- Caber toss
The caber toss is a traditional Scottish athletic event practiced at the Scottish Highland Games involving the tossing of a large wooden pole called a caber, similar to a
telephone poleor power pole.
Rules and technique
There are no uniform standards for cabers specifying length, weight, type of wood, density, circumference, etc. In general, the cabers used in competitions vary in all these characteristics with each Highland Games event having their own set of cabers. Typically, a Highland Games event will have several cabers varying in length and weight, with the longer, heavier implements being used for the Professional or top class event and the shorter, lighter cabers being used for either qualifying for the top class or for the Amateur class. Others, shorter and lighter yet, might be used for the women's and junior classes, if the Games event features such competitions. The first photograph in the gallery below shows a group of cabers from the 2005
Bellingham Highland Games.
A traditional caber is around 5–6 m (16–20 feet) long and weighs around 35–60 kg (80–130 pounds) with the largest caber throw on record being 127kg (280lbs). The size, and particularly the length, of the caber means that enormous strength is required simply to balance it vertically, and even more is required to toss it. For competitions involving less skilled athletes a shorter and/or lighter caber is used. It is not unusual for a caber to break in the course of a competition.
Tossing the caber consists of several steps:
* The 'pick' where the competitor lifts the caber off the groud
* The 'approach' where the athlete gets momentum going by running forward
* The 'plant' when both feet take root to provide a good throwing platform
* The 'toss' where the caber is actually flipped end over end (or at least attempted)
Typical throw consists of the previous athlete raising the caber for the current contestant (some games have helpers which allows the athlete to conserve energy). Once the caber is standing on the small end it is up to the competitor to take control while everyone else runs away before it drops on someone's head. The athlete will squat down with the caber resting on either shoulder (right-handers typically on their right shoulder etc) and place their hands at the juncture of the caber with the ground.
Once the caber is up in the air the athlete will make sure he has control of it. Once the caber is balanced comfortably on the shoulder, the athlete starts a gentle run forward in the appropriate direction (as given by the judge).
After approximately 4 meters, the athlete plants both feet square to the direction of the run. The momentum in the caber will lift it off your shoulder to be fully supported by the hands. Once the athlete plants they will squat quite deeply to allow their legs to power the first part of the toss.
When the caber reaches that perfect angle away from the competitor the small-end of the caber is lifted and pulled at the same time. Pulling too early, before the caber's angle to the ground is small enough means the athlete launched a large javelin that won't turn and pulling too late means a great chance to break the caber as the big end rebounds off the ground. Timing the toss is a matter of practice.
The object is not the distance of the throw, but rather to have the caber fall directly away from the thrower after landing. A perfect throw ends with the 'top' end nearest to the thrower and the 'bottom' end pointing exactly away. If the throw is not perfect, it is scored by viewing the caber as though it were the hour hand on a clock. A perfect toss is 12:00. A caber pointing to 11:00 would yield a better score than one pointing to 10:30 but would be the equivalent of 1:00. If the caber lands on its end and falls back towards the thrower, the score is lower than for any throw that falls away from the thrower but will be based upon the maximum vertical angle that the caber achieved (side-judging may involve a second judge.) An angle of 87° is better than 75°. Scoring depends on accuracy, if it didn't completely turn once then it is based on the degree that it rose away from the ground.
* [http://www.saaa-net.org/rules/rules_2003.PDF Rules of the Scottish-American Athletic Association (PDF file - 819 KB)]
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