The biggest obstacles faced by archers: How much of a role does wind play?

Deepika Kumari
The Indian women’s Archery team lost to Russia due to strong windy conditions
Sankalp Srivastava

Archery, as we all know is an outdoor sport and because of that, a number of factors come into play when an archer is standing, ready to shoot his/her arrow into the middle of a target which is placed at a distance of 70m from her/him. The most prominent factor of all is undoubtedly, the wind.

We just need to go back a couple of days to get an idea on how windy conditions can affect an Archery match. India and Russia were engulfed in a pulsating Women’s team quarterfinal encounter at the Rio Olympics 2016 and both the teams had won 2 sets each and the result was to be decided by a shoot-off.

The Russian archers amassed 25 points, and India’s top-ranked archer Deepika Kumari had to hit the bullseye to win the match. However, the Jharkhand-born was only able to manage an 8, and India bowed out. After the match, Deepika revealed that the conditions were very windy and it was difficult for them to handle their equipment.

“We tried our best, and all of us gave 100 per cent but it’s really disappointing to lose this way, once again. It was very windy was kind of blowing away us. We tried our level best and were shooting confidently but somehow we missed the crucial points. The wind was blowing our equipment away and was difficult to target the centre”, the archer reasoned.

Previously, Deepika, who was ranked no.1 at the London Olympics 2012, fell to windy conditions at the Lord’s as well.

In reality, these were just two of the many incidents of wind affecting an Archery match. To make things clearer, let’s try and get a more detailed outlook on how influential can the wind be.

Range of wind

The wind can have a wide range, varying from a gentle breeze to a constant strong one. The professional archers, generally are adept at judging the direction and strength of the wind, if it is somewhat constant and try to adjust their equipment accordingly. However, it's the unpredictable sudden gusts of wind which can perturb an Archer’s confidence and affect his/her concentration.

Also Read: Rio Olympics 2016, Archery: Rules, format and point system for Olympic Games

The general consensus is that it’s just the arrows which are affected by windy conditions and archers just need to adjust their stance to tackle the conditions, i.e, if the wind is blowing from left to right, the archer should shoot left of the target, so that the wind takes the arrow towards the right. However, this only works if the wind is stable, is not very strong and can be judged fairly easily.

However, if the conditions are very windy, it can even force the bow to sway around, making it very difficult for the archers to aim properly. The process of wind making the bows sway, in Archery terms, is called Drag.

How to tackle the Wind

Judge the drift

wind sock
Windsock at the Rio Olympics archery venue

The most basic thing which any Archer can do is try judging the direction and velocity of the wind and try to manoeuvre accordingly. The simple method of shooting on the left of target if the wind is blowing left to right and vice versa, but as mentioned earlier, this is only helpful if the wind is predictable and not very strong.

The outdoor Archery setups have windsocks, hollow fabric tubes and flags which indicate the direction of the wind. Though these instruments can be helpful, they are sometimes placed at such locations in the setup that they don’t paint a clear picture for the archers.

What the archers can do is try and get sufficient information from the flags and the windsocks about the direction of the wind. They can then pay some attention to their surroundings, the trees, banners et al and try to make out the average speed of the wind. Archers can also look at how their opponent is managing and if her/his technique is really working or not and adjust their stance accordingly.

Time your shot perfectly

The Archers, in the Olympics, are given 20 seconds to execute a shot. Now it’s up to the athlete that he/she takes his/her time or shoots as soon as possible. When the conditions are windy, what archers can do is take their time and wait for the strong gusts to past.

Use of arrows

The arrows used at international level can have a maximum diameter of 9.33mm. However, the arrows generally used are of around 5.55mm in diameter. The reason being, arrows with lesser diameter can travel faster and are easier to aim. Therefore, if an arrow travels fast in the air, it is bound to minimise the wind effect as they take a more direct route.

Adjustment of Bows

The swaying of bows, also called the drag, is something which the archers find very difficult to adjust to. One simple method might be to tilt the bow, so as to cancel the wind effect. But again, this method works only when there is a steady stream of wind.

Practice and shoot strongly

The least archers can do is try practicing as much as possible in adverse windy conditions to help them strengthen their ‘wind game’. This will help them regain their composure and shoot confidently when suddenly, between or just before the match, the wind picks up.

On the other hand, a strong shot can also help them minimising the wind effect, as if the arrow moves fast through the air, it will definitely negate the wind to som extent.

Edited by Staff Editor


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