The Tournament of Champions Final

Tournament of Champions

Royal Armouries Leeds 26th August 2013

I saw the final to the weekend’s events from an unfamiliar angle. I was sat in the VIP seats to the right of the Marshall’s pavilion. A real treat.

I took my children,  Jessica and Saul, to see many shows at Royal Armouries over the years. They enjoyed the Jousting a lot.

Saul came with me today for the first time in several years, accompanied by Ellis, his fiance. Ellis has been to see Jousting before with her family.  They both came with me to the Arms & Armour of the Superhero exhibition in May this year.

The tournament has been eventful. I didn’t attend on Saturday, I had prior arrangements, but I heard a few reports about it on Sunday when I was doing my Behind-the-Scenes article. Andy Deane for example pulled a strike against Alix van Zijl as it was her first visit, potentially losing 4 points. These things happen, till Alix tells Andy she can take hits like the boys, this I witnessed on Sunday, more details in that earlier article. Sunday had a very close battle between Andy and Stacy Evans.

So today was going to be interesting. I arrived to hear that Alix had come second in the 12:00 joust. That made it all quite tense, Stacy in the lead and Andy chasing him – this happened at Easter and Andy closed the gap. I know Andy’s secret too, I forgot to ask him today if he’d try it again…

The Parade

There was a parade at 14:15, by now I’d been asked to present the Sword of Honour to the victor. Obviously I was delighted to be asked, though quite surprised too. So I watched the Sword of Honour arrive, carried by Squire Ricky, with some extra excitement. As you can see it’s a decent sword, but it is what it represents that makes it important.

Behind Ricky and Jack came the ladies and gents of Atkinson Action Horses.

Mark Atkinson, his daughter Lucy followed by Michael Collin and Zach Roberts. They’ve thrilled us all summer with their amazing horsemanship and athleticism.

The parade was introduced by Charlie Barrett whose relaxed and natural style is very encouraging to the audience. Charlie also hosts the competition, he also hosted the Easter competition.

Charlie is a member of Atkinson’s Action Horses and is a rider with them. As with other members of the stunt team he has appeared in several films.

Among the credits the team have appeared in are War Horse, Robin Hood and Wuthering Heights.

Behind the talented group who portray the Foot and Mounted Squires in the show came the ones that get all the glory. All mounted on the same horses as they rode yesterday.


I don’t think they came in any particular order. At the front Alix Van Zilj on Aramis and Stacy Evans on Alfie. At the rear Steve Morris on Dylan and Andy Deane on Ted. Not a good shot of Ted, I guess he got extra coverage yesterday.

alex-van-zjiel-shield2Alix van Zilj wears Milanese Armour of the style in 1470. Her targe bears her heraldry of three trees on white above six flowers on red.

Alix is a Vet in her home country of The Netherlands, where she is member of Stichting HEI, the premier Dutch team. She has been jousting for the shortest amount of time for anyone in this competition but has faced the best The Netherlands can field.


Stacy Evans wears Italian Armour for Export to Burgundy in the style of 1475. His heraldry is a field of black with three white chevrons but his targe is white, the image almost worn away.

A member of the Destrier team Stacy is the Champion of Arundel Castle and the Tournois du Lys d’argent in Quebec. He has more than ten years experience at jousting, home and overseas.

steve-morris-shield2Steve Morris has been jousting 20 years and is the recent champion of Berkeley Castle. His armour is a reproduction of Edmund Tudor’s. His red dragon is taken from ‘Prince Arthur’s Book’, created by Henry VII for his eldest son, thought to be the oldest heraldic dragon.

His helmet carries an ornate crest of Italian design not found on Edmund Tudor’s armour,  from a painting by Botticelli.

andydeane2Andy Deane wears Gothic armour of late 15th century style, Germanic but with a few English influences. His heraldry is that of his family, two lions on a field of red with an upright sword.

Andy led the Royal Armouries to victory three times in the old Team Championship that used to see The Armouries face Destrier and two other international teams. At Easter he wrested the Jubilee Horn from Stacy Evans.

The Show

The show is divided in to two parts, the Skill at Arms and the Joust. Together this makes the Tournament.

In a traditional Tournament there might be several competitions for Squires and Knights. For example Sword on Foot, Sword Mounted, Polaxe, etc. With a Champion at each discipline. The Joust being the pinnacle and indeed the sport of Kings.

Skill at Arms

Here we see the members of Atkinson Action Horses give a display of the sort of Skill at Arms that Squire would practice and compete in while hoping to become Knights. Knights would also practice these skills.

The disciplines are all mounted and include striking at cabbages, or other vegetables or fruit, at the head height of a man on foot. Points are awarded for frontal cuts and backhanded strokes.

Here you see the after affects of Lucy Atkinson’s clean strike at one of the targets.

After each member of the team have completed their run at these targets they take a reverse trip along the tiltyard with different stunts added. Michael Collin strikes at cabbages, or in this case a melon, thrown in to the air.

