Posted on Fri, 3rd February 2012 by Ian Sayer

The Perils Of Planning – One Person’s View

If you ever get the opportunity to plan some Orienteering Courses grasp it with both hands. It is almost guaranteed to improve your navigation for future events. I recently planned our Gallopen at Cull-Peper’s Dish and this is a brief resume of how I went about it.

First off you need the map. I was lucky enough to have first go at a new map surveyed by Richard Arman and Bill Brown. With the technological wizardry of O-Cad Bill was able to let me have a draft map before Christmas. Having some prior knowledge of the area I soon decided where the Car Parking had to be. Believe it or not this is often one of the first considerations before you can even think of Start and Finish.

Having fixed the Car Parking I was then keen to keep the Start, Finish and Registration close together to make the logistics of the day easier and to reduce the walk for competitors (I am not usually so considerate but was conscious of the fact that our event was taking place in February when the weather could be anything but kind). I also wanted to maximise the use of the new area around Cull-Peper’s Dish itself so decided on the Start and Finish just north of the road.

I prefer to armchair plan my courses to try and get the shape, distances and technical difficulty about right before I visit the forest. The BOF Guidelines are a good source of reference for the above criteria and, armed with the relevant information I set to with a pencil and piece of string to map out the courses with likely control sites. Having shaped the courses I then spent several hours in the forest visiting the control sites which I had chosen. In several cases this necessitated changing the control used as the feature either wasn’t obvious enough or was not suitable for some other reason.

Having refined the courses I then tagged all the control sites with coloured tape with a code marked on. I prefer to allocate the final control code at this stage if at all possible to avoid having to cross reference. It is in these preliminary stages that your orienteering really improves because it is much harder to find a control site when there is no flag there.

The Controller then becomes involved in both checking and agreeing your course lengths and technical difficulty as well as visiting all the control sites and confirming that you have actually tagged the correct feature. This is vital as anybody can make a mistake. I had actually tagged a wrong pond in Oakers Wood which Roger Harris picked up on and corrected.

Once the courses and sites are approved the next job is to agree the Course Descriptions and allocate punches to each site. This latter job is surprisingly time consuming. It took me most of one Saturday afternoon sorting out the punch canes and bundling them up for each site, marked up accordingly.

Normally one of the real pleasures of planning an orienteering event is being out in the woods early in the morning with nobody else about putting out the controls the day before the event with the Controller coming along behind to check. Unfortunately this year the weather rather spoiled the enjoyment as it threw it down all day and after six and a half hours out in the elements the Controller and I were both soaked to the skin.

We were luckier with the day of the event and a quick check of all but the most remote controls confirmed that we had not suffered any vandalism over night so the first runners could depart. It is always comforting when at least one runner from each course has finished. Comments at the finish vary but they invariably include a large proportion of compliments from people who have enjoyed their run around the course that you have planned for them and it is encouraging how many orienteers manage to gasp a thank you as they finish, even if they are on their last legs.

So don’t be afraid to give it a try. There are plenty of people in the club who would be more than happy to give you some guidance and assist with your first attempt.

Ian Sayer

Orienteering Club