01 September 2015

A Visit to the Highland Games

Yesterday was the Late Summer Bank Holiday in England.  My family took advantage of the holiday weekend and hopped on a train for Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday, 27 August 2015.  We had been in Edinburgh a couple of times and spent Christmas 2008 in Inverness, but we had neither been to Glasgow nor seen any of the western part of Scotland.  We loved what we saw!

On Friday, 28 August, we visited Bothwell Castle.  We very much enjoy touring castles and learning more history.  I snapped the photo below, showing that a castle dating back to the 13th century can always use a little restoration work (click on the image for a larger view).
We had great weather to tour a castle last Friday, but had to content with Highland weather on Saturday with a couple of downpours.  I got to see something I've wanted to see for many years now:  the Highland Games.  We made our way via train and ferry to Dunoon for the Cowal Highland Gathering on Saturday, 29 August.  As someone whose professional life is spent with sports physics, I relished the opportunity to see sports I'd never seen in person before.  The image below shows a competitor from Germany throwing the 26-lb (nearly 12 kg mass) Braemer Stone (click on the image for a larger view).
The athletes could throw those massive stones for a horizontal distance greater than an American football first down!  We also saw the open stone throw (like a shot put), the Scottish hammer throw, the weight throw, the weight over the bar toss, and my favorite, the caber toss.  The image below shows the caber in flight (click on the image for a larger view).
I recorded a short movie of the best caber toss of the day.  The YouTube video is below.
The idea is to have the caber land on the thick end, and then fall over and land at 12 o'clock position.  The caber is 19.5 ft (5.94 m) long and held at the tapered end, which means more mass is on the opposite end compared to the end that's held.  That makes balancing the caber before the toss rather challenging.  At a weight of about 175 lb (79.4 kg mass), one cannot hold the caber very long.  A great deal of strength is needed to toss that large piece of wood.

As much fun as I had watching the Highland Games for the first time, I had even more fun learning about all kinds of new sports.  I've got a lot of respect for the men and women who competed in the events we saw.  Great strength and even greater technique are needed to be the best.

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