The 17th Yangphel Open Archery Tournament will begin on July 16 in eleven different regional venues in nine districts.
Yangphel Open, the most popular archery tournament in the country, was started in 1997 with 130 archers. Last year, 1,512 archers making up 262 teams participated in the tournament.
Registration for the tournament started on June 15 and will end on July 5, five days from now. The league round of the tournament will tentatively end on August 9. The final is tentatively scheduled for August 31.
The tournament was originally conceived by the chairman of Yangphel Tours and Travel, Ugyen Rinzin. Unlike traditional archery, there are three compact teams in a single match playing against one another.
“Instead of the old traditional style of playing with two bulky teams, Yangphel started a new style with three teams playing against one another in a single match of 15 rounds. This method of archery is now being emulated all over Bhutan as Yangphel style,” said the general secretary of the tournament, Tsewang Rinchen.
Today, ‘Yangphel Style’ is not only popular with all archery tournaments across the country, but the style is being borrowed by other traditional sports, particularly khuru. Sixteen years since the launch of the tournament, Yangphel Open has evolved and continues to redefine its style and rules. Unlike in the past, the tournament is no longer held in one place, Thimphu, but in many different places at a time. The teams that emerge victorious from the regional venues qualify to play the advanced stages of the tournament at the Changlingmithang archery range in Thimphu.
Increasing participation from the northern and eastern districts is a testimony to the growing popularity of the tournament, according to the organisers.
As an open tournament, Yangphel has no age limit for participation. The tournament has seen archers as old as 71 years and as young as 18 years of age participate. It was also the first and the only archery tournament in the country to allow woman participation in the sport that is traditionally a male domain.
The tournament’s committee said that it is the tournament’s aim and hope to bring all sections of society together through the sport. Princes, farmers, taxi drivers, businessmen and government officials have taken part in the tournament.
At a time when archery was gradually losing its place in Bhutanese sports, Yangphel regenerated interest in the national sport with new and engaging style of game, says Tsewang Rinchen. More and more young people are now taking up archery as their favourite sport.
“Our style of game is more engaging, competitive and transparent,” said Tsewang. Scores are immediately updated on the tournament’s website.
Yangphel Open is also the first tournament to start seeding the players, which is also being emulated by the Bhutan Archery Federation (BAF). Seeding of archers by Yangphel until recently was based on the performance of archers in the league round. Their total karey (hits) in the league round were taken into account but not karey in the knockout round.
Archers say seeding of players will lead to professionalism and allow the beginners to do well in the tournaments. Competition is made fair by regulating the number of seeded players in each team. Each team can have only one seeded archer.
The best archers in the tournaments have won ‘attractive prizes’ over the years. In 2005, Namgay Wangchuk won the title of best archer. He won a cash prize of Nu 40,000. From 2008 to 2011, the prize for the best archer was cars like Hyundai Santro, Zen Estillo and Maruti A Star. This year, the tournament has tentative prizes of Nu 200,000, Samsung cameras, bicycles and Apple iPads.
Yangphel Open and BAF last year orgainsed the first international style compound bow competition. The top archers from the Yangphel took part in the competition from where the best archers were picked to form Bhutan’s first compound bow national team.