Bora Bora Petanque Championships – 2014

Pétanque is a form of bowls played with metal boules (“balls”) where the goal is to throw the balls as close as possible to a small wooden ‘jack’ (ball) called a cochonnet (“piglet”)! The game is traditionally played on a hard dirt surface but can be played on gravel, sand, grass or any pleasant spot where people are out simply to enjoy themselves.

The current form of the game originated in 1907 in Provence, France & has an international following, particularly in nations with a French colonial influence. The Petanque World Championships, a team event, is held every two years with the 2014 Championships to be played in Tahiti in October. The major individual tournament is the Mondial de Petanque (World Titles) played annually in Marseille, France which attracts thousands of participants and hundreds of thousands spectators.

Female players at the Bora Bora Championships gather to cheer-on their male team member counterparts:


Petanque is played by two teams of 1,2 or 3 players. Each player launches 3 boules with a point being gained for every boule closer to the cochonnet than the best boule of the opposing team. Strict rules govern the conduct of the game & the make-up of equipment permitted to be used.

Team members discuss tactics before the player readies himself to throw:



There is a wide range of styles seen in the throwing of the boules – both feet must be grounded at the time one throws – to which I’ve added a couple of shots capturing the flight of the boule. The last shot shows the movement following a ‘kiss’ – when one’s ball lands atop that of an opponent seeing both balls ejected from the field of play:





Needless to say there is also a vocabulary unique to the game. Perhaps the best known term is “fanny” as in ‘doing a fanny’, referring to a team which loses without scoring a point – the loser is said to have to kiss the backside of a girl called Fanny! Throughout Provence you will find pictures or images of a bare-bottomed ‘Fanny’ celebrating this tradition.

Most players in the Bora Bora Championships sharpened their skills in the Coupe de Petanque de Bora Bora, a lead-up event to the Championships. Major events in Bora Bora are played under lights in the cool of the evening. This year’s endeavour to see the event completed in 1 day saw players competing through to 3am the next morning! A couple of shots of the winners as I feel such an effort warrants it:





The Bora Bora Petanque Championships, a 3 player team event, is serious stuff with the winners heading to Tahiti for the Championship of French Polynesia. The winners of the Tahiti, in turn, head to France for the French titles. A major prize, of course, is to represent French Polynesia in the 2014 Petanque World Championships to be held in October this year in Tahiti.

No winners photos here as the aim is to introduce the game to visitors to Bora Bora who may not know the game or how to play it. It’s a great game though, very easy to play, suitable for men & women of all ages & all sporting abilities; a great way to pass away an afternoon over a few cold beers.  Hey next time you are strolling around Bora Bora & see a game under-way, lob over & see with the locals if you can ‘have a go’ – they’ll welcome you with open arms.  

Post Script – At a meeting of the Government of French Polynesia on 3rd September, 2014 it was decided, in the light of the ebola scare, to delay holding the World Championships until June 2015. Should this not be acceptable to the sport’s governing authorities the event will be cancelled by the local authorities.

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