Is Geologic’s “red jack” legal?
The short answer is NO.
The mid-length answer is: MAYBE, DEPENDING ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
There are two ways to play. On the one hand there is play strictly according to the FIPJP rules. On the other hand there is friendly “social” play. The red jack is not approved for use in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions, so in that sense it is not legal. (See below for a discussion of the terms “legal” and “approved”.)
On the other hand, for friendly, social play you should feel free to use the red jack as long as the other players are agreeable. The red jack was designed to be a “leisure” or “recreational” jack, so if anybody in your group is playing with leisure boules, your group should have no problem using the red jack. The red jack does meet the size and weight requirements for jacks, just as leisure boules meet the size and weight requirements for boules.
The long answer, if you’re interested, goes something like this.
Let’s start with some information about the jack itself.
- Decathlon was selling the red jack internationally as early as 2019, but it only appeared on the American Decathlon web store in the spring of 2021.
- The distinctive feature of the red jack is that it is paramagnetic, that is, you can pick it up with a magnetic boule lifter.
- Structurally, it is different from Obut’s “black jack”, which is made of hard epoxy resin mixed with iron filings. The Geologic red jack is made out of a different material (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and it has a solid iron core which gives it 50% of its total weight.
- The red jack is 29.5mm in diameter and weighs 17g.
- The Decathlon webpage for the red jack clearly states— Use restriction: This jack cannot be used in official competitions.
The primary reason that the red jack cannot be used in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions is that synthetic jacks (i.e. non-wooden jacks, whether or not they are paramagnetic) are not allowed in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions unless they are FIPJP-approved. The red jack is not FIPJP-approved. Therefore it is not allowed in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions.
Another way of saying the same thing is that the red jack is deliberately designed to be a “leisure” or “recreational” jack, just as some boules are deliberately designed to be leisure boules. So, as I noted earlier, if anybody in your group is playing with leisure boules, there is no reason not to use the red jack.
“Legal” vs “approved”
The FIPJP requirements for jacks are contained in two documents. The first is the official FIPJP international rules for the sport of petanque, which determines whether or not a particular model of boule or jack is “legal” for competition play. The second is Fabricants de Boules: Labels des Boules et Buts agréés en compétition, which determines what models of boules and synthetic jacks are “approved” for competition play. In order for you to be allowed to use a boule or a synthetic jack in competition play, the boule or jack must be both “approved” and “legal”.
Note that it is possible for a synthetic jack to be “approved” but not “legal”. (Obut’s black jack, although approved, is not legal because it weighs more than the maximum allowed weight of 18g, as specified in the rules of the sport.) Petanque rules wonks are surely asking whether the red jack is “legal” in the sense of— Is the red jack (given its size and weight) acceptable under the rules for the sport of petanque? The answer to that question is YES. Just as leisure boules meet the size and weight requirements for boules, the red jack meets the size and weight requirements for jacks.
I will close with a bit of gossip. A few customers have complained (in customer reviews) that their magnetic boule lifters won’t pick up the red jack. A customer service rep has replied that “There is indeed a competitor’s boule lifter that doesn’t work very well with these jacks. We will fix that in a second version.” If this is something you experience, you can complain to Decathlon and get a refund. But my advice would be to get a better boule lifter or make your own.