Dawn and Andy from Southsea (along with Obut-Wan-Kenobi) recently travelled to watch ‘La Mondial Marseillaise a Petanque’, the largest Petanque competition in the world featuring over thirteen thousand players. In fact, after responding to a facebook request, Andy actually managed to take part in the competition. Dawn, Andy and Obut-Wan arrived a few days before the comp. So there was time for a bit of holidaying first.
Before the competition all three visited La Ciotat where the sport of Petanque was invented. The local boulodrome had a contingent from the USA visiting, and Dawn/Andy played a doublette with a couple of Yanks, one who whom turned out to have represented the States in the World Championships.
A couple of days later it was onto the competition. Lee Herring the team organiser had sorted out the terrain to be played on. As the early stages of the tournament can be all over the city luckily it was in the local Park Borely where all later rounds are played. The team visited for a ‘nosey’ and practice. It turned out the terrain was a road surface complete with camber over which there was a smattering of white grit stones. Surprisingly on the surface it was easier to soft lob rather than merely roll, but the camber meant being very precise in aiming taking slope into account.
In the morning the first thing the opposition made sure of was not rules of the game, but instead rules of who would buy the drinks (It was winners). The game was pretty easy and ended 13-2. So we retired to the bar for Pastis at the grand old time of 11am in the morning.
The second game was to start between 2pm-3pm. The terrain was an open piece of ground (grit on road surface again) in the blazing heat. We turned up at 2, with the other team ambling on at 5 minutes to 3. They had one fantastic player, probably equal to top ten Petanque England, but in his triple there was also one poor player. In the end, petanque triples being a team game, our three adequate players triumphed over a team with a weak link even if it did include a very good player. 13-7 and back to the bar for more Pastis.
The third game was adjacent to Parc Borely in the ‘Hippodrome’ on a baked hard clay surface. Our opponents were nowhere to be seen in the end turning up very late. This meant us ending as pretty much the last game (of about 300) in the Hippodrome with two large black and white striped arbitres looming over us. The slope was vicious, requiring sometimes a two metre off aim adjustment. Our opponents were used to hard clay rolling surfaces pointing in more adeptly than us, but luckily there was a ‘kicked up’ softer area into which you could lob where we proved to be better. It ended up a game of ‘coche control’ and the soft area was just too small to consistently bring into play. In the end a 13-11 loss stopping us from playing on in the third day.
Back to the bar after the game for some drinks with our opponents. Team Grand Bretagne exiting the competition on the first day with over twelve thousand other players.
In the end we were too late to pick up our losers prizes, but got them on the second day, a small bottle of pastis for each round, so three bottles. With no way of taking them home on the plane the day became one of drinking pastis to get rid of it/watching petanque stars in action/ finally playing petanque against others in the park absolutely blitzed. Obut-Wan managed to get in a few pics with petanque world champions during the day and on subsequent days.
Eventually we watched the semi-finals and final in the main stadium (moved to the heart of Marseille) before coming home.
All in all a great experience, to be recommended to anyone with an interest in Petanque.