Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nautical jousting

Last Monday as I was watching the dragon boat races I could not help but think of another popular water sport in France called “les joutes” or nautical jousting. It was originally organised to distract the kings and their courts. Since 1960 it has been recognized as an official sport. 

The aim of the game is to throw one’s opponent in the water. The two boats move forward with the sound of a brass band (la fanfare). The two jousters (one on each boat) stand on the tabagnon (platform) holding one shield in one hand and a wooden lance in the other. Each one of the adversary aims at the other’s plastron and try to push him/her in the river. This requires remarkable balance and strength. Sometimes both athletes fall in or both remain standing; and sometimes a lance breaks!  The tunes played by the brass band change to fit the fights cheering spectacular passes and applauding the winning jousters.

During summer the competitions bring a friendly atmosphere in the cities where they are held. Festivities start in the morning with the weigh in session in front of the city hall, followed by a parade (le défilé) and in the afternoon the tournaments. Not only the Rhone’s residents but also many visitors gather along the river to watch the games organised by the local rescue and nautical jousting association. 

The refreshment area (la buvette) is always crowded with spectators getting cold drinks. Another busy place is the barbecue corner where  you can buy grilled merguez. Kids play with their friends and cousins while parents catch up with their neighbours and relatives.

I love that festive mood!

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