Poitiers Supper 2011 at Davy's 'Bangers' Wine Bar, London EC2 on Wednesday 23 November, 2011
Dan Jones wrote in the Evening Standard of 4 October 2011: 'You probably think football is England's national sport. You're wrong. It's archery… The arrows have played a far more important role in the development of the English national history, character and culture… What did for the French during Crecy or Agincourt? Arrows or footballs? … And remind me, was it the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that bothered Hamlet, or slide-tackles and half-volleys? … The noble art of shooting arrows into a 122cm target from 70 metres is where it's at.'
Archery is coming home in the 2012 Olympics, with the main event taking place at the home of another very English sport, Lord's Cricket Ground. It is all under the supervision of our guest speaker at the 2011 Poitiers Supper, Ms Hilda Gibson. Hilda was Archery GB Team Manager for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and is LOCOG's Archery Services Manager for the archery events at the 2012 London Olympics. Hilda has a prominent archery background herself: a former British Junior and Senior Champion, British record holder and Olympic qualifier.
Hilda's illustrated talk gave those present a fascinating high-level insight into the world of modern international competitive archery. She explained the format, the scoring, the equipment and the facilities for both the main event and the Paralympics (to be held at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich). The accuracy of the top archers is such that their head-to-head contests come down half the time to a single arrow shoot-out. At the Beijing Olympics thousand of pounds were spent on four miniature cameras embedded in the very centre of the target, able to film incoming arrows, but by the end of the tournament, three of the cameras had been written off by the archers. The GB Team at Beijing acquitted themselves well but came away without a medal; the results underlined the growing dominance of the South-East Asian countries, which was attributed to the seriousness with which they take the sport. It is however thought that we do have one or two GB archers for whom a medal might be achievable in 2012.
At the end of her talk, and the answering of interested questions from many of those present, Hilda received a generous and fully deserved round of applause, and appreciative thanks from the Master.
An excellent convivial three course supper followed with more than an adequate supply of wine in traditional Bowyers' fashion. It proved to be a most enjoyable and instructive evening for which our thanks go to the organiser, Assistant Tony Kench, Chairman of the Archery Committee.