Four years ago, Marko Bilic put into action an idea that appeared rather unusual. The President of the International Cigar Club Mareva in Split, Croatia, announced the first Cigar Smoking World Championship. The aim of this competition is to smoke a Montecristo No.4 (Mareva) as slowly as possible. The challenge is made more difficult by the imposition of penalty minutes for ash falling off in the first 40 minutes. In addition, each participant has only two matches at his disposal.
In September this year, cigar enthusiasts from around the world travelled to the Hellenistic city on the Croatian Adriatic. The tournament was the highlight of a number of days of hedonism in which yacht tours, catamaran trips, magnificent gala dinners and the best cigars and drinks ensured that the guests enjoyed everything that life has to offer.
That the competition was for many not just a trivial bit of fun was made clear by the fact that a number of the participants were well prepared. Many published their private training results weeks before the World Championship.
In September finally participants from 19 countries faced up to the challenge. Three umpires scrupulously ensured compliance with the rules. Each participant was allowed to choose his competition cigar himself. A cigar ring was applied especially to mark the official end of the smoking pleasure. When the timer started and the participants lit up their cigars, the hall was plunged into silence – as is required for the first five minutes. The Umpires kept a careful eye on the cigars and ensured not only that the ultimate smoking time of each participant was duly recorded, but also distributed penalty points for misconduct and falling ash. When after an hour and a half the numbers thinned out, things started moving quickly. Following a neck and neck race with Nenad Medak from Croatia, the Russian Alexander Shagay won the title of World Champion.
Charles-Andre Aymon from Switzerland took third place only a few minutes behind. The current world record in slow smoking is 108 minutes and 38 seconds and is held by the Russian Igor Korovin.
It was only in June 2013 that he beat the then reigning World Champion Marin Roncevic. The latter’s best time had been an impressive 100 minutes and 10 seconds.
The results have been rapidly improving since the beginning of the Championship, not least because of the huge growth in participant numbers.
The World Championship was held for the fifth time in Croatia in 2014 and more tournaments have already been announced in many countries.