A couple of days later than planned, this post is about the final day of HUNOCHA. I shall do one or two more posts later about this trip more generally, as I tend to do when I get back.
The final day of HUNOCHA dawned rather earlier than quite a few people would have liked, after what had proved a pretty epic evening and night. Being the sober, sensible one, I went to bed at around 0130 after no more than a can of beer and a few deep swigs of palinka. Some others had been helped/carried to their beds somewhat earlier in the night and a few intrepid souls stayed up for another hour or more. It was as fine a party as I can remember at a horseback archery competition (admittedly there have been finer ones, but an integral part of that is that I don’t really remember them (see Korea 2013, for example).
Luckily, my group wasn’t first on. By the time we mounted for our rain of arrows event I was feeling tolerably well for the first time in days. It showed in my archery, which finally got back to something like its usual standard, aided by my years of field archery, which involves shooting at much longer distances than horseback archery usually does. The hail of arrows is run over a 120m track with two 120cm targets, one at 90m and angled for forwards shooting, the other at 30m and angled for backwards shooting. In the first half of the track you may only shoot at the 90m target and for the second half you shoot the 30m target. What this means is that the shortest shot is 30m (longer than any Korean event shot and further than most Hungarian shots) and they are all either forwards or backwards shots.
Although still competing with a horse that had to be kicked the whole way along the track, I managed a total of 5 hits in 6 runs, placing me in 9th place out of 30, despite the almost complete lack of speed points available to me. I was and am pretty proud of this, as it meant beating some very impressive opposition. It also confirmed to me that with proper concentration and focussing on technique I can hit at these long ranges, which is promising for future scores in the Hungarian event, quite apart from any future hail of arrows competitions.
Ours fears that the Polish track would be cancelled proved to be unfounded as the course dried out nicely and the three Brits were among the first three to go (because we had to be away before the competition itself had finished to catch our flight). What followed were three of the most exciting (not to say terrifying) rides of my life. The horse continued its plodding lope around the first half of the track, no matter how much kicking, yelling and occasional switches with an arrow I did (this is why, despite some OK shooting, I scored a grand total of 1 point in my three runs – time penalites took the rest). Upon reaching the final section, however, she took off into a fast canter into the long straight downhill run, ending in a 90 degree bend into the short home straight. Here my lack of riding experience and, frankly, my sense of self-preservation, took over. I got off one or two hasty shots but otherwise tried desperately to slow the horse and steeled myself for what seemed like inevitable death. Of course the horse was fine and doubtless had I simply had the guts to get on with shooting I would have done rather better. All in all, my low score on this course can be put down to my inability to get the horse to go faster when she wanted to go slowly and my inability to cope when she went faster than I wanted. Much more riding ability was required than is contained in me to do well over this excellent and challenging Polish course.
The other two Brits also survived with varying degrees of ease (Oisin is a riding instructor and breezed it, albeit his shooting let him down; Adam is even less experienced than I am (although also more fearless) and fell on his second run, damaging his quiver. This came apart in his third run, leaving him with a score of 8). No sooner had we finished than it was time to go. I collected my saddle (about which more in a future post) and we went up the hill to say goodbye to our friends, pausing to pose for the very kind local crowd, who gave us a rousing ovation as we passed. Then it was back to the accommodation to shower and pack before a drive to the airport.
Unfortunately our trip home was delayed by a couple of hours thanks to the late arrival of our ‘plane from its incoming flight, followed by long clearing of the ‘plane. Even when we arrived in London there was nobody to open the door for nearly half an hour, after which our luggage took an age to arrive. We had been scheduled to land at 2300. I eventually drove away from Stanstead at 0200, walking in the door at 0400 on the dot, tired but happy to be home.
So there it is, dear readers: the last day of my trip to Hungary. 12 days, two competitions covering 5 events. Overall I am disappointed that I did not shoot better but the stomach bug didn’t help and I didn’t exactly disgrace myself. These were high level competitions and I finished mid-table in both, with promising signs for the rest of the season.
I shall write a couple more posts about this trip, including an overview of each event to help future competitors and short pieces about a couple of my new pieces of equipment that I have been using. For now, though, I shall finish with a picture or two.