The weight of the boules

Article 2 specifies three weight-related requirements for boules.

  1. Boules must weigh between 650 and 800 grams.
  2. The manufacturer must engrave the weight on the boules.
  3. The manufacturer’s weight mark (le chiffre du poids) must be legible.

The reason for the weight-mark is to make it easy (or easier) to detect a “stuffed” boule. Injecting a substance like mercury into a boule will, all else being equal, increase its weight. So an umpire can simply weigh a boule and be reasonably certain that it has been tampered with if it weighs more than the weight mark.

The requirement for a manufacturer’s weight mark was first added to the French (FFPJP) rules in 1974, and one guesses that the number of stuffed boules has been dropping steadily ever since. As recently as October 2016, at the European (CEP Eurocup) Championships held in Monaco, there was an incident in which the German team was disqualified when it was found to be playing with a stuffed boule. The interesting thing is that the competition was the veterans’ triples competition— the old guys. As the older generation of players dies out, I expect incidents of stuffed boules eventually will stop altogether.

An interesting fact is that a boule slowly loses weight as it is played with over the years, so a boule that has been heavily used for decades can lose as much as 5 to 10 grams of weight. This fact of weight loss prompts players to wonder if there is any amount of weight loss that is too much. Is there some fixed number of grams, they ask, or some fixed percentage of its original weight, that a boule can lose that will render it illegal?

The answer is YES, but you won’t find that rule in the rules of petanque. It is in another document.

The FIPJP publishes a document that lays out requirements for the manufacture of certified competition boules— Conditions Requises Pour L’homologation De Boules De Petanque De Competition (“Requirements for the Certification of Competition Petanque Boules”). Buried in that document are several requirements for what can and cannot happen to boules after they leave the manufacturer.

Article 7 – Note: boules of steel or bronze cannot be subjected to any heat treatment after sale to the user.
Article 9 – In no case can the regulatory marking be changed [retouché] after sale to the user.

Article 8 (“Weight”) says this (I have bolded the part that is important for us here)—

The weight of the boules must be between 650 grams minimum and 800 grams maximum. The following tolerances are allowed:

(a) Manufacturing tolerance for each boule: The maximum difference between the engraved weight and the actual weight may not be greater than plus/minus 5 grams.

b) Tolerance of wear due to use in play: Weight loss should not exceed 15 grams below the marked weight.

When Ray Ager brought up this question on “Ask the Umpire”, Mike Pegg replied that this document contained rules only for the manufacturing of boules, not rules for boules in play. And if the FIPJP rules were well organized, that would be true. But, as we have seen, Articles 7, 8, and 9 actually do contain rules for boules in play. And the meaning of Article 8, clause (b) is quite clear. So there really should be a fourth weight-related requirement for boules in Article 2 of the rules of petanque.

Weight loss due to wear and use in play may not be greater than 15 grams below the marked weight.

This post is an excerpt from A Guide to the Rules of Petanque.

The second half of this post has been completely revised in response to information in a comment by “Dr. Carreau”.  Doctor, thank you! 🙂


2 thoughts on “The weight of the boules

  1. On the F.I.P.J.P. website (only on French one) under “Réglements” is document “Agrément boules”, where this question is explained very clearly:

    Chapter II
    Le présent cahier des charges fixe les conditions administratives matérielles et statuaires nécessaires pour l’ homologation des boules admises dans les concours et championnats officiels de la F.I.P.J.P. et de ses Fédérations membres.
    Article 8:
    Le poids des boules doit être compris entre 650 grammes minimum et 800 grammes maximum. Les tolérances suivantes sont admises:
    a) Tolérance de fabrication sur chaque boule:
    L’écart maximum entre le poids gravé et le poids réel ne pourra être supérieur à + ou 5 grammes.
    b) Tolérance d’usure due au jeu:
    La perte de poids ne devra pas dépasser 15 grammes en dessous du poids marqué.

    And google translation (my English is poor, so I didn’t correct it):

    Chapter II
    This specification establishes the material and administrative conditions necessary for statutory approval admitted balls in the contest and official championships F.I.P.J.P. and its member federations.
    Article 8:
    The weight of the ball must be between 650 and 800 grams minimum Maximum grams. The following tolerances are allowed:
    a) Manufacturing tolerance of each ball:
    The maximum gap between the engraved weight and the actual weight cannot be greater than + or 5 grams.
    b) Tolerance of wear due to the game:
    Weight loss should not exceed 15 grams below the marked weight.

    650 is weight engraved on the ball. And 635 grams is okay for this ball, but 634 or less is not acceptable.

    Dr. Carreau

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