Jersey Computastars

Ross Bentley reports on the sporting action at the international Computastars final on the island of Jersey

Ross Bentley reports on the sporting action at the international Computastars final on the island of Jersey

On Saturday 22 September more than 150 of the IT industry's finest converged on Jersey for this year's Computastars International final.

The sun-drenched Channel Island usually evokes pursuits of a leisurely nature, but the agenda of events laid out for the enthusiastic competitors promised to test them to the full. And so it was as the participants gave their all dribbling footballs, speed-walking balancing beams, and hoop throwing.

As always "Mr Computastars" Gordon Cairns was on hand to adjudicate, compere and generally keep order. "I have devised a real mixture of events this time round," explained Cairns. "They will test co-ordination, speed and teamwork. It gives everyone in the team a chance to contribute and makes the training more interesting."

The international flavour of the occasion was provided by three teams from Jersey and four from the Netherlands. IT services company Itex lifted the trophy for the best Jersey team. "Jersey is a big financial centre so there are quite a few IT companies servicing the sector," explained Ryan Small, a sales account manager at Itex, as he limbered up for the wheelbarrow race. "For us, Computastars coming here is great - the weather is fabulous and it means we can act as tour guides to anyone wanting to celebrate on the town tonight.

"Hopefully, this might generate enough interest to have a regional heat here next year."

The next time I spotted Ryan, he was limping away from the wheelbarrow race track. "That was so much harder than it looked," he gasped.

Although Computastars may evoke memories of school sports days, there were ITers out there shedding blood, sweat and tears to finish the wheelbarrow event.

"That was very heavy," said Ronald Van Ruite, services manager and human wheelbarrow from Compaq in Utrecht, Holland. "We have been training once a week since March but nothing could have prepared me for that." Fifteen Compaq staff made the trip from Holland for the weekend - enough to enter the men's, women's and veteran's contests.

"We have been coming to Computastars for 22 years now," said Ton Van Woerkom, who described himself as coach and bag carrier - I eventually found out that he was facilities manager at Compaq. "In the early days we competed as Digital, now we are Compaq - who knows, next year we may be taking part as Hewlett-Packard."

Star of the day from the Compaq team was Momotaz de Vries - the Marion Jones of this year's Computastars. She almost expended as much energy climbing the winners' podium as she did taking part in the events. Not only did she lift the women's team trophy and Dutch women's team trophy, she also won the individual women's contest.

The strangest event of the day was the eight-legged race. This saw three competitors from each team stumble back and forth with their legs tied together before strapping one of their number upside down into a stretcher and then carrying them back round the course.

I asked Sue Kilford, educational director from IT services company Pink Roccade (formerly Pink Elephant) how such a bizarre event related to life in the workplace. "We look at who is good at what and place people in certain events depending on their strengths. We also hope that the opposition foul up and in that respect it is very much like work," she explained.

Analyst programmer Karen Sharp and project manager Jo Gordon from Reality, the e-commerce arm of Great Universal Stores also emphasised the team-building elements of Computastars. They said the occasion was a good chance to socialise outside work. Having arrived in Jersey on Friday, their team took the opportunity to visit Jersey's world-famous zoo.

However, they might have been better off visiting the aquarium, if the last event was anything to go by. The 400m steeplechase has become the traditional grand finale for all Computastars competitions. Expectant onlookers congregated around the water jump in the hope of witnessing thrills and spills - and they were not disappointed. Entrants soon found themselves wading, splashing and swimming their way through the obstacle. One contestant was even witnessed trying to backstroke his way out of trouble.

While many were soaked, no one was hurt and applause and laughter were heard in equal measure.

Bob Hill, Jersey's deputy minister for sports and leisure, was on hand to award the medals and trophies. Hill, in his closing speech, said that he had been impressed by both the athleticism and camaraderie on show and invited Computastars back to the island for what will be its milestone 25th year.

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