Friday, 5 October 2012

The Annual 'Chariots of Fur' Mascot Race, 2012!

Sunday, September 9th, Wimbledon Common. The closing day of
the Paralympics and the end of a spectacular summer of sport in London.

Well almost...

As the morning broke crisp and clear over the common, preparations were in hand for one last spectacular to grip the imagination, the AFC Wimbledon ‘Chariots of Fur’ Mascot Triathlon!

What’s New Pussycat?

Last years inaugural event had been a great success with a hard-fought race, a tug of war against the assembled children and much meeting, greeting and intermingling with the mascots, even if the rain had caused much anguish earlier in the day. This year we were going to try something a little different. In the absence of a tug-of-war we were going to try out a triathlon format with three separate events producing a single overall champion and we hoped this would provide a couple of advantages. In the first place we had previously found the setting out of the course and the jumps to be quite time-consuming so we felt that we could run the two non-running events whilst a specialist team got on with building the course.
Womble Underground Press Cup and assorted trophies

Secondly, just having a race is a little unfair on the ‘heavier’ mascots and tends to favour the lighter mascot in running shoes. A couple of throwing events might help balance that out a little and give others a chance.

Thirdly the awarding of points for the two throwing events would mean that there was a lot more riding on the race. A mascot might need a specific finishing place to win the trophy, so it wouldn’t necessarily mean that your finishing position was immaterial. It might well still affect the scores and the overall winner!

All in all we thought it was worth giving the Triathlon format a go, provided we could get a crack team of course builders in to do all the construction work whilst I concentrated on the comparing. A few phone calls and a few relatives later the nucleus of the Course Building Team was in place and the format was falling into place. What could possibly go wrong?

Well not the trophies and the event sponsorship anyway. For the second year running the Womble Underground Press were happy to sponsor all the trophies which ended up being a fair few in number. Each event winner won a trophy, as did the overall trophy winner and then on top we had a trophy for the winning sponsor! All in all a pretty pile of silverware, especially when you included the entrants medals with Haydon’s face on!

A Word Form Our Sponsors
Jumps, hurdles and sponsor's boards at the ready!

Sponsorship was another innovation for this years race. Last year the mascot race had acted as an attraction to help raise money for Hounds For Heroes, but this year we were keen to raise money for a children’s charity and the Chidren’s Liver Disease Foundation fitted the bill brilliantly, not least because my young nephew suffers from liver disease himself and his parents have found them to be a rock of support in difficult times. The next consideration was how to actually raise funds and here we used an idea from our Jubilee Mascot Race in Mitcham – approaching Estate Agents as individual sponsors of mascots in a way not unlike that used in Race Night fund-raisers. We asked potential sponsors to pick a mascot for £75 and amongst other incentives we would utilise their agency boards in our jumps! The sponsor whose mascot came highest up the list would win the prestigious Sponsors Cup but they would all receive framed certificates as a token of our appreciation. So initially Estate Agents were our target market and then began a series of visits to Wimbledon Village, calling in on Estate Agents and explaining what it was we were hoping to do and what we were hoping they would do!

As you might expect there were a range of responses but as time went on the sponsors list slowly grew until we had a respectable number behind us and a decent number of our mascots had support. On the day we also offered £5 sponsorship for the public with the promise of a photo with the mascot and a framed certificate and that also helped with funding. Add on to that a tombola and the Commons Rangers bookstall and we were looking to achieve a decent amount!

Oh Mascots, Where Art Thou…?

Back to the day itself and on arrival I was happy to find Scott from the CFS already in position and trying to assemble the gazebo – no mean feat as several of the struts are broken! A bit of a lash-up later and we had it fairly stable. Then up went the inflatable which was, as usual, a magnet for the younger set. There isn’t a huge amount for younger children in the way of sideshows at the Open Day, so a busy day is guaranteed for any football game. However, it wasn’t long after this that a few issues started cropping up…

Those of you of a sensitive disposition should stop reading now, because I have to talk of mascots in a little detail at this point. There are actually two parts to a mascot – the outer skin and the inner person. Ideally these should come together in one happy and fit bundle, ready and raring to go. Sometimes a mascot may not make it altogether even though they hoped to. Sometimes you get one part and not the other…which can be awkward.

