AS AUTUMN approaches, the Island is going bonkers about conkers.

Two competitions take place over the next week.

The first, at Braaid Hall, is tonight (Saturday) at 7pm when Braaid Young Men's Club holds its annual contest.

Conkers, which are supplied by the club, are to be selected by picking a string and tracing it back so players can't choose the best weapon.

The second contest, in Castletown on Tuesday is organised by the Castletown Ale Drinkers' Society.

Tracy Clayton, of the society said: 'We did hold a contest last year but this year we decided to go public.

'It all started as a bit of a lark last conker season.'

Group members Matty and Wendy Carter spent most of Sunday fruitfully occupied picking 300 Horse Chestnuts which will be dried out on the window sill in readiness for combat.

The ammunition will be taken down to the Union Hotel, Castletown, and strung before battle commences at 5.30pm.

'We have a set of rules which we took off the internet – all sorts of regulations, like the string has to be 18 inches long and there are rules for if it falls on the floor,' Tracy said.

'Apparently you are not allowed to bake them in the oven or soak them in spirit.'

The club's friend and sponsor John Willis has the unenviable task of acting as adjudicator should competition become heated.

There are to be 20 competitors from among the club members with each player choosing three conkers on a first-come-first-serve basis.

'That means we should be able to get a 'one-er' a 'two-er' and a 'three-er' Tracey said.

'The earlier people get there the more choice of weapon they will have.

'But remember biggest is not necessarily best!'

Combatants will be charged 1 to enter and proceeds will go to Manx conservation projects such as tree planting.

Anyone wanting to take part should turn up at the Union Hotel on the night when the group will gladly receive any charitable donations.

Conkers has not yet joined the ranks of other sports which are dominated by rigorous fitness regimes and drugs testing.

But for Tracy, last year's defending champion, the stakes are still high.

'There is no pre-match practice because the conkers are only strung on the night, but I shall be doing my utmost to defend my title.

'And I dare say a few ales will be flowing at the same time,' she said.

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