21 October, The Bell Benington, Sponsored by Crown Darts
The morning of the first Hertfordshire Open Kubb tournament dawned grey and drizzly, despite a weather report promising cloud with occasional sunshine. The organisers arrived at the venue at 9.30, tasked with the mission of erecting the hospitality gazebo, provided by Coleby’s Catering, mowing the grass and laying out a number of pistes, or pitches to International Kubb standard dimensions.
Faced with relentless driving rain, a malfunctioning mover and a complex gazebo made up of 48 pieces of varying sizes, complete with hand-drawn instructions, organizer Ian and his not terribly keen assistant, Oliver, managed, without much delay, to measure out four pistes – the tent was another matter. It was horribly complicated; we initially built it entirely back to front. In the end it was completed, and managed to stay up for the whole day, despite developing a worrying amount of sagging and leaning towards the centre. The pitches remained unmown, which in retrospect was not ideal.
Poor weather in the days leading up to the tournament prompted a flurry of late cancellations – the official Kubb UK team were unable to attend, along with others from London, Essex, Cambridgeshire and other locations closer to home. In a way, this improved the tournament, as it allowed the organisers to hold longer games and gave beginners longer to get used to the game.
We laid out four pistes, rather than the original eight we had planned, one of which was used as a shooting gallery, for newcomers to get used to aiming at the Kubbs. A number of locals took the opportunity to use the demonstration sets that had been laid out before the tournament started. An epic women versus men match resulted in a sound trouncing for the embarrassed, red-faced males.
All the teams registered on time, and Neil Wilson of KubbUK.org and the British Kubb Players Association, gave a demonstration match where he explained the finer points of the game. A couple of teams had experience of international play, from their time playing in Finland, so an unusual “Finnish” stacking rule was adopted for the day, whereby returned Field Kubbs that touch each other during the throwing-back process were stacked in doubles, triples or occasionally quadruple towers. There was keen debate about this rule.
The competition used a simple knock out format, with teams eliminated from the first round entering a “plate” competition with a separate prize.
Some of the teams were well prepared for their day – Somerset-based Team Kubbuteo were the best equipped, their matching Burberry/Kath Kidson collapsable seats and Team Kubbuteo hats were widely admired. Teenage boyfriend/girlfriend team Kubb Lunatics from Hertfordshire had a well-thought out Viking helmet theme, and spent much of their time canoodling in the gazebo. A news photographer from the Hertfordshire Mercury was on hand to capture the spirit of the day.
The more experienced players were very helpful in guiding beginners through the intricacies of this complex game. From the beginning, competition was fierce, as teams battled to stay in the main competition. Most of these games took 30 minutes or so, “Wonderkubb’s” epic first round encounter with eventual Open trophy winners “Aarhuus” went on for more than an hour.
The weather held up well and was sunny and warm and our kind hosts at the Bell, Benington, kept the bar open throughout the day, keeping us well fed and watered. As the competition progressed the teams developed their own gamesmanship strategies to unsettle their opponents - most focused on internal bickering, usually between husband and wife, or father and child, although humorous sideline barracking became more of a feature as the tournament progressed.
Both of the semi finals were keenly fought, and the highlight of the day was the match between the Danish-themed “Kaard” team and the Hertford-Welwyn team known as “Kubb”. In a good-natured, but competitive game that could have gone either way, Kaard were eventual winners by a whisker – losing novices Rachel and Ian put on a fine display of accurate tossing. After this, the final was an anticlimax, as the two teams from Royston shared the spoils of the day.
The Plate Competition featured some strong games, and was eventually won by beginners: “WonderKubb” with an aggressive display of stickmanship.
Our thanks go to everyone who turned up, to play, or watch, to our hosts at the Bell and to Crown Darts who supplied competition sets and our First Prize of a complete “KubbSpel” game.
We plan a larger competition in April/May 2007. For more details, contact the British Kubb Players Association at www.KubbUK.org.
Hertford Open Champions: Team Aarhus
Runners up: Team Kaard
Semi Finalists: Team Kubbuteo, Team Kubb.
Hertford Open Plate competition
Winners: Team Kubb
Runners up: Team Kubb Krap
Ian Middleton, Tournament Organiser