ChigChat – Jan 2010

Full Content: ChigChat 169, Jan 2010

Editor’s Letter

Happy New Year to you all! Apologies for the gap since your last ChigChat – where does the time go?! In order to get information on events happening in the SouthEast in the first three months of 2010, I am sending out a shortened ChigChat and hope that the next issue will be a bumper one!

Chairman’s Letter

I’m writing this over the New Year and being deluged from the media about lists of what happened in the ‘noughties’, so I’ll promise you not to give you another. I’m quite happy just to look back over 2009 and think about the events we ran, in sun and rain, the efforts of all of us who put in our time to ensure that events happened, and that we and other club members had good courses to run. The atmosphere of friendly collaboration when we work together as well as the inevitable post mortems and finding out where you could have shaved off a few more seconds (or in my case, several minutes). It was good to see so many of you out in a variety of forests and at last November’s Club Dinner as well, and it’s especially nice to have a good crowd of juniors developing their orienteering skills.

2009 also saw (amongst other things, and I’m not pretending to a formal review of all our activities) a great series of training mornings and evenings, a new club website, and a club contribution to the Southern Championships in collaboration with other SE clubs. Collaboration is the way ahead, not only to keep our schools leagues going, and to run summer fun events with HAVOC, but also to ensure that we can run big events and share skills and manpower. In 2010 we’ll be working with Happy Herts to combine our Michael Brandon Mitre event with the British Schools Championships in November, providing some really high quality orienteering for a large number of young (and not so young) competitors from across the country.

Looking ahead, there’s a full calendar of events both local and further afield. This is the time of year to plan visits to the JK or the British, even to start thinking about the summer for O holidays. The JK will provide an opportunity to see a lot of Devon and to meet up with ex-CHIGs John and Carol Pearce who are deeply involved with the organisation there, with our Tim Pribul keeping a controlling eye. As I decided not to go to Cannock Chase in December, I shall be entering the British as it is a long time since I ran on what I remember to be an excellent piece of land, and hopefully the weather will not be an issue in May!

If I’ve left out what you think are other highlights of 2009, or missed something vital you are looking forward to in 2010, then let me know via our interactive website!

See you in the forest in 2010.

An Oz Adventure

This year (2009) the World Masters Orienteering Competition was held in Australia, around Sydney. But Oz is a long way to go, inviting the need for an extended programme of other activities to make the trip worthwhile. So, why not just lots more orienteering?…..

……..Having family in Western Australia, it was obvious to combine a visit to them with leaving the UK (a few hours after the London City Race) in time for the WA Champs (19/20 September). Furthermore the Oz orienteering community had planned a succession of major events between then and the Masters in late October. Voilà five weeks of O: no problem if you’re an OAP with no work commitments!

Now, everyone knows Oz is the country where the sun shines every day. Wrong. Despite several of the venues providing the very best terrain I’ve ever met, the events were held in weather you’d expect in, say, April here, i.e. mostly cold, often wet and windy, nearly always overcast, and just occasionally sunny and warm.

But the terrain…..the terrain……. This is an extract from the all-controls map used for the MWOC classic distance final. Those boulders are mapped virtually to scale, i.e. many the size of bungalows. Notice the mapper has hand-drawn all the rock features – none of those irritating comb symbols for crags. On the ground the detail and variety of relief and vegetation are superb. Needless to say, as a competitor, you really have to keep awake……………But some of us didn’t! I made massive errors on the first two legs of my course on this map and blew any chance of a memorable placing, after quite promising results in the two qualifying heats. In total I ran in 17 events in Oz: 4 sprints, 4 middle-distance, 7 classic, 1 score and 1 relay. These included, as well as the WA, Victorian and Australian Champs, a two-day event around Canberra (ACT) and various mid-week affairs. The first of the ACT days was in a spectacular mountainous National Park with the greatest variety of runnability/visibility/relief/surface I have experienced; it was also cold and showery! The relay was a last-minute entry: we three Brits, Arthur Boyt, Roger Maher and I would have won but for my fumbling the last two controls on the final leg. However I did manage a few other podiums.

You can imagine competitors in Australia often interact with the wildlife: it is common to find ‘roos bounding along with you and I kept hearing (but not seeing) what I call the “SI bird” because it peeps at the same pitch.

One picture shows a control site in WA, a pebble-sized boulder, with characteristic grass-trees and a distant view of the Swan Valley.

The other is of the Orienteering Association of Western Australia trailer, a piece of kit that might well be usefully replicated here.

Of course not all Oz terrain is dominated by huge rock features. As you probably know, the commonest forest trees are eucalypts, of which there are literally hundreds of different species. Their adaptation to a generally very dry climate has produced sparse, thin leaves which cast little shade, so the forest floor is brightly lit. If this happened here in Britain the ’understorey’ would grow so vigorously all our forests would be “fight” and impossible for orienteering! But in vast swathes of Australia the shade species are struggling with poor soils as well as low rainfall; the result is very runnable terrain. A common forest type is called “box-ironbark” because the quite widely spaced box eucalypts and ironbark eucalypts dominate in these conditions. Furthermore, millions of years of erosion have smoothed the hillsides into what Aussies call “spur-gully” terrain (we’d call it “spur-re-entrant”). So, as a result of all this, what you get is very fast, generally even, gently sloping ground with brilliant visibility – but a bit lacking in variety.
The maps show virtually no green. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I managed my best results in these conditions – it felt more like the white bits of Epping, the New Forest or Scottish moorland.

However, the unlikely combination of gold and greed has done wonders for Oz orienteering! Not because their orienteers are paid like our footballers but because the various gold-rushes of the nineteenth century has left otherwise uninteresting land pock-marked with thousands of brown features. Several of the recent events were held in old gold-mining areas where mappers and planners could exploit the intricate detail and where, as competitors, our excited hopes were usually dashed like the “diggers” of old as we “fossicked” for apparently-hidden controls and only a tiny minority came away with glittering prizes. But I think we all thoroughly enjoyed our various failures – and the organizers didn’t have to search for the whitening bones of lost orienteers.

I hope I have managed to whet your appetite for O in Oz. If you get the chance, try to combine O with a holiday there – we did do some of the usual tourist stuff, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Ayer’s Rock, the Great Ocean Road…….and I forgot to mention the WMOC sprint final was held in the Sydney Olympic Park and the classic distance races in the stunning Blue Mountains……..

Tom Edelsten