That was basically the situation we found ourselves in as the day progressed. Some mascots turned up but without a body (volunteer dropped out, someone on holiday etc) and some mascots didn’t arrive at all! Some masots we knew beforehand would be short of a body and we had arranged for cover for them. As the day went on though, we were engaged in a constant battle to fill the suits until the whole of the Course Construction crew and more than one ‘friend’ who’d come along to enjoy the spectacle found themselves in fur, a most unexpected turn up for most of them but to be fair they took it all in their stride. So we had our mascots getting changed in the golf club, but who was going to put up the course and help with the scoring? And on top of that what was going with the PA?

London Calling…!
Mascots leaving the changing room

One thing that was noticeable during the day was how quiet everything was around the arena. The hawk display team were working in silence and even the ponies seemed to be on tiptoe! The fact was that the PA system hadn’t turned up due to a booking error, and although a basic setup was on its way and would hopefully be there in time for the Triathlon, it was currently stuck in traffic on the Lower Richmond Road! Well that was just one more item to bear in mind as we tried to figure out how to cope without a group of assistants around us. Time for the event was getting closer and our first competition was going to be lawn darts, helpfully supplied by the Doggie Boutique on Central Road Morden! My cunning plan was to produce little flags for each mascot with spaces for scores from the two throwing events. I’d stick it in the ground where their throws landed and everything would be nice and neat and easy to work out…or so I thought, but that revelation was still a few minutes away. Now the PA was up and running, the mascots were on their way and we had a course to lay out. Who could I enrol to lend a hand?

Cavalry To The Rescue

Just at that moment the cavalry in the shape of Ivor Heller and Jim Piddington turned up and were quickly pressed into service alongside a few other luckless volunteers foolish enough to respond to a cry for help! We started laying out the jumps around the outside of the ring and marking out the track but had to abandon the idea of the cross-country section of the course as it was all getting a little pressured. Despite the best efforts of the volunteers, losing the dedicated Course Crew was a real problem as they knew how the jumps were set up and where they went, but we battled on nevertheless. Then, out of nowhere the AFC Wimbledon Commercial Team of Ivor Hellor and Jim Piddington appeared in the crowd! Ivor gave a hand not only with the setting up but also with the running of the events which was much appreciated. With a few other wombles in the crowd we started putting out the track although we had to drop the cross country section due to time constraints which was a great pity as it's my favourite part of the race (it'll be back next year though!). Then, as the jumps were still going up the mascots arrived and it was game on!

Each mascot, their ‘owner’ and their sponsor were introduced to the crowd in turn with the slickest entrance being made by Hot Dog as he came in with a very snappy suit and a bevy of beauties on his arms. With a Bucks Fizz flourish his suit was whipped off revealing his lean racing torso and running gear. Top Dog had entered the arena!

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Mascots!
Cheekiest Mascot panel being sworn in

After the introductions we asked for a special panel of judges to join us in the arena. There was to be a special prize for the ‘Cheekiest Mascot’ and this was to be decided by the young judges eagerly watching the mascots for any sign of naughtiness! They were taking their role seriously and I suspect they might have been egging the mascots on somewhat…!

Having sorted the judges out it was on with the first event. Never one to waste a resource, we managed to retain the services of Hot Dogs bevy of beauties to hold our marker tape and with three at a time up at the oche, we started with the lawn darts challenge!

Accuracy was obviously a problem for the mascots and Haydon came in a disappointing last place, picking up a solitary point whilst Mac the Monkey took an early lead by scooping up twelve points for first place. It was here we then discovered that the soil in this part of the common is rock hard and impervious to even a camping skewer, so our scoring system was up against it from the start! Never mind, by now we were just taking everything in our stride…

Having sorted out the points we moved on to the bean bag toss – a large union jack cushion that the mascots had to hurl as far as they could from the middle of the designated throwing circle. There were a few wayward vertical efforts with this one but a few decent throws as well and it was Haydon the Womble who clawed his way back into contention with the furthest throw of the day!

On then to the final event, the race itself. This was one lap of our slightly truncated course with a number of obstacles in the way such as straw bales, jumps and slaloms. Would they be up to it?
Beware of Thom the Turtle
and his giant cotton bud!

