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Old 26th June 2013, 15:56   #1
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Default PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

The hill station of Kottayam - Vagamon is nothing less than spectacular during the monsoons. Driving through the harsh terrains, gushing streams and steep rocks was challenging and exhilarating all at the same time. Some would agree that's the perfect mix of a great off-roading experience. Here are a few pics taken.
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Old 26th June 2013, 15:58   #2
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Old 26th June 2013, 21:04   #3
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

Vinod,

Thank you for the pics. As much as I liked Vagamon, I believe everyone who attended the competitive side of this event was totally disappointed with the arrangements.

I drove 1200kms roundtrip from Bangalore for this half day event but all we did in the 12 hours at the event was get winched through the one and only water crossing obstacle. Except for the first 4 jeeps or so which were able to make it through the water, everyone else was asked to be winched out by the organizers because there was no way on earth anyone could do it on their own.

The day was scheduled to start at 8AM with breakfast and end at lunch by 3PM or so. However, we started the obstacles only at 12 noon and ended the day at 8PM with just one obstacle covered of the 4 that were planned. Moreover, just to cover up for all the inefficient planning for the day, the winners were announced even though the nobody covered even 50% of the obstacles for the day.

If the competition was based on how nicely one could get winched from start to end of the water crossing, may be I had very wrong expectations from the event. I have also enrolled for the Lonavala event and I'm hoping that the team will change my perception about these events.

Here's what I think went wrong:

- The lots for the line up were drawn at the regroup point on top of the hill. This should have been done even before we left so that there was no time wasted in trying to get people to follow each other as per their number.

- The marshals told me that the water crossing which was nothing but a small gutter on the Thursday recce had now transformed into a powerful 20 feet stream with waist deep water due to the rains. I don't blame anybody for the rains, but not having an escape route to skip the obstacle is a clear oversight.

- The water level in the morning itself should have been judged by the organizers and course correction should have made to start with the other obstacles since it was very obvious that the jeeps will find it difficult to wade through bonnet deep water.

- After the fourth or fifth jeep got stuck in the water, they dug the terrain even deeper making it impossible for all the following jeeps to make it through without getting winched. Everybody was asked to take assistance by the organizers and the judges since they knew that there was no chance anyone could cross it. Why was the competition not called off when every jeep had to call for the recovery team and there was no bearing of the two people in the jeep rule.

- There were no marshals beyond the water crossing to guide people what to do next or where to go. We waited aimlessly after crossing the water stream, not knowing the next course of action. At the end of the day, a few of the jeeps just took a chance and made it back to the start point without getting lost.

- None of the organizers ever thought of calling in for packed food for the participants who've been sitting out the whole day aimlessly. We reached back at 8PM and were offered "LUNCH" that was nice and cold from the afternoon. I presume that was because all the three organizer jeeps were busy doing the recoveries.

- Even though there were jeeps with winches, there was a single winch being used for recovery through the water as well as on the slushy slope which was right after you got out of the water. The winch was overheating, it drained out the battery of the recovery vehicle and we wasted more time to change batteries etc. Apparently, they didn't have the size 10 spanner to open the battery terminals and it was borrowed from me, never to be returned.

- We were told that the judges will score each participant on technical aspects etc etc. But when the jeeps were getting winched and pushed by the recovery teams, what was the judging done upon. Given that this was my first event, I didn't really care if I won or not, but I did observe that both the winning jeeps were winched at both points and even pushed by the recovery teams to make it through. I'm not sure about the other two awards since they crossed the obstacle before I even reached the spot. Every participant had this question in mind that evening, but they were too tired to fight it out I guess. Since we didn't even have one good obstacle for the day, the competition event seemed unfair and I'm sure people were thinking they were short-changed. In all fairness, Mahindra should have announced that they cannot judge people based on what happened that day and that this event may be struck out of the overall list and may be even refunded the competition money that was over and above the fun drive.

Towards the end, it all seemed like it was being hush-hushed and nobody really came forward and took ownership to do the right thing!

I don't know if your team will be prudent enough to look back and try to set things right for what's already gone by. But, hopefully, there will be learnings from this event that will be applied in all future events.

