Winning hand? It's all in the shuffle...

Unidentified flying objects part of a sporting drama to unfold deep in West Sussex
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The Independent Online

A single shuffleboard set is at the mercy of beginners' luck but Saturday's 19th Baden-Powell Guild tournament proved that over six rounds practice makes perfect – especially when that practice takes place on a hand-crafted Dutch shuffleboard.

After four hours of disc-crashing tension at Henfield Village Hall, West Sussex, the big scores were posted by winners, past, present and possibly future.

The 2008 champion, David Beard, got his new team off to a flyer but after they faded, Team Unidentified outgunned previous winners Henfield Active Youth, and 30 other outfits, to maintain the Spicer-Cherriman family influence over the tournament.

The winning captain, Polly Cherriman, helped Unidentified to break through the magical 500-point barrier with a final-round 87 and in the process added even more family members to the roll-call of past winners.

Unidentified's Abbie de Vries revealed their secret: "We practise in the basement on our own shuffleboard, hand-made by my Dutch grandfather."

If you have heard of Shuffleboard or appreciate the Dutch reference, give thanks to Adrian Williams of the English Shuffleboard Company for the sport's first national coverage, after he successfully bid for Lot 27 at The Independent's 2008 charity auction.

For the uninitiated, its origins are older than those of cricket and fans have included Henry VIII, who plundered the royal purse to pay "my lord Wylliam for that he wane of the kinges grace at shovillaborde". Its popularity exploded in the Netherlands early in the last century and by 1966 codified tournaments saw teams of three sliding 30 discs down into four separate holes to complete as many 20-point sets as possible.

Fast-forward to the present day, and younger brother Cain is the only trophyless member of the Spicer-Cherriman family, but that could be set to change. "Next year that trophy's mine," vowed an ambitious Cain.

This beginner is hooked.