We had two guest starters, Connor and Bertie, both of whom were youngsters with Liver Disease with Connor being the recent recipient of a liver transplant. They mounted the stairs, waved the yellow and blue flag and off went the mascots, hell for leather over the first jump! Haydon was again showing well in this event but as they sprinted over the jumps it was Mike The Mic, a gorilla(?) from Radio Royal Marsden who took the lead on the final straight. He took a whack from a giant cotton bud wielded by Thom the Turtle of the True Volunteer Foundation, (who was kindly acting as an obstacle for us) but he struggled on and passed the line ahead of his nearest rivals to take the race trophy!

Three events and three separate winners! But who would win the overall trophy? In the event it was a forth mascot, Cyril the St Helier Squirrel who had scored double figures in each event and who was a worthy overall winner of the WUP Cup! Not only that, but Cyril’s sponsors had cause to celebrate as Hampton’s Estate Agents of Wimbledon Village had won the Sponsors Cup as a result!

Cheeky Chappie!

But the most important event had yet to be decided. We consulted the judges who turned in a unanimous decision. The cheekiest mascot award was presented to last year’s trophy winner, Merton Road safety’s very own…. Debra the Zebra!

The youngsters presented all the mascots with their awards and medals and when everyone had had the chance to feel a mascot and maybe have a photo or two taken it was time for the mascots to make their way home for a well earned bath!


It was a few days later when I was able to estimated the takings and to start taking certificates around to our honoured sponsors. With the tombola and the booksale included we had raised a very creditable £864! 
The final list of mascots, their companies and their corporate sponsors were as follows
Hamptons of Wimbledon Village - the winning sponsors!
Haydon the Womble                 AFC Wimbledon             Andrews Lettings, Earlsfield
Howie the Hornet                      Horsham FC                            -
Bully Bullseye                           Bullseye TV Show          GraceMiller & Co, New Malden
Mac the Monkey                       MAC Charity                            -
KNK Kev                                  KNK Builders                 KNK Builders, Morden
Debra the Zebra                       Merton Road Safety       Quinton Scott, Wimbledon Village
Hot Dog                                   Doggie Boutique            Pro-Com Computing, Morden
Cyril the Squirrel                      St Helier Estates             Hamptons, Wimbledon Village
Poppy Penguin                           Sutton Christmas                       -
Monty the Lamb                        Hendon FC                    Andrews Estate Agents, Morden
JudeThe Cat                             Mayhew Animal Centre              -
Bumper the Mouse                    Hollywood Bowl, Tolworth            -
Mike the Mic                             Radio Royal Marsden                 -
Thom the Turtle                         True Volunteer Foundation          -

Honours Board

WUP Cup Winners Trophy            Cyril the Squirrel

Lawn Dart Champion                     Mac the Monkey
Bean Bag Toss                               Haydon the Womble
Obstacle Race                                Mike the Mic

Cheekiest Mascot                         Debra the Zebra

Sponsors Cup                                Hamptons Estate Agents, Wimbledon Village

Pictures Gallery
A selection of images from the day

Hot Dog, his assistants and the spectacular disrobe
Just the jacket to go and he's ready for action!
Haydon enters the arena...
Jude the Cat gets his whiskers felt...

Poppy high fives a supporter
The scoreboard is ready, the mascots introduced...

Monty from Hendon FC  gets the darts underway

Looks like Poppy is sticking a dart in Bully's head?

Waiting for the bean bag, Debra gets a quick tail stroking...

Very elegant pose, but where's the bag?
Nice action from Horsham FC's Howie Hornet
A bit of a skier from Mayhew's Jude the Cat
Radio Royal Marsden's gorilla does well
But Hendon FC's Monty has a bit of a stinker...
And I don't think Poppy the Sutton penguin is much better either!
Debra contemplates the tricky bale section of the course

The mascots are ready....

the mascots are set...

and the mascots are off!
Haydon catches Monty in the home straight

Turtle Thom is in position with his big cotton bud. None shall pass!
KNK Kev tries to sneak through on the inside
Howie takes a prodding
Mac the Monkey is either tired or has lost a contact lens
'Of course I was wild when they caught me... I was absolutely furious!'
Debra shares her Cheekiest mascot award with Haydon
And the winner of the WUP Cup is Cyril the Squirrel!

No comments: