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Endurance.Net Home 2007 Sultan's Cup: Charlie

Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Final

Malaysia Story, Final

From the moment the rain began to fall, to the moment that Rui (the rider from Portugal) got his completion nod from the vets to be the 8th completion (marking the 40% completion goal), to the moment when everybody realized that not just 40% of the riders would complete, but more like 70%, ... the words I kept hearing were 'amazing', 'unbelievable', 'incredible'.

It seemed that with the torrent - with the craziness of the rain, the lake that was once a crewing area, the rivers that were once trails - came a settling of the nerves, and tension turned to laughter. Unbelievable! And the rain was warm, and it almost didn't matter how wet one got because it was warm, and stayed warm, and as soon as you got dry you'd just get wet again anyway. The riders came in off the first loop blinking and dripping and laughing. HRH Mizan arrived and his attendant met him with an umbrella - he laughed and declined. Crews began pouring buckets of water over sopping wet horses to cool them and get the pulse lowered for presentation to the vet - that seemed funny. And the buckets of water, lined up in the crewing area... they looked silly too. Harumi san met Hasume san with 2 big fluffy towels to dry him off while the rain was pouring all around - they both laughed at that too.

And so the night went. The lead changed off and on during the night, some riders got off trail, some sped up, some slowed down. In the dark and the never ending rain it was hard to tell who was on the trail with you. Some rode with bright headlamps, others didn't and were virtually invisible to other competitors. The pace was steady, and horses were coming in and pulsing down very quickly. They were staying fairly cool with the constant rain pulling the heat off their skin. The riders were in good spirits, but the wet tack and clothing started causing a few rubs - a new experience to be so totally soaking wet for so long.

Crews were getting sleepy. waiting and waiting with the rain, and the dark. It was almost impossible to go out on the trail to meet rides at the crew points - deep deep mud, a real likelihood of getting stuck - and a hazard for the horses on the course. This venue is not conducive to on-trail crewing, and only a few checkpoints are even remotely accommodating to the zillions of rigs and people that one often sees at crewpoints during the WEC's. There has been talk of eliminating crewing points - allowing for people to send stuff out with authorized staff, or only allowing crews to go out in authorized rigs. we'll see - safety is most important - and with 7 phases, 6 vetchecks and long holds, perhaps crewing on the trail, or at checkpoints isn't even necessary.

While the riders rode and the crews waited, all the OC stuff was still going full bore. A DJ was positioned on the walkway above the ingate - keeping everybody entertained, and amused with his music choices - plenty of 'who'll stop the rain' and the 'umbrella song' and all sorts of obscure music that matched the mood. The GPS tracking guys were hopping. The units were working fine, but the data pipe wasn't big enough and their software kept crashing. They were able to view the tracking points manually at times (such as when a rider was perhaps lost?) or questions arose about riders off course. But the original plan of projecting the riders positions on a big screen didn't work. Tony and Charbel with their timing system were also hopping - printing off vetgate status for crews and press and the curious. Updating the system as riders came through with vetgate times (recovery times) - they did a very good job. When we need ride status info, it was there. The system ran smoothly. The live video guys from Germany were filming and filming. Again, the data pipe at the venue was too small, so the 'real time' video broadcast was reduced to archive clips - downloaded when possible, but the filming never stopped. The vets never stopped - standing in their stations, riders coming and go. waiting for riders to come, talking with each other, laughing at the rain. resting with chin on chest. The in timers never stopped - though I did see a few fall back in their chairs now and again. The officials worked the night through.

I really don't think anybody expected such an unbelievable event, such an unbelievable outcome. It really did feel other-worldly at times. Dato Salleh (chair of the WEC OC) said that his grandfather was a 'medicine man' (the Malaysian equivalent) and his powers were strong. Salleh said he was going to look for a medicine man for this event - he'd ask for perfect weather and good luck. I'm not sure if he was joking or not, but perhaps he did ask, and did get the perfect weather (and a little magic) - just not what anybody anticipated.

Two USA riders (Crandell and Brunjes) finished in 5th and 6th place - galloping in together, looking fantastic. The USA was back! Four USA starters and 3 finishers, and 2 in the top ten - finishing with the world's best.

After Rui finished, the 8th completion, after it was final - the 2008 WEC would be held in Malaysia, the DJ got into the festivities and the music cranked up a notch, Malaysians were dancing (by now it was morning and the sun was shining), everybody was grinning. Salleh grabbed a flag and he and a few others from the OC did a victory lap around the cooling area - laughing, running with the flag streaming behind - it was a great moment!

And the riders kept coming in, and kept completing. The first Malaysian rider finished to great fanfare, and a flag to ride in with, and cheering. He and several other finished in CoC time - great spirits, horses looked good. Magic.

HRH Mizan finished along beside Australian Paul Brown who was riding one of the Royal Stables horses - they didn't arrive in CoC time, but they completed, proudly, and with horses looking great.

That night there was a wonderful dinner and prize giving ceremony at the Terengganu State House - delicious food, a festive atmosphere, all finishers being recognized and applauded (not just the winners). Traditional music before and during dinner, and after dinner and prize giving we were treated to a fantastic world fusion band - Shajara, who came from Bali - they had celtic singer and fiddle, asian drums, trumpet, the long pipe played by the Australian aborgines - dithery-do? - it was an incredible mix of world sounds and very talented musicians. They played their last set and people started heading home - buses taking most people back to the hotels, a handful of us hung around a little more - and Azrin came up to me saying - you need to stay! the Crown Prince (the King's younger brother) just called, he wants to come hear some of the music because he heard it was so good. The band came back, and started playing again - this time the room was mostly empty, some tables were cleared to make room for a little dancing, the caterers were taking down decorations from the high ceiling walled and huge room, lights were going out, decorations, chairs, tables hauled out, and the band kept playing and we danced a little and listened to the music and enjoyed it immensely. magic.