by Thom Van Vleck
USAWA members Chad Ullom and myself recently took a trip to Inverness, Scotland to take part in the Masters World Championship of Highland Games. I will report on that later, but first I wanted to tell you about an exciting event Chad and I got to take part in.
There is a Guinness World Record for simultaneous Caber tossing and it stood at 53 Cabers. Cabers are “logs” or “telephone poles” that are stood on end and the athlete has to pick it up, run with it, and flip it end over end for an “official turn”. The previous record was held by a Highland Games in Fergus, Canada. After the Games in Inverness we were invited with some 126 other throwers to try and break this record. I have to be honest at this point and admit that Chad and I had some reservations regarding this as it could be quite dangerous with 126 logs flying through the air at once. Previous attempts were very dicey! But, in the end, we couldn’t pass up the chance to take part.
Tomatin Scotch Distillery was sponsoring the event so it was call the “Tomatin Toss”.
As we set up the sun was setting. An official from Guinness had been flown in and he appeared to be a very proper Englishman! He walked around with his head up and seemed to be scrutinizing everyone and everything! We lined up on two sides and were throwing at one another….we had to question that! There was a truck with a big screen TV at the end televising the event. We had to wait for what seemed to be forever to get the “go”.
The instructions we received were a bit vague and this led to some confusion. It’s tough enough to turn a caber but to do it on cue….well…that’s a real trick. Chad is a master at the caber and I feel pretty confident with it myself. I was only one of 6 that turned the caber in by age group of 20 athletes who were all proficient with the caber. Still, it was a tall order! The cabers were also not well made, as they were made for a “one time” turn. This is NOT to say they preparation was poor…just that the cabers had been cut over the past 6 months and some had dried too much! Chad and I knew we could have a caber snap on us and when that happens you never know what will happen.
Finally, we got a countdown. As I began to “pick” (lift the caber into the tossing position) I had to simply focus on my caber and no one elses. This put me at the total trust of the athletes around me that they wouldn’t lose control and dump it on my head. As I heard the announcer hit “one” I ran up the caber and at zero gave it a pull….and much to my own pleasure it went flying over. I glanced to my right and saw that Chad had successfully turned his and as it hit the ground it snapped in half!
While 126 had attempted and we only needed 54 for the record it was apparent as I looked around we might have a problem. Many of the athletes were not as adept at the caber and had failed to get a turn. Others had misjudged the timing and while they turned the caber it was not “simultaneous” with the rest. The video was reviewed over and over and we were asked to stay in position as the judges reviewed the video and scored each turn individually. The Guinness judge made his way up and down the field repeatedly…..about a half an hour went by and we were beginning to wonder if we had done it!
Finally, the Guinness judge took the microphone….and he did milk it a bit….but in the end he declared we had broken the record with 66 successful turns. We all immediately headed to the beer tent to celebrate….not just the Guinness record…but the weekend as a whole. I was really actually pretty glad to just survive the whole thing. I remember as a kid reading the Guinness record book and wondering if I would ever be a part of it….and now I am!