Wolfeboro Fencing Club welcomes competitors

Special to the Union Leader
January 18. 2013 12:01AM
Richard and Denise Thayer. 

WOLFEBORO - The founders of the new Wolfeboro Fencing Club have opened their doors to competitors of all levels.

Club founders Richard and Denise Thayer launched the nonprofit club in the fall of 2011 in part to offer a space in the Lakes Region where fencing enthusiasts could practice. The couple became engrossed in the sport after watching their son, Christian, fence in tournaments when he was 10 years old. Tired of sitting through three hours of tournaments in locales far from home, the Thayers took up the sport and started competing with others in their age group.

"We would sit and watch Christian fence for three hours, so after a while we decided to take it up," said Richard Thayer. Christian, now a freshman at Kingswood High, is taking a break from the sport, but his parents couldn't be more involved.

The Wolfeboro Fencing Club meets in Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church of Wolfeboro on North Main Street, where the Thayers are active church members. They donate any profits they make from club proceeds or rentals directly to the church, which is undergoing a $3.4 million renovation. Soon after opening, the club attracted about 45 members, a number that dips down to about 30 in the winter months.

For the Thayers, the sport is great exercise - Richard says he has lost 35 pounds since he started fencing two and a half years ago - and Denise touts the hand-eye coordination, timing and endurance that is required.

The sport is affordable as well. For a $5 daily fee, the club will rent individuals all the clothing and equipment. And those who may get more committed can buy their own gear for between $120 and $200 for knickers, socks, shoes, upper body protection gear, helmet and the metallic jacket, and lamé (pronounced 'la-may'), a conductive over jacket used for electric scoring.

The Thayers say you don't have to be a super athlete to fence - just in decent overall shape.

Since its inception, the club has attracted the talents of two highly ranked fencing instructors: Cathy McClellan, a five-time national fencing champion, and Carol Simpson, who has more than two decades of fencing experience using all three types of weapons: the foil, the épée (pronounced 'epp-pay'), and the sabre.

Thayer said that while the sport may look dangerous, it is among the safest sports available. Players are well protected with strong layers that prevent jabs to the underarm area, and jackets made with the same material used in bulletproof vests. The weapons' tips have caps.

In fencing, each match is called a bout. The bouts take place on a strip about 46 feet long and 6½ feet wide. A fencer must be on the strip to score a touch. Each end of the strip has a warning area if both feet land beyond the warning zone, the other fencer earns a point. Technology plays a role in scoring, as when a foil touches the lame it sets off a circuit that lights up and sets off a buzzer.

The club hosted its first tournament in November, and while another large event is not planned until later this year, the Thayers and Wolfeboro Fencing Club members will share their passion and knowledge of the sport at an upcoming event.

They have signed on for Wolfeboro Girls and Women in Sports Day, co-hosted by the Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Department and National Girls and Women in Sports Day, on Feb. 2 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Kingswood High School gym. Admission is free.


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