Good luck!
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Old 27th June 2013, 10:46   #4
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

OMG .. places where i wouldnt dare even walk !! Monsoons are the best time to visit Kerala and even better time to do offroading. Just awesome pics. I am sure the experience would have been even better
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Old 27th June 2013, 16:40   #5
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

Mahindra SAdventure

Amol has covered most of the inconveniences faced by the competitors. I would like to highlight a few which really left a sad taste for me. Being an event managed by Mahindra one would expect at the management of the event to be right. The whole event was inexcusably mismanaged.

1. Event start time was 8AM. The event started at 12AM.
The signs that this was going to be a long day was clear from the very beginning when the event started 4 hours after scheduled. It was very clear that either the number of obstacles have to be cut short or alternative arrangements for food were needed, Unfortunately no one from Mahindra bothered to think about these things. If someone had thought ahead and made small arrangements, things could have been a lot smoother through the day.

2. Poor planning of the trail and recovery
As Amol has pointed out, we did only ONE obstacle from 12AM till 8PM. I know that patience is expected from every participant during offroading events. But one cannot hide their incompetence behind this. Everyone was saying that due to the rains the terrain became difficult and acted as though they couldn’t control the outcome. Well, since it rained for 3 days, didn’t one guy have the common sense to check the trail before beginning the day or previous evening and replan accordingly? Let’s say thats expecting too much from them, but didn’t it strike to anyone that as people are getting whiched out they have nothing else to do. The competitors could have been asked to move to the next obstacle in groups of 5 or 10 OR sent back for lunch. It was surprising that no one thought about this.

Is this what one can expect from Mahindra event, who have so many people and resources at their disposal?

Also, I think Mahindra guys need to take a leaf from Wayanad offroading team on recovery. Winch is not the best equipment for multiple use, tractors with flywheel and tow rope is the right equipment for the job. Hope someone takes note of that for the Sakleshpur event. As Amol has pointed out, lot of delays was due to winch equipment failure.

3. Judges and Organizers were in 3-4 jeeps only.
This was the most baffling to me, when I saw that organizers had only 3-4 jeeps with them. I know from previous events that Mahindra sends more than 5 jeeps each event, I wonder why these jeeps were not part of the organizing team!

4. Lack of ownership
“Testing times reveal the true colours of a person”
We all know that Mahindra does more than 2 events each month and they may brush this as a one-off bad day. I was part of the last year Sakleshpur event and it was executed very well and Mahindra guys got all the accolades. But this event showed that when things go south, no one was ready to take the responsibility for it. I spoke to the senior most person from Mahindra (I am not disclosing the name here),
Me: Sir, this was not what I expected today
Him: (In a very rude tone) Do you think I expected this?
Me: But there should have been a plan B.
Him: There never was a plan B. It rained for three days and we never expected the trail to become rough.

There was clearly a lack of sympathy towards the participants. I was shocked beyond words listening to his reply. His demeanor was exactly what was told in the briefing of what one shouldn’t do during the event. I realized there was no point in talking to a person who clearly is not in the state to talk sense.

5. The Sham
After the disappointing day, we came back (on our own) to find cold food waiting for us and no beers, apparently the fun drive guys finished it off! Then came the sham, prize distribution! I think they conducted the same just to console themselves that they have conducted a good event. What is the point of the prizes when there was no skill displayed by anyone, unless getting winched out was a criteria.

I am not the one to ruin someone’s parade but I was shocked to hear that competitor number 14 won. I was there when he did the obstacle and he didn’t do anything differently from others. As a matter of fact, I have the whole thing on video and would let Tbhpian offroaders to decide. ( Currently, I am unable to upload the video, will do it shortly)

My question to guys at Mahindra is, why should I forget that I spent 6k for a shabbily managed event and with no remorse was asked to walk away without expecting any apology in return?

The only highlight of the event was the enthusiasm of the local recovery guys who winched out 20 vehicles in waist deep cold water, with rain and no food. Hats off to them.

