The British Blind Sport Archery Section as it is today was not set up as easily as some people may think. To help paint a clearer picture here is a short history of the BBS Archery Section.
Archery for the Visually Impaired has been around since the early 1970's.
During the earlier years of V.I. Archery there were a few obstacles to overcome as it is not as simple as just picking up a bow and starting to shoot. How was anyone going to aim at the target?
One of the first tactile sighting devices consisted of a drip stand that someone acquired from a local hospital and fitted a cross piece on the top with bristles at the end. The hand holding the bow rested against these bristles and that was a good enough guide. This method called “the back of the hand” method is the most widely used aiming method, but the stands have improved, with most people using tripods with extending centre poles and top sections with fine adjustment, both up and down and left and right. In the beginning these stands were not personalized and many archers shared a stand with another archer and had to shoot one after the other.
Around 1977 and for many years following there were not many others shooting outside of St Dunstans in England and only one V.I. Archer in Wales but during the 1980’s a few clubs around the country started archery for their V.I. members.
In 1985 a group of V.I. archers got together and met with the Chairman of G.N.A.S. in Birmingham and formulated some rules for V.I. Archery. This meant that V.I. archery could be included in able-bodied archery events and shoot alongside them, without causing the organizers any extra problems. From this meeting the B.B.S. Archery Sub-Committee was formed and our first meeting was held in Blackpool where Roger Rees-Evans was elected Chairman, with Joe Prendergast elected as Secretary and Development Officer and for many years Joe went around the country demonstrating and talking about V.I. archery. He helped develop the Coventry Club and was instrumental in getting the clubs in the North East started. Sadly during the mid 1990’s Joe passed away.
Archery is a very expensive sport without the added expense of providing tactile aiming devices. Many people have copied the tactile sight and perfected it over the years and in 1994 a Technical College in South Wales made a couple of different stands with the help of some of the Welsh V.I. archers.
So before any V.I. archer decides to take up this sport they must have someone to help them every time they shoot and they must be prepared to pay out extra monies on additional equipment.
There is a second tactile method of shooting which is called “the long rod” method. This entails the same type of stand, but instead of using the back of the bow hand to sight you use the stabilizer that extends from the front of the bow. This fits up into a “U” shape extending from the stand and this gives you your aiming point. A few V.I. archers use this method and find it more comfortable and less constraining.
In the early 90’s the French developed the IRIS sighting device. This is an electronic device. You have a sender on the bottom of the target with a receiver on the bow. The receiver is connected to a battery pack and the archer has headphones so that he/she can hear a signal that is being received. The higher the pitch the nearer the centre of the target the person is aiming at. There are a lot of wires involved for the archer, but no stands to be stuck to. Coaches have said this is the best method of shooting as a V.I. archer can be coached in a similar way any able bodied archer with a sighting device on his bow and not fixed to the ground. The problem is the IRIS costs around £1,500.00.
Several of these were tried out in this country, but it was found that due to them only working over short distances and the amount of time it took to achieve an accurate aiming point, they were abandoned as a serious sighting method. They are still in use in France to this day. Also a laser device has been developed, but this has not been used extensively and the cost at over £3,000.00 is prohibitive to most V.I. archers.
Several invitation archery competitions for V.I. archers were held during the 1980’s, but the first truly national championships specific for V.I. archers was organised in Neath, South Wales in 1990 and they were held in South Wales for the next few years. In 1997 the V.I. Archers held their Championships in conjunction with the B.B.S. 21st anniversary festival of sport in Nottingham. This event also saw the first international competition in the U.K. for V.I. archers, where a team from France was invited to shoot against archers from the U.K. In 1998 the National Championships was held in Newcastle Upon Tyne. From 1999 a decision was made that the Championships would be moved to the National Sports Centre at Lilleshall, Newport, Shropshire which can provide full archery facilities and accommodation for those wishing to stay.
In 2000 it was decided that we would hold an Indoor Championships. St Dunstans hosted the first two competitions. In 2002 the Championships were held in Stafford and then in 2003 it was agreed that we would also move these Championships to Lilleshall Sports Centre.
Since 1977 V.I. archers have competed at the B.S.A.D. (British Sports Association for the Disabled), now known as Disability Sport England Championships, for all disabilities, shooting at 50 and 30 metres, but it is only in the last couple of years that V.I. archers have been able to compete on the same basis as their wheelchair counterparts. The introduction of the Burntwood equivalent round means that V.I. archers can now shoot the full FITA and longer Imperial rounds using the Burntwood equivalent. This round simulates distance by the use of different sized faces. The target is permanently set at 30 metres and therefore the V.I. archer doesn't need to adjust his tactile aiming device after the initial sighting arrows.
In 1987, 3 V.I. archers from the U.K. were invited to take part in the French Indoor Championships. This invitation was continued bi-annually until the mid 1990’s.
In 2001, four V.I. archers carried out a demonstration at the I.P.C., Indoor European Championships in Belgium and later that year did a demonstration at the I.P.C. World Championships in the Czech Republic. This was then followed by an invitation to take part in the 2002, I.P.C. sanction event in the Czech Republic where four archers from the U.K. took part. A further invitation was received to take part in the 2003 event in the Czech Republic.
In 2003 the B.B.S. National Outdoor Championships was combined with an international competition with teams from France, Belgium and Italy, alongside V.I. archers from the U.K.
In June 2004 a team of eight V.I. archers and their spotters from the U.K. took part in the 2nd V.I. Archery International competition held on the outskirts of Paris. Four countries again took part with two other countries sending observers. The team came back with four first places, one second and one third place. Three members of the team represented the U.K. in the team competition and came second, loosing by eighteen points to the French team.
Also during this weekend a seminar on agreeing rules for V.I. Archers competing at international competitions were agreed and these new rules will be placed before IBSA with the hope that the rules will then include archery as one of its recognised sports.
Since 2004 several more international events have been held and archers from this country have taken part in most of them.
In May 2005 at the IBSA World conference, in Beijing, the archery rules were proposed and accepted, making archery an official IBSA sport. This conquered one of conditions imposed by the International Paralympic Committee. The acceptance by IBSA then paved the way for VI Archery to finally be considered a Paralympic Sport.
In 2005 V.I. archers were invited to take part in the 5th IPC World Championships which were held in Italy from 29th July to 4th August. At the IPC conference held during this event, rules for V.I. archers were agreed so as to include V.I. archers in future IPC events.
Since the IPC rules were introduced in 2005, stating that All V.I. Archers must wear blackouts to compete in IPC Competitions. The Sunday following the BBS Archery National Indoor and Outdoor championships, has been used to provide a Blackout Round to allow members to practice competing wearing blackouts.
In August 2006, 2 archers were selected to represent GB as part of the British team at the European Archery Championships which were held in the Czech Republic and came back with a gold and a bronze medal.
In October 2007, a further 2 V.I. archers were selected to join the GB team at the 6th IPC World Archery Championships held in Korea, coming back with gold and bronze medals.
As at 2008 V.I. archers are not eligible for entry into the IPC Paralympics, but it is hoped that this might be achieved in the near future.
During 2008 VI archers took part in the newly restored Disabled Archery Championships and this event was then renamed the GNAS Disabled Archery Championships in 2009.
Also during 2009 BBS Archery had a complete overhaul of their rules so as to make them easier to fit into the GNAS Green Book. These rules will now be updated every April, as necessary.
Also in 2009 a set of classification tables for the VIIR1 round were introduced and it is hoped that further classification tables for other rounds will be added in future years. This will make it possible for VI archers to obtain a classification of First class, Second class, Bowman etc.
Updated March 2010