The Physics
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Speed of the Fastest Jai Alai Ball

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Fortin, Francois. Sports-The Complete Visual Reference. Firefly Books Ltd., 2000: 298. "When it leaves the cesta, the ball can reach speeds of 300 km/h." 83 m/s
The World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 11: J-K. World Book Inc., 2001: 21. "The ball often travels 150 miles (241 kilometers) an hour and can injure or even kill a player." 67 m/s
Guinness Sports Record Book 1990-91. Sterling Publishing Co., 1990: 133. "An electronically measured ball velocity of 188 mph was recorded by Jose Ramon Arieto at the Newport Jai Alai, RI, on Aug 3, 1979." 84 m/s
Diagram Group. The Sports Fan's Ultimate Book of Sports Comparison. Diagram Visual Information LTD, 1982 "Jai alai is the fastest of all court games: service speeds of 188 mph have been recorded. A jai alai ball going this speed in 1927 would have beaten Lindberg across the Atlantic by 14.25 hours." 84 m/s
Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of Gambling. Facts on File, 1990: 168. "The ball, which can travel at 150 miles an hour, must hit against the wall of a specially marked playing court and bounce back in fair territory." 67 m/s

Jai alai means "a jolly feast" in Basque. It was believed that the game of jai alai originated from Central America and was later brought to Spain by the explorers. Northern Spain was where the Basques lived.

The jai alai is made out of pressurized gas and it weighs about four ounces. The pressurized gas helps to make it travel fast and hard. It is also wrapped in two layers of goatskin in order for it to be able to sustain the demands of the game. At first, the high-speed ball was caught with bare hands. However, the agonizing pain caused by the ball made the players realize that they needed something to catch and throw instead of their bare hands. In order to solve this problem, the cesta was invented. The cesta is basically made up of a glove, for a player to insert his hand, and a basket, where the ball would go when it is caught. The bowl shaped basket of the cesta made the speed of the ball exceedingly quick. The speed of the fastest jai alai ball recorded is 84 m/s.

The game is played against a wall. There are three walls, a front and a back and one on the side. The three walls and the court together, is known as the fronton. Scorekeepers have to watch the game through a protective screen. The object of the game is to throw the ball at the wall in such a way that it is hard for the opponent to catch and return. The opponent needs to be able to catch it before it hits the ground or after its first bounce and return it back to the wall. In order to win, a team must have scored 30 or 40 points.

Jai alai is a popular game for gambling. The betting is similar to betting on horse races. Wagers are taken for the win, place and show. Then there are such wagers as daily doubles, quinela and perfectas that can be put on each match. Daily doubles are on the 3rd and 4th events and the 10th and 11th. Quinela and perfectas wagers are alike. In order to win, they need to bet on the player that will finish first and second. In perfectas wagering, a bettor needs to choose the exact order in which they finish.

Jenny Mai -- 2002

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