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Kilted captain is world champion in Highland games events

Clad in a black kilt, his long hair tied behind him, Capt. Petrus Sundevall stoops and struggles to balance what appears to be a towering telephone pole upright in the palms of his hands. The caber, a 21-foot log weighing 125 pounds, points straight to the sky. He maneuvers to keep it upright as he runs, then tosses and flips it end-over-end. As it lands on the ground, it  creates a straight line within an imaginary sundial, and the closer it points to the sun at 12 o’clock, the better.

The caber toss is just one of the events in which Sundevall competed at the 17th annual Scottish Masters Heavy Events World Championships held in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, in late June. At 43, he is this year’s caber toss reigning world champion in the masters lightweight division (over age 40 and under 200 pounds).

It is an ancient sport with no similarity to his daily work world, Sundevall said.

“It’s a welcome relief from the yacht industry, where people want things done yesterday even though they just gave it to you today,” he said.

Sundevall also won his class in Braemar stone, an event in which competitors must throw a 22- to 24-pound stone as far as they can while standing still, feet planted firmly in place. He competed in eight events that required such maneuvers as swinging and tossing a 42-pound ball with three links of chain; throwing a “hammer” with a 4-foot handle and a 22-pound weight attached; and throwing a 42-pound weight straight up over a bar set at 12 feet, which is then raised higher and higher. With points totaled from all eight events, Sundevall won second place overall in the world championships.

A former engineer and captain, Sundevall has skippered yachts including the 121-foot Azimuth M/Y Andiamo and the 147-foot Trinity M/Y Tajin. He started Fine Line Marine Electric in Fort Lauderdale after he and wife Kimber, former chief stew of the 174-foot Delta M/Y Silver Shalis,  had a daughter nine years ago and decided to be a land-based family.

Sundevall said he was familiar with the competition as a youth, but got serious about trying it after he attended a Celtic festival in Fort Lauderdale about six years ago.

Highland Games

“I told Kimber, ‘Next year, I’ll do that,’” he said.

And he did. He competed as a beginner and won his class.

“It was fun. There were people from 25 to the geriatric, 60-plus crowd,” he said. “These people are all really different – they are really nice, happy and down-to-earth.”

Although competitors in Highland games are traditionally very large in size, Sundevall, who is 6 feet tall, competes in the lightweight class. By eating well and taking a break from his favorites — chocolate and ice cream — before competitions, he keeps his weight right at 199 pounds to stay in this class.

“This is for big, strong, fat people that want to compete,” Sundevall said with a laugh. “Plus, afterward, if you pull a muscle, the medicine is Scotch whiskey.”

Much of the Highland games are steeped in centuries of tradition and celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture, with costumes, bagpipes and dancing.

“Petrus competes in a solid black kilt with the Fine Line Marine Electric logo because he is not Scottish and has no clan kilt,” his wife said. “He is Swedish.”

A decathlete while growing up, Sundevall now trains with weights and yoga. Competition comes naturally, he said. “Sports are like a language – once you learn one, you can easily learn others.”

Sundevall said he looks forward to seeing competitors at next year’s competition in Stuttgart, Germany.

“They are so friendly and funny, it’s a real brotherly love and they always help,” he said. “It puts a big smile on my face.”

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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