Helen Brown, the first Women's Barebow winner of the National Tour, talks about the bowstyle's inclusion into the 2022 event, what it means for the barebow community and her hopes for 2023.
When Archery GB first announced that barebow would be included in the 2022 National Tour and feature in the finals, I knew I wanted to be part of it. It was a significant step forward for our discipline. At that stage, I didn’t expect to win the Tour, or even make the finals, but I knew I had to support the inclusion of barebow. I think it was probably similar for most of the barebow archers who took part, whether they shot all six stages or just the one – it was about having the experience of being part of the Tour and the chance to confirm that the barebows deserved their place in the event.
I entered four 2022 stages: Bucks or Bounty, Barnsley, British Target Championships and Evesham. They all brought differing weather, resulting in only three of my chosen stages going ahead. There were gale force winds at the British Target Championships forcing day two (the National Tour stage) to be cancelled, and Evesham had stiflingly hot sun, with bucket hats being dipped in water during the head-to-head section. They were all a lot of fun and the atmosphere among the barebows was friendly and relaxed, yet competitive. It gave me a good season’s worth of head-to-head experience too, something that until recently many barebows were not very used to.
I worked hard at each stage, ranking first at Barnsley and finishing with the silver after the head-to-heads, winning top seed again at Barnsley, taking gold in the matches, and ranking second at Evesham. Though, I did have to settle for fourth place after a wobble in the bronze medal match, but it’s okay, we all have them.
However, by the end of the summer I had done enough to rank first overall and be one of the two barebow women to be invited to the finals. The best bit was that I would be joined by my best friend and clubmate, Kim Doherty, who had bagged second seed. That made it extra special!
The finals were held in September at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham, and in the days running up to it, we had received plenty of messages of support from our barebow friends around the UK, which as well as being lovely, demonstrated what it meant for us to have representation in the finals.
The day itself was incredible and I’m not afraid to admit, quite nerve-wracking! When we arrived, we were met with a stage to shoot from, cameras livestreaming the event to people at home, a huge screen showing our nervous faces, live commentary and spectators. This was certainly all very new to us. We watched barebow men Wilco Van Kleef Bolton and Ralph Barwise’s match first and then it was time for ours. Kim and I were announced onto the field of play. Walking up onto that stage made me giggle to myself as I was reminded of the TV contestants on ‘Stars in Their Eyes’, but thankfully I wasn’t dressed as Tina Turner (juniors, ask your parents).
What followed was all a bit of a blur. Kim and I had to watch the livestream back to remind ourselves what happened. Each of our five match sets were either won by one point or was a draw, which was no surprise to us as having trained together for seven years, we both knew were very evenly matched.
By the end of a tough match, the score went 6-4 in my favour, and I was suddenly the first ever National Tour Women’s Barebow Champion. I was so happy, naturally I burst into tears and and had to hide my face while hugging my coach, Craig Hobin.
I’m looking forward to the 2023 National tour and I’m optimistic that even more barebows will take part this year as I’ve certainly sensed more of a buzz about it amongst our community. I’d encourage people to get involved. Some barebow archers might think this is an event that isn’t worth going to if you are not one of the top archers, but if you can shoot 50 metres, you can shoot in the National Tour.
Not everyone who takes part will make it to the finals – that’s a fact – but the Tour brings a chance to develop and challenge yourself, an opportunity to meet other archers and to be part of a large, national event on the archery calendar. It’s well organised, not always predictable and most of all, fun!
Looking for more National Tour stories? Read about Lucy O'Sullivan's and Duncan Busby's experience at the first-ever National Tour, all the way back in 2009.
For more information on the 2023 National Tour, click here.