A single caber, hammer or throwing weight isn’t out of the norm at a highland games competition but when 80 cabers are thrown simultaneously people take extra notice.
At the 70th annual Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games 80 people took to the main field just before noon on Aug. 8 in an attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the number of successfully turned cabers at one time.
To successfully turn the caber must be thrown up in the air at such an angle that the top end hits the ground allowing the caber to flip. A caber must be a minimum of 14’7” in length and weigh at least 55lbs.
“Each tree was carefully chosen, cut, trimmed and skinned, measured and weighed and assigned accordingly to each participant,” organizers stated in a press release.
Professionals and amateurs alike marched onto the main field at the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex with their cabers across their shoulders and a smile on their faces. It was time to make a record.
Once participants and cabers were lined up along the edges of the field the signal was given and 80 cabers were tossed into the middle of the field. After much deliberation the verdict was in and Fergus successfully turned 69 cabers, beating the current Guinness World Record of 66 successful flips set in Inverness Scotland in September.
“That caber toss, what was interesting about it was that in that record attempt people who were long time professional heavy eventers and amateurs and a bunch of walk-ons were kind of treated as equals,” said Christoph Wand, a world record caber tossing participant, colour commentator at the Fergus Highland Games and an 18 year heavy event alumni. “I think it’s a visibility in a moment that watching a competition over six or seven hours people just wouldn’t get.”
He said he thought the event would give the public something they could relate to and improve the accessibility of the sport, something that’s not easily come by.
“Doing this record flip for numbers is kind of a monumental thing I think will resonate with both the participants and the observers,” he said.
Festival organizers said in a press release that the great weather played a big part in the success of this year’s festival. With a police estimate of 15,000 to 20,000 visitors on Saturday the world record caber toss reached a wide audience.
However, this year’s world record attempt was not the first for the Fergus festival.
The first attempt took place at the 2013 festival and was unsuccessful.
“Two years ago Guinness set a minimum for the caber weight, length and amount of cabers tossed simultaneously at 50 and we did eight attempts that year and the best we could do was 49,” said Kevin Fast from Cobourg, one of the world record attempt organizers. “So the following year we thought, ‘Lets try to get it,’ and we were successful at 52 and well it was a month later in Inverness Scotland had the world masters and they beat the record and did it 66 times.”
But the Fergus festival will always be the first to get the record, largely thanks to Fast.
“I have several Guinness records doing other things,” he said. “I have 22 mainly for lifting and pulling but I’ve competed in the Highland Games for over 20 years so I wanted to do something with Highland Games.
“So I approached Guinness and said let’s do something with the caber and we went back and forth until we made this record.”
Fast said he thinks the festival will be able to hold onto the record this year because last year’s Inverness attempt was a coincidence.
“What happened was it was a world masters championship so that’s why they had that many throwers,” Fast said. “So it was a freak thing actually.”
Now the festival just has to wait for Guinness adjudicators to review the event and award the world record.
Throughout the Saturday the international and North American Scottish heavy events competition was also taking place on the main field. Though many of the competitors participated in the Guinness World Record caber toss they also participated in eight other heavy event competitions throughout the day. These include 22lb hammer, 16lb hammer, open stone, 56lb weight for distance, 28lb weight for distance, caber, challenge caber and 56lb weight for height.
Wand said many of the athletes competing in these events have a farming, strength sport and/or track and field background.
“That sets as a foundation, the training for it,” he explained. “All of our events have a really long learning curve.”
He said the Scottish heavy events competitors train for many of their events the same way track and field athletes train for theirs.
But it’s not just strength that’s required to be successful.
“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “Throwing is far more intellectual, cerebral than people think.”
He also said the world record caber toss was a good way expose the general public to heavy events.
The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games kicked off on Friday night with about 5,000 people experiencing the tattoo, the Scottish band Red Hot Chili Pipers and a fireworks display by David Whyshall.
In addition to the world record and heavy events competition on Saturday visitors were treated to pipes and drums, highland dance competitions and the avenue of the clans with 38 clans present.
On Sunday new activities including the Heritage Centre, McKiddies and main field and new Scottish at Heart workshop series draw in families.
For more detailed information about the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games, please visit the website at www.fergusscottishfestival.com.
For more photos see: www.wellingtonadvertiser.com/index.cfm?page=Scottish_Games_Pics