Saddle up – for the HDD Rodeo Italian Style!

HDD Rodeo Italian StyleHearts racing, eyes firmly on the ground, ears filled with the cheers of hundreds of excited spectators: the drillers of the four teams eagerly bore toward their goal. The suspense builds, and then — water erupts as a drill head hits the target. We have a winner! Team ‘The Fast Sicilians’ takes the trophy and the glory, while everyone agrees: Nothing beats a rodeo!

This exhilarating drilling contest took place on May 11, as part of an HDD rodeo event at Vermeer Italia. “Companies around the world may organize customer days, but none of them offer the excitement of a live competition and rodeo,” explains Vermeer Italia managing director Pierluigi Lelli. “We — co-hosts Vermeer and Vermeer Italia — have done it for HDD, bringing together all our business relations in the HDD industry in a relaxed but truly fun environment.”

The mixed crowd included contractors, drilling specialists, Vermeer representatives from Europe and North America and key partners and suppliers. While contractors showcased their skills and speed in the competition, Vermeer specialists and key partners introduced their latest solutions to help contractors improve productivity and profitability.

But it wasn’t all business. Expertly balancing work and play, Vermeer Italia offered lots of entertainment: from a mini-car race with Vermeer-branded cars, to a mechanical bull, line dancing and an Italian rock band. There was something for everyone, while the world-famous Italian cuisine, washed down with beer and wine, kept everyone going.

HDD Rodeo Italian StyleVermeer Drills Replace Bucking Broncos
No risk to animals at this Rodeo. Broncos and bulls were replaced by four Vermeer D20x22 Series II Tier 4i (Stage IIIB) Navigator horizontal directional drills. The ‘cowboys’ were Vermeer customers from all over the EMEA region. In total, 56 teams of two — an operator and a locator — competed in groups of four. At each stage, the best performing teams moved on to the semi-finals and then finals. In addition to the drills, each team had a DCI DigiTrak 5 locator, Baroid Industrial Drilling Products drilling fluid and two-way radios for communicating.

Each team had to bore 88 ft (27 m) in a straight line to a target, then retract the drill rods onto the rig. They had only 25 minutes from start to finish, including setting up the unit, drilling, punch-out, pullback and loading. Accuracy and speed were checked at different locations. And after the punch-out, the rods had to be pulled back to complete the challenge.

Chad Van Soelen, former director of underground sales and service at Vermeer, headed the professional jury. “We wanted to push the teams’ accuracy skills. So we allocated points for accuracy along the bore path and for hitting the final 12-in. circular target and deducted three minutes for hitting the target within the allotted time,” he explains.

The Top Cowboys Take the Prize
The winning team —‘The Fast Sicilians’— from company Ruspal Trivellazioni are specialists in laying fiber-optic cables using HDD. Operator Danilo Galvagno says: “Our company is a big family. Outside of work we also spend a lot of time together. Sometimes, we even organize our own drilling contests at Ruspal, so naturally, we were keen to attend and join in the Rodeo. Because we work with a D20x22II every day, we felt confident we could do well. With so many eyes on our every move, we did feel the pressure, but we managed to block everything out and keep focused on the bore path.”

Galvagno and teammate Lupica Tonno Sebastiano won a visit to the Vermeer factory and a trip to the city of their choice in the United States. “I was impressed to see the ‘birthplace’ of our Navigator HDDs and appreciated the time and effort everybody took to make us feel welcome. What’s more, we’d always dreamt of going to New York — that was also an unforgettable experience. It is so different from any city in Italy in every way,” Galvagno says.

HDD Rodeo Italian StyleThe team especially appreciated the interactive nature of the Rodeo. “It was an important recognition of our work as operators and made us feel valued. Seeing the drilling techniques of the other teams and sharing jobsite experiences was also very useful. I would really like to thank Vermeer Italia for organizing such a well thought-out event, and my boss for the opportunity to attend,” Galvagno concludes.

Second place team Jacob Post ApS from Denmark actually scored the best time in the tournament during the semi-finals. In the finals, however, they were beaten by The Fast Sicilians by just a few seconds. The Jacob Post team saw the contest as a unique opportunity to compare their drilling standards to others in the industry and to exchange techniques and methods with peers from other countries. “Naturally, we hoped to score high in the contest,” says company owner Jacob Post, who formed a team with colleague Jesper Carstensen. “With both our first and second teams in the top 10, I think we met our goal. I do want to say a special thanks to the jury members, who were very friendly and gave constructive feedback.”

Soon, a Jacob Post delegation will visit the Vermeer offices in Goes, the Netherlands. “We are looking forward to seeing a variety of Vermeer equipment, talking to people in the industry and enjoy Holland.”
A Holistic Approach to HDD.

Organizing such an unusual, yet appropriate, event reflects the dedication of Vermeer to making a difference to contractors worldwide, says Jason Andringa, president of  Vermeer Corp.’s forage and environmental solutions. “This focus is why we take a holistic approach to directional drilling. We work closely with partners such as Digital Control Inc. (DCI) and Baroid Industrial Drilling Products — leaders in their own fields — to research and develop solutions that help contractors increase their productivity and profitability. Our customers’ goal is to sustainably improve infrastructure; ours is to give them the tools to do that.”

Long-term Vermeer partner Baroid co-sponsored and supplied drilling fluids for the contest. Baroid senior account representative Frank Canon explains, “Jaap Kommer, Marcel Bijleveld (from our partner Cebo Holland) and I prepared Tunnel-Gel Plus, a bentonite blend specially formulated for HDD. Most of the contestants were familiar with this blend, because we regularly provide drilling fluid training sessions for Vermeer customers in Europe.”

In addition to providing a team of experts, DCI supplied four new custom HDD Rodeo-logoed DigiTrak 5 systems and four transmitters, which broadcast on separate frequencies to avoid cross-talk between the competing drillers. DCI customer relations manager Mark Gallucci was impressed with the skills of all the teams. “Seeing 56 separate HDD crews locating with such speed and accuracy was gratifying. The crews that advanced in the competition repeatedly hit their measurement points within centimeters.”

Nothing Beats a Rodeo
Canon and Gallucci agree that events like the HDD Rodeo are great for building lasting relationships, with both partners and customers. And the appeal stretches far beyond. More than 400 visitors enjoyed the day, returning home in good spirits with new contacts, new techniques and new inspiration. As for the teams, they relished the opportunity to ‘saddle up’ and put themselves and their skills to the test — in true cowboy style!

Hester Regoort is a features writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.

Be sure to check out this story on the Trenchless Technology app on your iPad for more photos and an event video!
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