The caber must pass through the vertical position (perpendicular to the ground) in order to count as a turned caber.
Fifer is a term that describes a caber that does not go through the perpendicular or vertical position but lands between 9:00 and 3:00. Allegedly, the name originates from the Fife Highland Games.
NASGA and Borges based rule sets state that it is the side judge’s responsibility to call this situation. USAD rules states either the back or side judge can make the call on whether the caber passes through the perpendicular.
- Some view asking/requiring a side judge to make the fifer call is like asking a back judge to make a partial turn call: it is possible but very difficult.
The following can cause fifers:
- Twisted sticks will lead to Fifer’s far more often than straight ones especially when thrown with the curve to the side.
- Cabers that have a sideways lean before a straight pull will almost always produce a Fifer.
- Cabers that are not evenly cutoff at the top are more likely to produce a Fifer.
- Uneven hardness of the ground (caused by things like embedded rocks) may lead to Fifers.
- Cabers thrown without enough force may lead to Fifers:
- A caber that is pulled late with not enough force to turn end over end may “lean” to one side as it travels forward resulting in a Fifer.
- The effects of the wind on weakly thrown caber may lead to a Fifer.
- A caber whose “fat” end has been cut off on an angle.
- Any combination of the above.
What ever the cause, a fifer is rare and is rarely called.
Some say the judge will know a Fifer when he sees one, as if they are mythical beings. In reality, Fifers are fairly easy to spot by the back judge who can observe the stick after the top (fat end) hits the ground and the handle starts its journey skyward.
- If the caber is leaning noticeably to the left or right as the caber goes over then you have spotted the mythical and elusive Fifer.
Back Judges are usually in the best position to call a Fifers and giving a degree score when this occurs. This is why some say it is both judges responsibility to call a fifer. However, Fifers are easy to miss by the back-judge as the he has many other things to consider at the moment the stick is tossed.
Bottom line: some people have the ability to visualize correct caber scores (and Fifers) and some don’t but what matters most is the consistency of the calls.