The Shattered Ring
The Tobrutai Challenge
The Tobrutai Challenge is a great sporting event that takes place annually on Sekothai. Part sailing race, part scavenger hunt, the event is named after the sailor and explorer responsible for charting many of the moon’s archipelagos and involves plucking a single twig or fruit from specific trees or shrubs on selected islands scattered across Sekothai.
Maps designating the items required and their locations are distributed in sealed cases to the competitors immediately prior to the start of the race, and a great deal of speculation surrounds the exact route every year. Islanders consider it a matter of great pride to have the race visit their home turf, and often supply the sailors with food and drink to sustain them through the gruelling challenge.
Traditionally, the map that the racers are supplied with includes at least one wild inaccuracy (a reef marked where there isn’t one, a large unmarked island that the racers will have to navigate around, or an unmapped high outcropping on which the item to be collected is situated, for example) to confound unwary contestants. The Sekothai seem to find this intensely humorous. This tradition falls somewhere between a practical joke and a test of knowledge, and may be a historical reference the experiences of the eponymous explorer. Off-worlder competitors have never truly grasped this element of the contest, or why the Sekothai think it so amusing.
The items collected on route are usually small cuttings of particularly distinctive plants, or smallish hand-sized fruits that can easily be stored aboard the tiny vessels competitors use. This is not always the case, however, and aficionados of the contest will fondly recount the story of the year in which the contest organisers designated an island on which the competitors each had to collect a massive Pehuwe Nut. It’s said that the victor that year was the only competitor to make it to the finish, all the others having succumbed to an assortment of nut-related disasters on route, and won the race by rowing the floating nut itself across the line (her boat having long since disintegrated).
In typical Sekothai fashion, the competitive spirit involved in the race is usually fairly friendly and sporting (there have been some legendary disagreements between competitors, but these are very uncommon and are talked about for decades afterwards) and almost every year the last boat in carries (in addition to its own sailor) a variety of other competitors whose own craft have fallen victim to unseen reefs, storms, swells or disagreeable cargo in the course of the race. Often a small fleet of larger non-competitive craft follow the race itself, collecting anyone left stranded on one of the small islands or atolls.
Although the prize includes a substantial financial element, few participate in the race for the money – the victor is traditionally expected to use his or her winnings to pay for the drinks of all other competitors at the party afterwards, meaning victory in the race is largely a matter of pride. The celebration after the completion of the race is an open affair and generally rapidly becomes a full-scale festival in its own right, attracting as many participants as the race does spectators and underlining the fondness of the Sekothai for a good party.
Some off-worlders have participated in the race in the past, but none have ever won. Heoroti sailors have often attempted the Challenge, drawn in both by the competition and by the sporting atmosphere surrounding it, but none have mastered the winds and currents of Sekothai or the delicate little craft that are frequently employed for the contest. Races in which a high proportion of off-worlders are participating tend to involve a greater focus on map inaccuracies and unusual or particularly obtuse items to collect, and the off-worlder regulars share a suspicion (not unfounded) that this is specifically to facilitate the amusement of the Sekothai rather than to improve the competition.