“Jousting was popular enough to last for more than 400 years in Europe, but these days there are only some 200 competitive jousters around the world, about 30 of whom are in North America. (A couple hundred more perform at Renaissance fairs and festivals but do not compete.) The basic concept is unchanged from medieval times: two armor-clad opponents charge at each other on horses while wielding 11-foot-long wooden lances. The goal is to break your lance on your opponent’s shield or on a metal plate bolted to his chest called a grand guard, but unhorsings are an added thrill and — in the North American style of competition — the surest way to rack up points.
At the Pensacola championships — as will be the case later this summer at the heavy-armor tournament at the Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highlands Festival in Estes Park, Colo. — two competitors began at opposite ends of a 180-foot list, or jousting field, with a rope barrier called a tilt rail running down the middle of it. A match consists of four passes, and a panel of four judges awards points after each pass: 1 point for a strike to the gridded grand guard, 5 for a broken lance and 10 for an unhorsing. Over the course of the three-day championships, there were four separate tournaments — one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday — with a winner of each and an overall champion at the end.”