It all started strangely at the flying saucer or some apparently alien spacecraft. Most people don’t believe in such things and neither did I. But it sure looked like a flying saucer. Unbelievably, hundreds of men and women were entering the spaceship, seemingly under their volition. And the one thing they had in common was they were all smoking pipes! What fate awaited them inside????
The spaceship was actually the Evoluon, the site of the 2011 World Cup Pipe Smoking Championship held on October 16th
in Eindhoven,Netherlands. The American team consisted of Raymond Lykins, the 2011 U.S. champion; the enthusiastic newcomer, Andy Hamilton; Vernon Vig, President of The United Pipe Clubs of America (UPCA); and Mike ‘Doc’ Garr, the 2012 U. S. champion. We were there to challenge teams of pipe smokers from all over Europe.
The Evoluon actually does look like a flying saucer resting on a pedastal. The contest was held in a circular room in the middle of the building. Observers, fans, a TV film crew, and the jury made up of Pierre Mueller and Alain Letulier, among others, were on another circular floor above us looking down on the action.
The pipe this year was a Big Ben tuxedo pipe with a high-glossed black finish and silver band manufactured by Gubbels, which has been making pipes since 1870. The tobacco was MacBaren’s Mixture. We were all impressed with the styling of the pipe. However, the pipe was made with a 9mm filter, which could be removed for the contest. Removing it did not seem to affect the performance of the pipe.
With eight participants to a table, along with a steward, we were partnered with four members of the Cologne pipe club. Some opening comments were made and the Alderman of Culture of Eindhoven gave the countdown to start the contest when…oops…they realized the tobacco hadn’t been distributed yet. After the tobacco was distributed, the countdown resumed and the competition was on! We all worked feverishly rubbing out the tobacco and filling our pipes. Then came time to fire up the pipes. I had heard that the Evoluon was chosen because it had some advanced air filtration system it wanted to test with a lot of smoke. No copious amounts of smoke could be seen with the initial lighting of 332 pipe smokers.
The contest was on. All I could think about was the embarrassing five-minute time I had my last world cup contest in 2008 held Wurselen, Germany. I could not let the team down again. Luckily, I persevered and had a respectable time of one hour and fifteen minutes. The US team also had a respectable performance. With a combined time of 3 hours, 45 minutes and 45 seconds, we placed 35th out of 82 teams.
The Dombóvár 424 Pipe Club from Hungary had the best team time at 6 hours, 52 minutes and 21 seconds. The best individual time was from world record holder, Gianfranco Ruscalla at 2 hours, 57 minutes and 43 seconds. His Italian team, the Corsellini Pipe Club, came in second place.
We all had a great time. The food was wonderful and the beer excellent. One dish I have to mention was served at CIPC presidential dinner. It was a cream of potato with eel. I wasn’t too sure about the eel, but it turned out that the eel was smoked and tasted much like bacon. Delicious!
I also had a great traveling partner and roomie, Andy Hamilton. We met up in Brugge, Belgium and travelled to Eindhoven together. I also want to thank Vernon Vig for his leadership in leading the team to its great effort. Ray Lykins was also a great team inspiration.
Next year the European championship is October 14th in Seville, Spain. I am already looking forward to that event.