June 29 (Reuters) - “Caution!!!!!! Flying Eggs!” warns a sign on a field in the English village of Swaton, host last Sunday to the annual World Egg Throwing Championships.
Drawing hundreds of competitors and cheering spectators, it’s a messy game claiming a 700-year history and egg-streme puns.
Teams of two align on the grass to try to throw and catch eggs without breaking the shell. Starting at 10 metres (11 yards) apart, the “tosser” throws an egg to a teamate, the “catcher”. After each successful catch they spread further apart.
The winning team is the one that completes a catch with no breakage over the furthest distance. This year it’s Richard Gutsell and Michael Speakman.
“It was tough ... We had a downward wind so it helped an awful lot, but it’s mainly down to him because if you can’t throw it that far you can’t catch it,” Speakman said of thrower Gutsell.
The World Egg Throwing Federation, set up in 2004, believes the game originated around 1322 when an abbot in the Lincolnshire village, the only person who had chickens, encouraged church attendance by giving locals alms of one egg.
When the river flooded and prevented parishioners from attending church, monks are said to have thrown the eggs over to them, according to the Federation.
There are several disciplines at the contest — Egg Throwing, Russian Egg Roulette, Egg Static Relay, Egg Trebuchet and Egg Target Throwing.
For the Russian Egg Roulette, two players sit facing each other, taking it in turn to pick from six eggs, five boiled and one raw, and smash them on their foreheads. Whoever avoids the raw egg is declared winner.
“At first people don’t really know what to make of it ... but as they take part, listen in (and) see people’s reactions they really buy in,” event compere John Deptford said. (Reporting by Reuters Television and Helena Williams; Writing By Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)