The RAF Tug of War Team in Action

Tug of War Information

By Sgt Al Sharp

RAF Tug of War Athletes Under Strain Tug of war has a long history in the armed forces, but along with many sports it is in decline due to service commitments, lack of interest or, in the case of Tug of war, not knowing or understanding what this sport, and yes it is a sport, is really about.

Ask most people what they understand or believe Tug of war to be and they will probably picture a pub side of heavy drinking, heavy set gentlemen grimacing, groaning and pulling on a rope at a local fete - well that could not be further from the truth!

Yes, if you come to, or have been to watch, Tug of war you will see some very large gentlemen indeed. But, mixed in with the raw power and weight that these competitors bring, you’ll find the smaller chaps that are just as important but are becoming increasingly harder to find. Tug of war involves and requires dedication, fitness, and most importantly good technique - it can bring an immense sense of achievement and satisfaction, as well as exhaustion, when your team has dragged their opponents the required 4 metres. Unfortunately Tug of war is competed over the best of three pulls, so you’ve got 90 seconds to recover only to do it all over again!!

So what’s this Tug of war lark all about then?

RAF Tug of War Athletes at the House of Commons In a competition, which can involve up to 12 teams, there are many different weight categories -560kg, 600kg, 640kg, 680kg, 720kg, and catch-weight. The latter is for the more portly gentlemen, but the others involve a lot of figure juggling by the team manager to get as near as possible to the required weight - but not an ounce over - using the members of the squad. Each team member tries to maintain the same weight throughout the season, to help the manager in the selection process, and during the weigh-in on the day of competition some members may have to run around the field to loose those important last few ounces - it’s that difficult to get the team under the required weight.

The teams are then picked, weighed in and stamped with the weight category they are entered in (you get stamped on the leg to ensure nobody swaps a 70kg puller with a 110kg puller and gains an unfair advantage). Most competitors then start to eat for England, to replenish their energy levels and also to gain a slight weight advantage - it’s amazing how much help a mess cheese roll can be!

Training “It’s a killer”

RAF Tug of War Athletes Pulling Hard As I’ve mentioned, Tug of war is diminishing, so instead of a team from each unit we now train and compete as often as possible as a squad, normally at RAF Lyneham - it’s far from ideal but you have to make the best of a bad thing. To put things into perspective, the Army (who I hate to say are pretty good) are near enough a semi-professional team. Their squads are all posted at the same stations and they train twice a day, 6 days a week. The RAF squad, on the other hand, train approximately every 3 weeks for 6 hours, although the really keen ones amongst us train with civilian teams to help maintain our fitness and endurance.

Don’t Worry be Happy

RAF Tug of War Athletes Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s a lot that can be gained from Tug of war - teamwork, personal fitness and a sense of achievement and pride. Many competitions take place all over the U.K., with the crème de la crème being the Royal Highland Games at Braemar in Scotland. There aren’t many sports in which can represent the Royal Air Force, and compete against the Navy and Army, in a beautiful natural arena in front of 20,000 people (normally Americans - ask anyone who’s been). Still not glamorous enough for you - well on top of the opportunity to represent the RAF there is also the possibility for those committed to the sport to compete at Tri-service level in the European Championships in Holland, or next year at the World Championships in New Zealand!

So, why not come and try one of the most exhausting but worthwhile sports which has a lot to offer, don’t poo-poo it until you’ve tried it. Okay, so you may not be built like Arnie but, as I’ve said, you don’t need to be - and girls you’re most welcome to!

If you think that Tug of war has something to offer you, or you’ve got something to offer the most traditional of sports, then get hold of us through the Tug of War contacts page.

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