Troop Meeting Challenge: Roman Chariot Race

A Chariot ace during an Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills Training Session
A Chariot Race during an Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills (OLS) Training Session

As stated by John Sweet in Scout Pioneering, “The chariot race originated at Gilwell in the early days of Leader Training and for many years was used on every Scout Wood Badge Course as a classic demonstration of B.P.’s method in action:

  • the Patrol as the unit of activity
  • the immediate application of newly acquired skills (Square Lashing, Diagonal Lashing)
  • the construction of a basic unit in mainline pioneering (the trestle)
  • light-hearted competition between Patrols”

The classic chariot race has been run in a variety of ways. This one uses an H-Frame Trestle, which is the basic component of many pioneering projects. For that matter, in pioneering circles when we refer to a trestle, we mean the H-Frame, so there should be no confusion. As stated, there are a variety of ways to run a chariot race. One thing to note: depending on how the chariot is transported, it can be hard on turf, so think twice before dragging it on a nice lawn! That’s the very reason why one way to run it is to have the rider hold on as the trestle is literally picked up and carried by at least four patrol members. Many times, when the chariot is dragged, the “charioteer” simply stands on the ledger and holds onto the transom, as patrol members grab onto any part of the trestle they can reach. But, to imitate an actual chariot to the fullest extent, the rider should grab a hold of a rope serving as the “reins” while two other Scouts act as “wheels” keeping the chariot upright, as patrol members pull the chariot like horses using two hauling lines tied to the transom at each leg.

In mainline Pioneering the classic proportions of the trestle are as shown in the diagram, but for the chariot race, the trestle should be tailored to suit the charioteer.

From: Scout Pioneering – Patrols in Action, by John Sweet

This interpatrol activity can be presented indoors or outdoors. If indoors, and the trestle is dragged, care should be taken to avoid scuffing the floor of the church fellowship hall or damaging the carpet. The following is furnished for each patrol:

Materials (Heavier Version)

  • two 8-foot x 2 to 3-inch diameter spars for the legs
  • four 6-foot x 2 to 3-inch diameter spars for the ledger, transom, and cross braces (The ledgers can be 4 to 6 feet in length.
  • nine 15-foot lashing ropes
  • one 10-foot lashing rope for the reins
  • two 15-foot lashing ropes for the hauling lines

Materials (Light Version)

  • six Scout Staves
  • nine lashing ropes (6 feet will do for the 8 square lashings and a 10-footer for the diagonal lashing)
  • one 10-foot lashing rope for the reins
  • two 15-foot lashing ropes for the hauling lines
See Note 1 and 2. Adjust the angles between the ledger and the legs so they are less than 90º and make sure the width between the legs at the ledger is narrow enough so the charioteer can plant his feet right next to the legs.
See Note 1 and 2. Adjust the angles between the ledger and the legs so they are less than 90º and make sure the width between the legs at the ledger is narrow enough so the charioteer can plant his feet right next to the legs.

Note 1: When using Scout Staves (Light Version), it will be necessary to angle the legs inward from the ledger to the transom. When the angle between the legs and the ledger is less than 90º, the lashings are much less likely to slip down over the smooth surface of the Scout Stave. That will mean, the distance between the legs where the transom is to be lashed will need to be less than the distance between the legs where the ledger is to be lashed.

Note 2: Since the Scout Stave comprising the ledger will bow and possibly break if the feet of the charioteer are not planted as near as possible to the legs, it is necessary to lash the ledger to the legs at a width that will  correspond comfortably with the size of the charioteer.

On signal, each patrol will build a trestle as per the above drawing. As soon as their “chariot” is built and they have selected a “charioteer” (usually their lightest member), two members to hold the trestle upright, and their “horses,” they run a specified course or race to a turn-around-line and back to where they started.

Note: A Mark II Square Lashing can be used to spring the spars together at the X-brace, in lieu of a diagonal lashing.

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