Jousting (in the 21st Century)

An official watches as a contestant’s lance goes flying. (And in the foreground, a photographer — much closer to the action than I was — films the encounter.)

Did you, like me, think jousting was dead? That the days were long gone when men donned 75lb of metal armour, carried 12ft of long pointed weapon and thundered at their opponent on a horse? Then you, like me, have been living a sheltered life. On Sunday I went with two friends to the St Ives Medieval Faire [sic] — and if having pseudo-medieval revels in modern-day Cornwall seems odd, it will seem even odder when I tell you that this St Ives is a suburb of Sydney. Australia. A country that didn’t exist in medieval times.

Two opponents gallop closer together on either side of the tilt.

Weird as the whole thing was, there is no denying that the jousting was pretty amazing. People were standing four deep, making it impossible to see anything. I joined other spectators standing on the tables and benches of ye olde tavern (it ran out of cider and didn’t seem to ever have the promised mead, leaving only beer or water as options — which in itself may be quite authentically medieval!).

Two more participants in the tournament. You can spot the flying pieces of the broken lance on the right.

It’s a curious sport, not unlike cricket in that long stretches of inactivity are punctuated by a burst of action (and dust). This was the inaugural World Jousting Championship, with participants from England, Norway, Canada and Australia (other countries that I forget, too). It was also not unlike Eurovision, with points awarded after each encounter — even “nul points”.

Men and horses were all gorgeously kitted out.

This horse surveys the world through mesh eye protectors while his rider has a helmet touchup.

Seriously cool head gear!