Lucy struck at a cabbage… on top of a helmet… which was worn by Ricky. This stunt is named the Helmet of Death. There was an audible ‘ting’ as Lucy’s sword connected at some point with the helmet but she certainly sliced part of the cabbage as there is debris in the air.

Zach Roberts attempted to pick up a sword from the floor and slice a melon. He failed to pick up the sword but I think that is the first time I’ve seen him fail. He usually succeeds in retrieving the sword with his left hand and cutting the target in half with his right.

Mark jumped a barrier held by Ricky and sliced the very top off a melon. Sadly I didn’t get good pictures of this or Zach’s stunt.

Swords were swapped for darts, short spears designed for throwing from horseback. In this case they threw the dart at a target on the floor with a silver circle painted on black background. A point awarded for hitting the black and two for hitting the circle.

I didn’t capture three of the runs but Mike’s was from the opposite end of the tiltyard as he had displayed the dart to the audience and was at the wrong end. He threw the dart while hanging off his horse to compensate.

The shot is blurry but you can see exactly what is taking place.

Next the team ran at heads on the ground with sharp spears. The idea is to hit and displace a head or preferably to hit and carry a head. Here we see Mike piercing one of the targets.

These skills are all obviously something that would be used on the battlefield in Europe.

Mike and Zach went on to show skills that were used by cavalry from further East, particularly the Mongol hordes.

Zach reversing himself in the saddle, then vaulting to the floor and back in to the saddle. Accomplished with fluid movements.Mike leaving the saddle and hiding behind his horse.

Both skills that would make one a harder target to hit with a bow for example, you can see in the shot of Mike exactly how much cover he would gain from his horse.

It is obvious how these skills could be useful for lightly cavalry with little or no armour. The next two skills however have no obvious battlefield use but certainly show a high degree of skilled horsemanship.

Zach inverted himself on the side of his horse. Mike instead stood on the back of his horse with extended reins.

The Knights then joined the Squires for the next Skill at Arms. Striking at rings suspended at the height of a man’s heart when mounted. The ring is more or less the same size as a heart. The idea is to dislodge or dislodge and carry the hoop.

Here we see Stacy showing a fine line.

The quintain was the next skill. The target is a shield roughly the size of a targe mounted on a pivoted crossbar, a metal counterweight at the opposite end. The idea is to strike the target hard enough to make the arm spin but ride fast enough for the counterweight to miss one’s head.

There was some fooling around while Jack and Ricky built the quintain.

Then tested that it would work as desired.

Steve went on to strike the target squarely, as did Mike. Obviously this is ideal training for the joust, though as I found out yesterday it doesn’t form part of Andy’s training regime.

The Joust

The rules of the Joust are simple but may vary from Tournament to Tournament, venue to venue. Here at the royal armouries points are scored:

  • Strike to the Targe – 3 Points
  • Strike to the Body – 2 Points
  • Strike to the Arm – 1 Point
  • Bonus Point for breakage

Illegal Strikes:

  • Strike to the Head
  • Strike to the Groin
  • Strikes with the edge of the Lance

A strike to the horse can bring disqualification as the horses’ safety is paramount.

Each Knight had three passes, one against each of the other Knights.

To the left we have Steve Morris facing Alix van Zilj, you might notice that Alix’s targe is much bigger than Steve’s

To the right, Stacy Evans faces Andy Deane. The rivalry between these two is strong.

There were several big hits and lots of good breakage. In some cases the hits were so hard that shards of wood flew for thirty feet or so.

Here you can see good breakage by both Knights, though it seems Steve has the better break than Andy.

As you can see the shards can go in any direction, that is why all the Knights have closed helmets. It may restrict the vision but it gives better safety. Henry II of France died from taking a shard to the face.

Alfie is at full gallop in this picture as Stacy closes on Alix. Aramis twirls his tail as he runs along the tilt, like an outboard motor.

Stacy usually has a comparison with his heraldry on display. He didn’t have it with him and did not wish to use a replacement.

Stacy has honed in on Steve’s targe, his accuracy rate is very impressive.

Sadly I didn’t get a good picture of Andy facing Alix, though they had to re-run as Alix was not far enough into the list for a fair pass.

The metronomic strike rate of targe, targe, targe coupled with superior breakage meant only one thing. Stacy Evans was victorious.

Ellis took this picture as I had to put my camera down and take to the tiltyard floor to present Stacy with the Sword of Honour.

It really was an amazing surprise to be asked to present the Sword of Honour. I’ve had a really enjoyable Summer watching the competitions.

Stacy Evans. Champion of the Royal Armouries Tournament of Champions. The photo below is by Shona and used with her kind permission. by now I was quite some distance behind Stacy.

So ends a brilliant Summer of Jousting at the Royal Armouries. If you get a chance to see a Joust here or anywhere else that these Knights appear do take the opportunity. I’d advise you to check out Destrier’s Facebook page as they tend to keep it up to date with forthcoming events they will be attending.


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