Petanque America closed registration for its Amelia Island Petanque America Open this weekend, with more than 90 competing teams.
We have been crossing our fingers for the weather to cooperate with the First Amelia Island Petanque America Open that has already welcomed the first several dozen players on Thursday. Today the vast majority will arrive, includng Belgian World Champion Claudy Weibel, who we will follow with our cameras for the next 3 days like a bee on honey. We have watched a series of videos on youTube and other video sites about this man’s ability to shoot the metal balls (boules) and we are in absolute awe of his technique. It takes more than just practice to hit a metal ball 30 feet away with another metal ball, time after time.
Petanque America closed registration for its Amelia Island Petanque America Open this weekend, with more than 90 competing teams. For only the second-ever open international Tournament in the USA this is impressive.
Almost 200 players from Europe, Canada, Africa and 20 states in the Union, among which the 2009 European champion and 2000 World Champion Claudy Weibel and US champions and Canadian champions, are competing for the $5,000 prize purse.
Petanque, the French cousin to “Bocce ball” and even Horseshoe, is played with metal balls, called ‘boules’ on a 12 x 36 feet gravel type court. The new boat trailer park at the downtown marina will feature more than 40 courts to accommodate the round robin. It will absolutely look like Southern France in town when more than 90 teams start out around 9:30 on Saturday morning. Although the game seems easy and relaxed, sentiments run high when world-class players how their fabulous skills, game strategies and team tactics during tournaments. Spectacular performances are guaranteed. On Sunday, as more courts become available when the tournament moves into the quarter, semi and finals scheduled for Sunday afternoon 4 pm many courts will become available for locals and visitors to play this fascinating game.
Petanque, the name is derived from “anchored feet”, involves both feet on the ground in a pre-drawn circle, while throwing a metal ball with the aim to get as close as possible to a small colored ball called ‘piglet’ or ‘cochonette’.
Organizer Philippe Boets, president and founder of Petanque America, says: “Downtown Fernandina Beach will transform into a little piece of the French Riviera this weekend. It will feel a lot like walking a boulevard in Nice or Cannes. The Palace Saloon’s backyard is outfitted with a double Petanque court, called the ‘Boulodrome’ , he adds, “while outfitted like a French village square with Ricard, the Southern French anise flavored drink, on prominent display.”
Besides world-class players, the tournament has also attracted a handful of world famous celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pepin, Michel Nischan and Jean Banchet, all highly accomplished Petanque players in their own right and capable of bringing some real surprises to the scoreboard.
Since moving headquarters earlier this year from Greensboro NC to Amelia Island, Fl, Petanque America owner Boets has encountered a rapidly growing enthusiasm for the game among the local population. “Courts are sprouting up in people’s front and backyards,” he says. “Amelia Island Plantation and the Ritz Carlton are planning to put in courts, and I recently got a request to help putting in a court at a local Fire and Rescue Station.”
“People who know the game are thrilled to see it played so close to home now, and others who just discovered it, are wondering why it took so long to reach here in NE Florida.”
“Anyone of any age can play Petanque”, says Boets, while inviting everyone to come down to watch the games and even play a game or two as courts become available during the event.
“The French Riviera on Amelia Island” he smiles, “a wedding made in heaven”.