As the summer approaches, and more away competitions loom, thoughts inevitably return to flight shooting and flight arrows, and all the splendid theorising that goes with it. This of course, is what makes our branch of archery so very interesting, both the mechanics and the history.
Don`t get me wrong, i am no great expert on the subject, any more than anyone else,but their would seem to be a number of very definite and firmly established facts to contend with. Flight arrows were used by the Turks in the fourteenth century, and it was they who established the basic design of the flight arrow. They shot them from very short horse bows, and i mean short. Bow length seldom exceeded three feet, and the arrows themselves no more than eighteen inches. it was the Turks who emulated the shape of the javelin in the design of their arrows,using tiny points and fletchings to eliminate air resistance.
The arrow design has changed little, and arguably it would be extremely difficult to better a design which enabled the Turkish archers to shoot distances of over 400 yards.
Of course, it is not just down to the arrow. As important is the ability of the archer to shoot it effectively. The exact angle of 45 degrees, and the smoothness of the release are all important. Steve Ralphs told me he kept his tab in a tin of French chalk, which contributed o a smoother, faster release.
It cannot be emphasised enough, the importance of this. I remember spinner shooting a standard arrow over 300 yards at the lock site some years ago, which is a good bit further than you would expect from the average flight arrow. Reason, a very long draw, the exact right angle and a smooth release. How often do we hear someone say their flight arrows did not go any further than their ordinary ones had done. If the angle of release and the smoothness of the release are not right, then that could be as much the reason as to whether the fletchings are too small, too big, too high, too low, or the C of G is too far forward, too far back,etc; etc;
As it has been observed, three or four theoretically identical flight arrows when shot will usually travel different distances.The understandable temptation is to number them, so that the one that went farthest becomes the best of the bunch. but low and behold, the next time out, that best arrow goes the least distance and the worst of the bunch goes furthest.
Of course, much of this can be due to conditions on the day. Heat, cold, cross wind,headwind, and so on, but in my opinion it is more to do with that vitally important draw and release.Also, it is very important not to prolong the draw. Straight back to draw length and release. It is amazing how the power of a longbow decreases with the length of time the draw is held.
Personally, I will never make a brilliant flight shooter, simply because my draw length is barely 28". Those with a long draw length fair much better,at the slight risk always of exceeding the design draw length of the bow. and it is worth noting that our best flight archers, Spinner and Emma both have long draw lengths. Of course we have very accomplished flight shooters who perhaps do not have such long draw lengths, but the very long distances achieved by both Spinner and Emma, I would put down to a long draw and good release.
Anyway, I hope my theorising and reference to history helps a bit with those aspiring to do well at flight. As said earlier, it is all this that makes what we do so interesting and addictive.