World Conker Championship winners hail 'no practice' approach
The conker king and queen of the world have spoken of their surprise after their complete lack of training saw them triumph over international rivals.
Simon Cullum, from Kettering, took the men's title and Sophie Knox, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, the women's in Sunday's World Conker Championship in Southwick, Northamptonshire.
Mr Cullum said: "Today's the first time I practised. It's all beginner's luck."
Ms Knox added: "I had no technique at all. My first game was last night."
The game of conkers involves a battle between two conkers, the fruit of the horse chestnut tree, tied on lengths of string.
Opponents take it in turns to hit the other's conker using a catapult-like motion, until one nut breaks.
Conker rules include:
- All conkers and laces are provided by the organisers
- Contestants pick their conkers at random from a bag
- The distance between knuckle and nut must be no less than 8in (20cm)
- The game will be decided once one of the conkers is smashed
- If a small piece of nut remains on the lace, it is deemed "out" unless "large enough to mount an attack"
- Each match is presided over by two stewards. A chief umpire decides the outcome of any escalated disputes
The championships began in 1965 but have not taken place since 2010 because of the weather.'Quintessentially British'
This year there were 138 entrants, many in fancy dress, from 15 countries.
Ms Knox, dressed as the Pink Panther, described the event as "wonderful" and her win as "ridiculous and hilarious".
Mr Cullum said brute force had been his only technique.
"I just tried to hit the conker as hard as I could," he said.
"I played as a kid, but this was the first time I'd entered. I do intend to dine out on my king title for the next year, though."
Asked if he would practise before defending his title in 2014, Mr Cullum said: "No. I don't want to curse my luck."
Ian Moss, who represented the "US national team" and wore a giant cheese on his head, described the event as "quintessentially British".
"The cheese I'm wearing is significant as we're all from Wisconsin, the 'cheese state', America's dairy land," he said. "We love cheese and wanted to represent the cheese of America around the world.
"Who else would stand out in a field in the rain, in the middle of October, and swing some conkers around?
"It only happens in England and this is why we love it.
"It's so unique, so British that we knew we wanted to represent America in this great British event."