Imagine a medieval tournament field, as depicted in numerous illustrations of the time, dominated by a long, solid wooden tilt rail. The knight-marshal or lady of the joust, clad in rich finery, stirring excitement amongst the audience while explaining the feats of arms about to be witnessed. As the cheering soars, they welcome into the lists knights from all parts of England and even further afield, accompanied by marshals.
Clad in classic 15th century armour and mounted on feisty warhorses, they are ready for the ultimate martial test – the tournament. Wearing real steel, they do battle as did the knights of old. At closing speeds of up to 40 mph, they shatter their lances, wood on metal. Crowds gasp as they collide with violent force amid clouds of wooden shards, rocking each other back in their war saddles, lances being wrenched from their hands. Nothing is choreographed – the determined riders are genuinely trying to best each other in a real competition.
As in a historic joust, the objective is to hit the opponent hard enough with the tip of the lance to break it. Different scores will be awarded depending on which part of the opponent’s body was struck. Two marshals are observing each pass from either end of the tilt rail, and will indicate how the two competitors have struck each other.
A Destrier joust is scored by a system loosely based on Sir John Tiptoft’s tournament rules, as laid out in 1466:
- Lance broken due to a strike on the opponent’s arm: 1 point
- Lance broken due to a strike on the opponent’s chest: 2 points
- Lance broken due to a strike on the opponent’s shield: 3 points
- Lance broken due to a strike on the opponent’s lance tip: 5 points
- A strike on the opponent’s arm, chest or shield without breaking the lance (an “attaint”): 0 points
- A strike with the length of the lance across the opponent’s body (a “barricade” or “sweep”): 0 points
- A strike anywhere below the opponent’s waist line: disallowed – 0 points, disqualification in case of repeat
- A strike on the opponent’s head: depending on prior agreement either disallowed, or 3 – 5 points
An extra point can be awarded if a competitor’s lance is broken far down, indicating a strike of particular violence (“a breakage point”).
Should a competitor be unhorsed as the result of a strike, he forfeits any points he may have achieved as the result of his strike in that pass.
Notes on Equipment and Safety:
Real jousting, as practiced by Destrier, is a violent and dangerous sport. Despite our use of replaceable lance tips made from balsa wood, our riders will aim to hit each other with the remainder of the lance as well, creating powerful and noisy impact, moving their opponent in the saddle, perhaps even unhorsing him. The historically accurate design of our tilt rail is contributing considerably to the forces of impact occurring: Contrary to modern tilt rails, which are often quite short and always open, Destrier’s tilt rail is particularly long and made with wooden panels. As a result our horses have more time to accelerate without being able to see each other, and therefore run considerably faster, straighter, and closer to the barrier resulting in particularly hard strikes and spectacular passes.
To balance this exciting physicality with health and safety, Destrier’s requirements for a jousting armour are extremely high. Our riders are excellently protected by some of the finest steel armour available in the world. Helmet sights do not exceed 5 mm, and visors are safely locked during a jousting pass. The balsa wood used for the tip is far more likely to break bluntly than other woods, reducing the risk of sharp splinters. Rubber coronels resembling 15th century tournament tips are keeping the balsa together on initial impact and further minimise the risk of narrow wooden spines. Destrier’s jousters train extensively to achieve the highest levels of control and precision with the lance, to prevent any uncontrolled handling which might endanger an opponent’s horse. Further protection is yielded by the historically accurate height of the tilt rail, safeguarding our horses against any low lance strikes. And finally those of our jousting horses with a somewhat higher head carriage are wearing leather or steel head protection (a “chamfron”) to make doubly certain that they cannot be harmed. Destrier’s safety record is excellent, without any major jousting-related injuries throughout the group’s long history.