Pétanque catching on in Edmonds
You don't need to be French to enjoy this sport
CHRIS GOODENOW / FOR THE HERALD
Seattle Pétanque Club member Philippe Geraud (left) measures to determine which boule is closest to the cochonnet during a May 12 game at Civic Center Playfield in Edmonds. Waiting for the results are Seattle Pétanque Club member Linda Ferguson (background, center) and Edmonds Pétanque Club member Bob Hetzel. Seattle club members visited the Edmonds club practice to help train it in the game's finer points.
Weekly Herald/CHRIS GOODENOW Edmonds Pétanque Club member Dick van Hollebeke (right) tosses his boule in front of fellow member Mike Martin during a May 12 practice at Civic Center Playfield in Edmonds.
Weekly Herald/CHRIS GOODENOW Edmonds Pétanque Club member Bob Hetzel (center) tosses his boule in front of fellow members Richard (left) and Dorothy Lipsky during a May 12 practice at Civic Center Playfield in Edmonds.
Pétanque (pronounced puh-tonk) is a French pastime played outdoors on a hard dirt or gravel court. The goal is to throw hollow metal balls, known as boules, as close as possible to a small wooden ball known as the cochonnet or jack. The game is akin to lawn bowling or Italian bocce ball.
The team winning a coin toss is the first team up and tosses the cochonnet onto the court, then throws the first boule. A player from the opposing team then throws a boule. The team with the boule closest to the cochonnet is first up. That team continues to throw its boules until all are played. The opposing team then plays all its boules.
Once all boules are on the court, points are scored for the round. A team receives one point for each boule closer to the cochonnet than the opponent's best-placed boule. The winning team then begins the next round. The winner is the first team to reach 13 points.
Part of the game's strategy is to reposition the cochonnet and the opponent's boules over the course of a match.
There are two types of players: "Shooters" are adept at knocking opponents' boules away, while "pointers" are skillful at rolling balls close to the target.
Pétanque has taken such a hold in Edmonds that the city, along with the Edmonds Pétanque Club, has added three courts to the one that was installed in 2010 at Civic Playfield.
Just shy of two years ago groups of up to 15 players stood waiting their turns on the single court. Now 25 or more players gather on a total of four courts.
More than 30 people are members of the Edmonds Pétanque Club, which charges an annual fee of $35. About three new members join the orgainization each week, club president Michelle Martin. The club has 12 sponsors and more than 170 people on its mailing list.
"The people who join the club are looking to have a pleasant activity with fun," Martin said. "It is an Edmonds kind of game -- cross gender and cross age. The mix of people is amazing."
Those who want to try tossing a boule and learn about the game can contact the Edmonds Pétanque Club. Regular sessions are held at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays, and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Sets of boules are available through the club for people to try before deciding if they want to buy their own.
The Edmonds Boys & Girls Club also has caught the péntanque bug, offering the game as part of its regular offerings. The club has donated boule sets for the children to use. One of the newest courts is adjacent to the club's building.
The club has been able to add courts thanks to grants from the Hubbard Family Foundation, and design and construction work from city staff.
"The city staff has been so good to us," Martin said.
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