Who are we?
The Derby employs an international crew of vets, medics and event managers. Supported with state-of-the-art technical equipment and some of the most talented fixers, interpreters and drivers in Mongolia they run everything in the field. Add in the several hundred herders preparing, delivering and caring for the horses as well as feeding and hosting the riders, then you start to get an idea of the scale of this adventure. There is a veritable army working for you to bring the Derby to life.
We've got four roaming crews as well as the team at UB HQ. Here's a quick who's who on our crew, both on and off the course.
In the Field
Two crew members who you may see more of out on the course are our Pre-race Trainer Maggie Pattinson and fellow Referee Charles van Wyk. They'll be keeping an eye on the horses and riders out on the course, popping in to the odd urtuu to see how folks are getting on. They are not there to listen to gripes and mop your brow, and they're not there to spoil your fun.
What they are there to do is monitor horse welfare standards on the Mongol Derby, something we take rather seriously. Maggie and Charles have the authority to impose a 2 hour penalty on riders, just as the vets do, for abusive or negligent riding.
They will man the Penalty Urtuus, one apiece, to adjudicate any fisticuffs or (more likely) sneak you a Snickers bar if you're looking a little care-worn.
They also keep the penalty log and interpret the rulebook should a grey area rears its grey head.
Field HQ - The Event managers
There will be multiple vehicles on the field with the authority to do all sorts of stuff.
As well as the two race referees adjudicating the rulebooks we've got two sets of event managers to look after the needs of the riders and our Mongolian hosts. They have the power to do all sorts of stuff. Like
- Impose race holds
- Respond to serious incidents which may threaten the event as a whole
- Disqualify intransigent riders
- Authorise any manipulations of the field.
Whilst the riders may see the odd vehicle out on the steppe, these guys won't be stopping for a chat en-route. In fact, much of the event management logistics will be invisible to the riders.
Both the Referees and Event Managers are in near constant satellite comms with Ulaanbaatar HQ. They are the Chief's executive arm on the field.
The Mongol Derby employs a team of international vets. These marvellous chaps provide both routine care of the Derby horses, checking them before and after their 40kms Derby dash, and emergency treatment, should a horse be injured out on the course.
Each vet team is fully equipped with oodles of drugs, fluids and equipment, much of which is imported specifically for the Derby. At every horse station, riders will be greeted by a vet, who will have leapfrogged up the course in a Derby-mobile, ready to brandish a stethoscope and a biro.
Since this is a very dangerous event the Mongol Derby does have a degree of medical back-up. This is provided by the marvellous people at Prometheus Medical who are ready to deal with all manner of medical mishap. Their mobile medical units are not just packed to the rafters with medical gubbins and supremely qualified medics, they also have satellite phones and trackers galore so we can get them in the right place as fast as the steppe will allow.
As long as one medical crew is free to respond to emergencies, the race is clear to continue. If both crews are engaged, we may have to impose a race hold.
The Operations Room: Race HQ
Holed up in the UB office will be a dedicated gang of steely-nerved English-speakers, headed up by the Derby Chief, Katy. Champion dot-watchers all, these are the generals, co-ordinating the cohorts in the field.
All riders and back-up crew are equipped with tracking devices so that the operations room in UB knows where everyone is at all times.
What do the ops room team do with the location data of the riders?
- Move Derby staff up and down the course to where they are needed. Once the last rider has passed through an urtuu, the Ops team co-ordinate collecting the vets and crew to deposit them further up the course. Rather like speed-chess.
- Keep the Derby running according to its rules. Derby rules are designed to make horse welfare and rider safety a priority. These rules are backed up by a penalty system. For example, riders are not permitted to ride through the night, which is hazardous for the horses and we monitor this using the data from the trackers. If riders are seen to be travelling during the night, or to have moved in the morning, they will be penalised.
- Respond to any emergencies. Riders will be shown how to activate their trackers to signal a medical or a veterinary emergency. If they do so during the race, the Ops team in UB will dispatch the nearest mobile response team to the location recorded for the distress signal and co-ordinate what happens next.
In addition, the Ops Room team man the airwaves collecting snippets of commentary from the crews on the field about the progress of the Derby, and relay these via the @mongolderbylive twitter feed and the official Mongol Derby blog, so that the world may know of the great feats of courage, stoicism, athletic prowess and digestive verve out there in the heat of battle.