Saturday, 12 May 2012

Of Mascots & Hurdles

With two AFC Wimbledon Mascot races scheduled for this year - our annual WUP race on Wimbledon Common in October as well as our Diamond Jubilee special at the Mitcham Carnival - I thought it was about time we took a step up in the quality of the hurdles facing the mascots.  Last years race consisted entirely of straw bales and although they are a fine obstacle they are a bit bulky and slightly too heavy to move around easily. It also turned out that one of last years entrants was unable to scale them so we had to leave a gap between the bales, which most of the other mascots then promptly used!

I'd also like to get a little more AFC Wimbledon branding involved as well so spectators know just exactly who they are watching and cheering on and also a bit more variety in the hurdles. The mascots are pretty limited in what they can jump or clamber over so I wanted to make any jumps at least appear challenging, even if they could be ploughed through safely by any determined mascot or one who's a little more visually challenged than the others!

So, being a cheapskate and an avid viewer of Blue Peter in my youth, I've been assembling some jumps out of various bits and pieces I've acquired over the last few months, including these, my bog-standard basic AFC Wimbledon hurdles, arranged in two banks of four . Although there are a couple of other non-hurdle obstacles in the pipeline I thought I might as well provide a sneak preview of what's in store and how some of them came to be
First, take some discarded Estate Agent boards - lightweight, easy to bend and with a plain white back. They are glued down the sides but a sharp knife splits them easily. Some of the plastic fittings are useful as well.
Cut a template in a suitable bit of hardboard and use any left over black spray paint lurking in the back of the shed to  get the outline. I'm using a stick to try to squash the template down a bit in order to get a reasonable line, but you don't need to be too precious
Zinc 82 was a waste of time as it wasn't black paint at all!  Still you can see the basic outline is coming out OK, although I'd attached these ones to their bases already which didn't make it any easier
This particular boards have a nice semi-circle at the top which will make them a bit trickier for the mascots who'll probably go for the lower gaps either side. (Note dead womble in the background caught by a late frost)
The red beaks and eyes are then drawn by hand and painted in. I tried to cut a  template to include the beaks but it was too fiddly and prone to snapping but to be honest I think they look fine from a distance. The base is an old IKEA bed slat which conveniently has a holes in each end. On race day they'll be pinned in place by a metal skewer strong enough to stop the wind blowing it over but not a problem if some mascot can't quite clear it
In overnight to finish drying. A sight to send a chill down the spine of any self respecting racing mascot. I have been thinking of spelling out something by putting a letter in each semi-circle. They'll be in a row of four so A_F_C_W  and  D_O_N_S seem to be the best bet. Or I might just leave them blank
Version two is the plain square board scored, folded and nailed to the base. Slightly easier for the mascots to clear. These hurdles will be the basic type but there will also be a few speciality hurdles to clear as well...
I call this one 'The Wall' and it consists of a stack of plastic sections built up to a satisfyingly intimidating height. Unless there are any gazelles taking part I expect this one to come tumbling down
'The Devil's Broom' is an unusual right angled obstacle which will have edged the runners into a fairly small and tricky angled jump. The white panels will probably be painted in a suitable AFC Wimbledon stylee...
'The Garden Fence' is another straightforward jump, but slightly higher  than most, so mascots will have to keep their eyes peeled. Adorned with the yellow and blue this will probably be placed in the middle of the course
'The Bamboo Curtain' is still under construction but it is one of the widest of the jumps, so will probably be at the beginning of the course when the mascots are still bunched
The 'Leap of Danger' is a simple lightweight beam that shouldn't cause too many problems

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