From 19 to 22 April, Estonia will host the world’s top logging contestants in Tartu. In the run-up to the World Logging Championships, it may be useful for the spectators to know what disciplines are included in the programme and what determines the outcome.
Logging competitions are events in which contestants use chainsaws for sawing. The world championships have been held since 1970, and since then, the competitions have also taken place in Estonia. Initially, the rules and the saws were different, but there have been no significant changes in the last 15–20 years.
There are five technical disciplines, derived from the most important forestry works done with a saw: accurate tree felling, fast and high-quality limbing, precise and rational bucking, and expert saw handling.
Logging competitions were also popular in Estonia during the Soviet era, with employees of forestry companies and plants and local offices of the rural construction group KEK competing then. The first national championships in Estonia were in 1994, and the first Estonian team participated in the world champs in 1995.
As mentioned above, there are five technical disciplines. Each has its set of rules. Maximum points are awarded for flawless performance, and a penalty of minus points for each error. The rules are not just for the sake of rules, but primarily to ensure safety for all, both for the contestant and others.
The first discipline is, traditionally, tree felling. This can be carried out in two ways. In areas where there is little or no forested land for felling live trees, the contestants fell poles set up on a special site. Generally, the tree is felled to a designated spot where the contestant has had a sharpened stake placed. The accuracy of the tree fall is measured with a laser device. Points are awarded considering the accuracy and the speed with which the tree was felled. While the method of felling live trees in the forest is more widely used, in the upcoming world championships, however, the contestants will fell special poles. The contest area is at Maamess Showarena, the traditional venue of the Spring Cup.
The second discipline is exchanging the chain of the saw. The chain must be properly exchanged and fitted as quickly as possible. The top contestants can do it in 10 seconds. By comparison, under normal conditions, less experienced sawmen exchange a saw-chain in about one minute.
The third discipline is bucking by combined cuts: the contestants will saw a 3–7 cm thick disc from the end of two logs. The discipline is difficult because the logs are placed at an angle from the ground, and the sawn discs must be cut precisely perpendicularly to the length of the log. The discs must be sawn in two cuts: first cutting from below up and then from the top down, leaving no unevenness or step on the disc or the log where the two cuts meet.
The fourth discipline is precision bucking. The log is placed on a board, which is covered in sawdust beneath the log. The contestant has to cut a disc of a certain thickness so that the chain would not touch the board under the log. What makes it difficult is the fact that the board is covered with sawdust. The contestants have to work in such conditions, and under no circumstances can the saw touch the board – otherwise the score will be zero.
The fifth and the final discipline is limbing. There is an artificial tree trunk with branches at fixed positions. For the audience, this is usually the most attractive and spectacular discipline, best demonstrating the contestants’ speed, skill and precision.
Training is necessary
As in all fields of sport, participants have to train to compete in logging. A merited Estonian logging athlete Taavi Ehrpais has said that although forestry work is somewhat similar to the techniques used in competitions, you still have to train specifically for the competitions. For example, the limbing of the artificial tree used in the competitions differs quite a lot from limbing a spruce in the forest.
Ehrpais, who is a many-time Estonian champion and has also won medals at world championships, will also compete in Tartu. He has been training for years. “It seems to be the case with logging that once you’ve got the hang of it, you can compete for good results even many years later. But, for example, if you were a good runner once and later just train a few times a year, you won’t win a marathon,” Ehrpais admits.
About a hundred contestants are expected to arrive in Tartu. The team coming from the farthest place is from Japan, and the closest are our neighbours from Finland in the north and Latvia in the south.
The opening of the championships takes place with a procession and show in Tartu Town Hall Square on 19 April. The competition starts on 20 April morning at the Maamess Showarena and the main arena of the contest centre in the campus of the Estonian University of Life Sciences.
The World Logging Championships in Tartu are organised by the Estonian Forest Society, in cooperation with Luua Forest School, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian State Forest Management Centre, Environmental Investment Centre, and Tartu Näitused, as well as the City of Tartu.