SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The 41st annual Claremont Croquet Classic is underway on the lush grass courts of the historic Claremont Hotel here.
Every summer since 1976, dozens of local competitors and hotel guests have participated in the weeklong singles and doubles tournament for the chance at immortal glory for the winners and runners-up, whose names will forever be etched onto the walls of the storied hotel.
This year’s tournament is dedicated to the memory of Alan Madeira of Southwest Harbor, a tournament champion, croquet historian and croquet equipment maker who died last August at the age of 60.
“He was the driving force of maintaining the tournament,” said tournament organizer Dave Nelson of Southwest Harbor, who has been playing in the classic since 1984. He took the singles title in 2016 for the second year in a row.
“It’s a big loss, but certainly the legend goes on,” Nelson said of Madeira’s influence on the tournament. “It’s the oldest continually run tournament in the country, and that’s not going to disappear anytime soon.”
Another local croquet aficionado, the late Larry Stetner of Southwest Harbor, also is a missed presence this year on the Claremont lawn.
Will Fox and John Fox, teenage brothers who took the doubles title last year, are back in the tournament as well.
However, the duo is not paired together this year. Instead, past winners have been paired with novices to keep the game interesting and competitive for new players.
Nelson said there are eight beginner players in the tournament this year.
The object of the game is for a player or doubles team to get their balls through the nine wickets a total of 14 times and swing back around to the first wicket to hit the home stake. A player or team gains one stroke for each hit through the wicket. Players gain two strokes for hitting another player’s ball.
The Claremont rules include the use of four balls, blue, red, black and yellow, which are hit from the home stake in that order. A player or team either plays with the blue and black or the red and yellow balls.
Tournament play at the Claremont will continue throughout this week. Matches have a 90-minute time limit, with the exception of the final matches, which have no time limit.
A tea will be held in honor of Madeira on Friday, Aug. 4, at 3:30 p.m., the eve of the tournament finals.
Both singles and doubles finals will be held on Saturday, Aug. 5.