The ‘Olympic Lancing Association’ of Marseillan organises, with great pride, this traditional sport in the old port of Marseillan, a traditional southern French village on the Mediterranean Thau Lagoon. The ‘French Jousting Cup’ was held here just a few hundred meters from La Baraquette, what will be the region’s first 5-star vineyard resort and spa. It’s an emotional spectacle – gladiatorial teams confronting each other over the water, while the crowd cheers them on.
The ancient sport of jousting
Jousting has its roots in ancient Greece, although some have traced it as far back as ancient Egypt, and it has now become a regional French tradition. The Languedoc approach to jousting is found in the coastal cities and towns of Béziers, Agde, Marseillan, Mèze, Balaruc, Frontignan, Sète and Palavas.
The idea is for two boats, the ‘red’ and the ‘blue’, to be propelled at each other by eight to ten rowers and guided by two helmsmen. The boats come together at full speed, and a jouster, standing 3 meters above the water on a platform at the front of the boat, thrusts his lance at his competitor on the opposing boat. They aim for each other’s hips trying to knock them off balance so that they fall into the water.
The port of Marseillan is one of the top venues for water jousting, and people come from all over to line the quays and watch the teams come head to head. Sometimes one jouster imbalances the other with ease, propelling them into the ‘soup’. At other times, both competitors are perfectly matched – with either both falling at the same time or maintaining a perfect balance despite being struck. The jousters are well-protected, which is a good thing, as the force of the propulsion can sometimes see the lances snapping in two.
Music is played throughout the joust, with each ‘hit’ of the lances punctuated by a lute. Two musicians playing traditional oboes and drums sit at the prow of the boat itself and set the rhythm for the rowers. The music reaches a crescendo each time the jousters come into contact.
The La Baraquette 5-star vineyard resort and spa is being built a stone’s throw from the port, and will be organising its own water jousting events for owners, guests and the general public to enjoy. The excitement of water jousting, followed by a delicious meal at the port on a warm summer evening, is something you’ll never forget.