Rolex did a special course-walk for journalists, and an interview with first-time Badminton coursebuilder Kelvin Bywater.
Although we’d been told to keep out of riders’ way, poor Tina Cook, attempting to walk the course, blinked in surprise at the little mob of us inadvertently in her way. Top riders’ have additional distractions.
The course is:
(1) a green vertical set at 1.23 facing the stands, just asking for distractions. They sweep round the tree to the right to
(2), an oxer at 1.25 x 1.40, then loop round to the left and back on themselves to
(3) the narrowest fence on the course, 3m wide (not the usual 3.5m), an orange plank on flat cups lined with rubber for a little extra grip. Kelvin considers plastic flat cups too slippery for eventer SJ courses. Straight on to
(4) is the first of two doubles, unusually, an oxer to upright, set at 26′ (7.9m), 1.28 front rail, 1.30 back rail on the oxer. They curve left to the white
(5) triple bar, back bar 1.30, 1.70 spread, designed to flatten the horse’s jump. Curve left to
(6) Square parallel 1.30 x 1.45 spread, with a dark blue water tray under it to draw the eye down, deliberately darker blue than most coursebuilders use, to give the impression of more depth. He thought the front rail of this one would be vulnerable.
Then curve left on a related distance of a level 7 strides (which some have been doing on 6) to the treble. 1.30 throughout, upright oxer upright, and measures 25’6″(7.75m) and then 36′ (11m), so 1 stride and then a slightly short 2 strides.
They swing right to
(8) The split white gate, if they hit it just the top falls, for safety. It is 1.30m and on flat cups, sandpapered. This is less forgiving than the slightly grippier rubber lined flat cups.
4 strides slightly downhill (distance of 61′, 18.6m) in a straight line to
(9) a very square 1.30 parallel, with a row of evergreen trees set inside it to draw the horses in more.
They swing right to
(10) the Mitsubishi sponsored vertical at 1.30,
Then loop left to the last double,
(11) upright to parallel, 1.30 with the back rail of 2nd element at 1.40,
then a ‘slightly flat’ distance of 36’6″, 11.15m in the middle, on a bending line to the last fence,
(12) another Greenwich fence, 1.30 x 1.45 square.
The Triple Bar, Gate and the last are all Greenwich SJ fences.
The course is the biggest ever at Badminton, 5cm higher than ever before.
The cups are shallower and the poles lighter than event courses used to have.
They’ve measured the course 12 times and are within 4m of each other, taking the bending lines into account that is very accurate, so they trust that they have the Optimum Time correct. The speed is 375mpm.
The ground is very undulating. Kelvin aims to have faults spread all around the course, not a ‘bogey fence’, and says there are a few ‘interesting lines’ on this course to test horses and riders.
Enough information there for even the nerdiest of eventing nerds I hope… the rubber/sandpaper flat cups aspect on the plank and gate particularly fascinated me, who knew they were that technical about it?!