BTB 35: Skidder Competition in Les Gets, France
Published on: Friday 1st November 2013
As reported by Piers Eyre-Walker, Clohse Group
The 610C DW is equipped with a dual winch, hydraulic fairlead and Tigercat’s new EHS drive. It can be operated by full remote control. What better platform to introduce the machine to the European market than a competition?
The machine arrived in Belgium just in time to be shipped on to the Elmia Wood Exhibition where it made its world debut in June. Immediately after the exhibition it returned to Belgium where our operator, Michaël, had under two days to get used to the machine before driving down to the French Alps for the competition.
For the fifth time, a group of passionate forestry workers who created the club, Les Cognées, organised the bi-annual skidder competition in Les Gets, Haute Savoie, in the French Alps. Because of the nature of the competition, and the time available, it is limited to fifteen participants.
The rules are simple: skid four logs of fifteen metre length around a steep and challenging course against the clock without touching the gates. Penalties are given for touching the gates with either the skidder or the logs. Each competitor had two runs, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Easy, you may think, but the course was designed to make it very difficult, requiring a lot more skill than speed.
Saturday morning was the draw for the starting order after which each competitor was allowed ‘free training’ (without the logs) so they could get to know the course and plan their strategy for the competition. Saturday afternoon saw the first run. We drew the ninth starting place. Our aspirations were not high as Michaël, who normally drives a 630 series grapple skidder, had only a few hours preparation with the machine and cable skidding is something we don’t really do in Belgium.
Of course all eyes were on the Tigercat as Clohse Group had announced the launch in the French national press. Traditionally this event is dominated by Camox machines and dubbed ‘the Camox family reunion’. We were determined to change this! Apart from Camox, HSM, Deere and Timberjack machines were also in the line up as well as an ancient Caterpillar. Camaraderie was high and the other competitors helped Michaël to attach his logs for his first run.
The first times were quite slow at around 22–25 minutes and we were shocked to hear Michaël’s time of seventeen minutes. We knew the EHS was fast and Michaël had assured us that even if he wasn’t fast through the gates, he would be very fast between them, and he was! He flattened one gate (more penalty points than touching it) and touched two others but still ended the day in third place. Better than we could have even dreamed of!
On the second day, there were not so many people to help him or give him advice when he was attaching his logs. The times were considerably faster than the first day, the weather held and the spectators numbered around 8,000. While the final result was being calculated, the competitors had another ‘free run’. This time they were allowed to push one another if the one in front was too slow. On the longer steep ascent it was clear that the EHS was more powerful and faster than the competition, even the Camox with 260 hp was pushed up the hill by the 190 hp Tigercat.
This was a perfect platform to pit a Tigercat skidder with the new EHS against the direct competition and dispel any doubts the French forestry community had about a ‘new’ brand on the market. Our third place finish was very respectable. The contest generated a lot of interest in Tigercat and has opened the door to the market for dual winch Tigercat skidders in the mountainous regions of Europe as well as grapple skidders in their respective European markets. For more information, photos and video coverage visit: www.lescognees.fr.
Using the 610 platform, Tigercat and Clohse Group help a diverse group of French loggers fulfill a wide variety of skidding requirements, while providing excellent after sale support.
Held every second year in Les Gets, a picture-perfect ski town in the French Alps, Les Cognées is a truly grassroots forestry event.