The Knack How to win at conkers, by Paul Vjestica

"Four of us from work first entered the competition last year. We got two or three rounds in and no further. Because we're all engineers, we analysed what happened. We considered that a downward strike wasn't the best approach because the string of your opponent's conker absorbed most of the impact and yours would come off worse. So we thought we'd try the sideways swipe.

We practised during our lunch hour and entered again this year. But I was the only one who made it through the eight bouts to become the champion. One team member got knocked out in the first round, another made it to the second, and the third didn't turn up. He'd had a heavy Saturday night and he said he wouldn't be able to see which conker was which.

A lot of the 300 or so competitors were drinking fairly heavily, but I just had the one pint. You need a steady hand and a clear head for this. Besides, I had my family watching.

We weren't allowed to bring our own conkers, but had to pull them from a bag to make the competition completely fair. The biggest and hardest ones are usually best, although they reckon conkers are soft this year. When I was a kid, I'd bake them in the oven to harden them up.

My greatest advantage, I think, is that I play the drums and I'm quite good at hitting things accurately. I had one spectacular strike which spun my opponent's conker round and hit him on the head.

In the final, I was up against a Frenchman, which seemed quite historic. The crowds were going wild. It feels great to be British world champion at something. There aren't many of us around." Jacqui Bealing

Paul Vjestica, 36, from Peterborough, won the annual World Conker Championship last week at Ashton, Northamptonshire

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