Last edited by mac187 : 27th June 2013 at 16:46.
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Old 27th June 2013, 22:10   #6
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

Hi Amolpol & Mac187,
At the outset would like to sincerely apologize on the inconvenience caused to you all. Though I wasn't there, I am told the event surely didn't go as planned despite being a fantastic location and did not reflect the standards we adhere to.

You all would understand that sometimes how much ever you plan, things do go wrong. Lashing rains did pose a great challenge and the obstacles which were doable easily just hours before the flag off couldn't be done due to sharp rise in water levels. Further few inexperienced drivers dug the pit despite marshal's repeated plea not to do so. There were 4 obstacles in total and mother of all was the 4th one where the tractors were stationed. Little did we imagine that the second obstacle itself would prove difficult to cross. The person in-charge of 20K acre estate says, he hasn't seen such heavy downpour in his recent memory.

As far as grading is concerned, it is not based on if one clears the obstacle or not. It is purely based on driver's overall skill. The judgement is based on factors that are subjective. Hence your opinion may differ from that of the judge. Hope the judging criteria was made clear during briefing.

We have done 102 great escapes till date over past 2 decades. We certainly wouldn't have reached this milestone without support of people like you. There have been some hits and misses. We surely could have done better. Next event near you is Sakleshpur escape (after Hyd MGE) and with rain gods on our side, we will certainly do our best to win your hearts.




p.s- In 2010 MGE near Mumbai, the route which was done on 2wd the day before couldnt be done in 4wd as the day progressed. The plan B route got washed out and with about 100 vehicle participation almost 50% of vehicles had to return without doing even a single obstacle! People then did not understand, however please watch this video of Scorpio toppling (no one was injured). We called off the event due to safety issues.

Last edited by vinod_nookala : 27th June 2013 at 22:23.
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Old 27th June 2013, 22:15   #7
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

This was my first event and it was pathetic, The Mahindra recovery jeep was driven amaturely and got stuck in water, they had no Plan B and they sat there inside for half an hour with NO CLUE. SO I and my friend decided to wrench them out in waist deep water, while the Mahindra team sat inside the Vehicle and did not even get down to recover their own vehicle just to avoid getting wet! In the end when everything was over the show looked like a flop. It started at 12pm and we did not even finish the circuit which was annoying after we came so far and payed money to get some lunch and a bad trail.

More over why are there no pics of the Adventure jeeps? Is this some snobbish attitude towards lesser contestants?

Last edited by Monster_BHP : 27th June 2013 at 22:19.
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Old 1st July 2013, 23:05   #8
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

Hi Guys,
We at Mahindra Adventure have taken a call to offer all the participants of Kottayam Great Escape -13 FREE ENTRY to any of the Great Escapes to be scheduled across India this year. If some one is not able to make it to other parts of India this year, then there would be a FREE ENTRY to them in next year's Kottayam Great Escape. This offer is not open to the declared winner's of the Off-road trophy.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused, as we believe we could have done better notwithstanding the lashing rains which upset our original plans quite a bit.

Last edited by vinod_nookala : 1st July 2013 at 23:09.
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Old 1st July 2013, 23:23   #9
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Default Re: PICS: The Kottayam Great Escape, 2013

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinod_nookala View Post
Hi Guys,
We at Mahindra Adventure have taken a call to offer all the participants of Kottayam Great Escape -13 FREE ENTRY to any of the Great Escapes to be scheduled across India this year. If some one is not able to make it to other parts of India this year, then there would be a FREE ENTRY to them in next year's Kottayam Great Escape. This offer is not open to the declared winner's of the Off-road trophy.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused, as we believe we could have done better notwithstanding the lashing rains which upset our original plans quite a bit.
Hi Vinod,

I am glad that the Mahindra Adventure team has chosen the right thing to do, albeit a little late, but I think it's a brave move nevertheless. Honestly, it was not only about the money, but also about the integrity of the event and fairness towards the competition participants.

I hope that there will be better documented processes that are used to govern such events in the future so that nobody feels that they were shortchanged, especially in the competitive section.

Hoping to see you at the Lonavala event. I'm already in Mumbai and waiting for Saturday to arrive!

Thanks - Amol
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