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Hastings Whelk Eating Champtionship

Hastings Whelk Eating Champtionship

Hastings Whelk Eating Championship

The Hastings Old Town Week Carnival continues  until Sunday 11 August. So far there have been various events from music on the Stade, town walks, open gardens and studios and the Sea Boot Race but the event that attracted HOT’s intrepid reporter, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, was the rather nauseating-sounding  Great Whelk Eating Competition.

Only in its second year, the competition took place in Courthouse Street where a crowd had gathered, a stage had been set, the Mayor was expected and the Beauty Queen and the official time keeper were present. The town crier was nobly trying to  rally entrants with the discouraging, very-possible-to-turn-your-back-on tip of “You’ll have a belly ache after it and the runs in the morning, but it doesn’t matter you’ll be the Whelk Eating Champion of the Town.”

All they had to do was eat a pint of whelks, the one who ate them fastest, won the greatest of honours, a welk crown and a splendid cup. Simple, you might think. A pint contains about 75 to 100 welks.

Tension was mounting as the first girl stepped up to the stage, looking as if she was on her way to the guillotine. Hers was a noble effort, her face a picture as she attempted the task, cheered noisily on, but she hardly dented the pint glass when, gagging, she conceded deafeat.

Next lot was three at a go:  Amy, Peter and Richard.  A good effort by all. Different techniques: one at a time; laced with vinegar; washed down with water or beer; chewing or swallowing. It was not looking easy.

Richard was going well. His timing was 5 minutes 20. He had broken last year’s record. By a second.

By this time I was feeling distinctly queasy.

Next up was last year’s champion. Not from Hastings but Leatherhead. A blacksmith, he had had to alter the crown last year to fit his head. He looked resolutely ahead, picking several at a time, down they went.

And shock horror.  He downed them in 2 minutes 26 seconds.

Adam after his whelk eating attempt

Adam after his whelk eating attempt

The other competitors were not to be put off.  The competition continued. One young lad, Adam (left), looked extremely confident. He shovelled a handful into his mouth, stood for a  few seconds and turned his back on the audience and retired very hurt… Had he ever eaten a welk before?  No, he hadn’t – and he hasn’t now. He had thought they might be pasta shells. Nothing could be that difficult; he had eaten some pretty disgusting things in his life but this beat them all. The whelks went into his mouth and he knew there was no way they were going any further.

Whelk Eating Champion

Whelk Eating Champion

A few more plucky candidates but the competition was won. The winner,  for the second year, was Dick Quinnell – father of Peter Quinnell of this parish – in 2 minutes 26 seconds. He was dead chuffed:  it was a personal best.

So what was his secret?

He’d been eating whelks for the past 70 years since his Dad used to bring them to him from the pub.”  What about training? “I have brought the odd kilo from time to time to see how fast I could eat them.”And what was his sauce of choice? “Salt and chilli vinegar. But I think it was the slime that helps them down.”

And how was he feeling after downing that whelk pint in record time? “I’d happily have another pint. They are like fillet steak from the sea.”

The other nine participants are not to be forgotten. Theirs was no mean feat. They are all to be congratulated for taking part.

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Posted 14:10 Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013 In: Hastings People

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