was doing for Leza’s heart rate.

The fifth and sixth dozen would prove indecisive with Katie pulling back the remaining two points with an 84 and Louis with another fine 82.  So all square again, but would the pressure get to either archer?  Louis was still cool and relaxed, as if nothing special was going on, and he shot a 94 to finish of the 60 yard distance.  And Katie, oooppps she dropped two points for a 92 dozen and she would go into the lunch break with a two point deficit, which is nothing in this game.

With the lunch break over, sights reset and the bosses moved to 50 yards, the two archers once again stood back to back for four dozen arrows at 50 yards.  I have no clue why, but AoR archers often struggle to find the gold straight away with their AoR sight marks up at Desborough.  Despite the work earlier in the week, Louis failed to find the gold in his first end at the new distance but , despite his inexperience, he quickly assessed the situation, adjusted his sight and quickly found the gold.  So, a first end score of 74 for Louis vs Katie’s 88, saw Katie take a commanding lead for the very first time in this battle.  Over the next two dozen this advantage would widen to 14 points and then 16 points with Katie shooting a 96 and 90 and Louis a 94 and 88.

So into the final dozen for the 50 yard distance and Katie would shoot a 78 dozen and her lowest scoring dozen of the tournament.  What would Louis’ reply be?  Well, he’d shoot a great 96 and put Katie back into a 2 point deficit as we headed into the final distance.

With the bosses set to just 40 yards, sights reset and following a short break, we’d head into the last two dozen arrows in the full sunshine and with the heat rising and beginning to show on many of the archers.

That said, Katie is smooth a silk at this distance and she opened with her top scoring dozen, a nice round 100.  Louis wobbled following the change of distance (an example of why good sight marks are important and an advantage for each venue being shot at) and he dropped a full 28 points to Katie with a 72 end and his lowest score for the tournament.  With a highest scoring end vs a lowest scoring end it looked like the battle was over.

So into the final dozen for the tournament and Louis was not to be outdone.  Whilst the deficit was insurmountable with Katie on form and shooting very nicely, Louis matched Katie’s top scoring dozen with a brilliant 100 to Katie’s 94 – Louis had pulled the deficit back to just 20 points but it was not enough to take the win between the two archers.  Katie was once again triumphant and it was nice to see that she was back in the zone after last weekend.

The final scores for the pair – Katie 1,078 with 144 hits and 59 golds vs Louis’ 1,058 with 144 hits and 56 golds.  A brilliant battle that was enjoyed by archers, parents and spectators alike.

Lauren and I had to head off early so that she could meet a tight coursework deadline that would normally have had her not shooting had it have been a normal shooting Sunday, but I have just received news that AoR’s juniors each came away with a small chunk of the shiny stuff.

Katie and Louis both took the gold medal for their efforts and Katie is also hoping to claim a new club and NCAS county record for her brilliant efforts today.  Lauren and Ryan both took silver medals to complete a great days performance by the AoR archers at the NCAS 2nd Caswell.  Well done to you all.

So, we now look forward to the 3rd Caswell in August at Wicken.  Katie now has a commanding lead over Lauren as we go into the final of the three rounds that make up the NCAS Caswell series.  I’m looking forward to seeing what story and battle comes out of that shoot.

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