Forty one orcs. That's how many, come Christmas, Legolas will fell each evening in cinemas across the land in a bid to prove the aceness of elves and their arrows over the dwarves and their axes. This competition, described by Tolkien his the Battle for Helm's Deep in "Lord of the Rings" is, I think, a fitting allegory for the endeavours of Cambridge University Bowmen to demonstrate the skills of the Cantab archer over his Oxfordian rival and, indeed, over the archers of all of the other British Universities, in the "BUSA Outdoors" event at the end of last academic year. It is a fitting allegory because Legolas lost.
The archery practised by most competitive shooters today is in many ways a far cry from both the popular image of a well spoken wanna-be-English American prancing in tights and from the mediaeval reality of the diseased and dissatisfied (yet rightly feared) bowmen of the field of Agincourt. The modern bow, though, is still a carefully crafted and beautiful weapon that requires strength and dedication to master. To draw the war-bow of old needed power across the shoulders equivalent to that needed to lift two fully grown men from the floor. Today, for the sake of accuracy, bows are a little lighter, but still a large bow can have a draw weight comparable to the weight I claim to be when feeling optimistic.
Having won "BUSA indoors" last year, the bowmen arrived at the National Sports Centre in Lilleshall with hopes high. However, despite stirling efforts from the ever accurate Andy Somers and James Pawley, from the unshakeable Pamela Custance-Baker and from Matthew Monaghan, Cambridge could only manage fourth place, Edinburgh claiming the victory. On the upside, Richard Benwell was lucky enough to win the individual category of the first years' competition and shared third place in the first years' team event, thanks to the efforts of Diana Wood and Anna Addinall, two girls not to be toyed with at less than eighty yards!
The evening saw no sour spirits, only strong ones. Showing flagrant, and indeed conflagrant disregard for the boughs that bore the bows that we shoot with, Cambridge built a fine fire and enjoyed a night of marshmellow and song with the companionable people of all teams. If defeat can be so splendid, I can only look forward to the pleasant prizes that victory will bring when the girls and boys from the 'Bridge sound the bays of battle and take up our bows again.(Varsity, 04/10/02)