A TAVISTOCK team will be taking the strain today (Thursday), as they compete in the European Outdoor Tug of War Championships being held in Minehead.

Tavistock will be competing in the 560 kilos and 640 kilos weight classes after winning the Devon County Tug of War Championships this year. 

The team will be up against the very best tug of war squads in England and Europe including top opposition from Ireland, Holland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As it is an open event, there will be teams from South Africa also taking part. Between 1,500 and 2,000 competitors are expected to attend the championships, which finish on Sunday. 

Paul Upcott of Tavistock Tug of War Club said: 'We've had a good season this year — we've won the far western area championships in all our weight categories and the Wessex area, but there are teams from all over the world there, not just Europe, so we will just have to see what happens, and get as far as we can.

'Tug of war isn't a professional sport but some of the teams that will be there are about as close to professional as you could get.

'Most people think about tug of war as being just pub teams, but we train two nights a week and pull at weekends. We will be going up on the Wednesday to weigh in — we pull in different weight categories, so it's like jockeys, people will be sweating down and dieting to make sure they are within weight.'

Tavistock Tug of War Club originated through the Young Farmers Club movement — the club has had to raise around £1,200 to enter these championships, for which it has been fundraising. The club is also grateful for sponsorship from J Sanders Scrapmerchants and for the training facilities provided by the Gilbert and Medland families.

Tug of War Association spokesman Alan Knott said: 'We will have both an open club competition, as well as the international competitions taking place.

'The first two days of the competition will see the European Open Club Championships take place and we have over 80 tug of war clubs from across Europe already entered into the event.

'The teams will competing in four men's weight classes, two ladies weight classes, a junior weight class and under 23 weight class.

'For the first time at a European Championships this year, there will also be a mixed gender weight class, with teams containing four men and four ladies each competing, so there will be lots to see.

'The final two days of competition will see the European Championships take place, and we will have 16 countries taking part.'

England will be competing in every weight class at the championships, and will be hoping to get good results from the competition on home soil. In 2007, England won two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal at the 2007 European Championships held in Minehead. The England tug of war teams also won two silver medals at the World Outdoor Championships in South Africa last year.

'England stand a good chance of winning medals at this year's championships,' said Alan Knott.

'We have had some good results at international tug of war over recent years, winning many medals at World and European level.'