Saturday, 26 January 2008

BAOC O-Planning Course report

Mary Healy attended a planning course in the UK. Here she reports on the experience ...


If anyone had told me that a week of sleeping in a dormitory and working from 8.30 am till maybe 11 pm at night, with sometimes only 15 minutes for lunch, could be exhilarating fun, I’d have said ‘Yeh, Right!’. But that’s what it was.

With a last minute invitation from the IOA to go on a Planners’ course, I found myself on a Monday morning in June on a Heathrow-bound plane, on my way to Longmoor Camp in Surrey, where the British Army Orienteering Club (BAOC) hold courses in both course planning and orienteering skills. Every three months, they gather their handpicked team of experienced instructors from all over Britain, to run these courses for British army orienteers. In recent years, our army has also been invited to participate but last July was the first time the IOA were invited. The IOA were offered one place on the Planners course and one on the Orienteering Skills course. The notice was extremely short though and the IOA had to find people who could take a week off immediately. Niall Ewen (Ajax & Irish Junior Squad) and I were available and lucky enough to be able to take up these places.

From the minute we reached the centre, all outside life ceased to exist. Our time was scheduled from dawn to bed. I can only speak for my own course content, as I was too busy to have any chance to check out Niall’s course, other than seeing that he’d made friends. And he made plenty of them. The camaraderie between participants was huge, the philosophy being – ‘We all muck in together and get the job done!’
On my Planners course, as I had expected, every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. Nothing was left to your interpretation. Everything was spelt out and no stone left unturned in itemising every detail of a Planner’s role in staging an orienteering event. We were treated to 17 lectures in 4 days, from Monday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime! AND we had practical exercises out in the forest. AND we had Homework (!) every evening. Luckily, we got PowerPoint handouts on everything, so we weren’t on overdrive from note-taking and could just listen and absorb instead.
Lectures were on everything from Technical Difficulty to Choosing Legs and even a whole lecture on Taping! Now, what would you think should be included on Taping? If you thought of it, it’s there, e.g. ‘Do not write in Red on Red tape.’ What’s more, we then did a practical exercise on it! Out we went into the forest, literally on our doorstep, armed with our roll of electrical insulation tape, a map with control sites and instructions to check sites already taped. Another day, we got to tape our own newly planned courses and then – With-A-Different-Colour-Tape – check someone else’s taping.
We even got a lesson on OCAD, the computer program used to draw orienteering maps and courses, in one of four lectures one morning. To be honest, this was about the only weakness of the course. You could give a whole course just on OCAD alone. Half an hour on it just wasn’t enough for people who never experienced it, who were then expected to use it to draw up courses. Most struggled with it. This was the first time OCAD was included on the course. To be fair, they want to give a complete and comprehensive course on Planning, with everything that needs to be covered included in it. It’s up to the participants to go away and work on the content. They could lengthen the course duration, but it’s not realistic to expect people to give more than a week to such a course. So, in retrospect, it is better to have a rushed introduction to OCAD than none at all.
It wasn’t all slog though. We got out into the forest, on average, three times a day, on practical exercises of 30-60 minutes, which were a welcome stretch and freshened us up for the next session. One such exercise was a Sprint race, where all 50 or so, from both courses, went off at 1 minute intervals, around the centre’s many buildings and woods. Excellent fun! 60% were caught out on their way to No 1 - they didn’t notice the uncrossable fence on the map, until they were almost within reach of the control. I was just about to punch, when one guy approached the fence and called me. I thought “What am I going to do, if he asks me to punch his emit (electronic punch) card for him?” It was OK though - he just asked if that was the first control. Whew! Anxiety over!
Homework consisted of planning courses and drawing them with control descriptions up beautifully on OCAD. Now, at 5.30 pm, when you’re finished lectures, the last thing you want to do is spend much time on your homework. But each evening after dinner we returned, like dutiful students, to the classroom. Some were quicker than others. Whizz, whizz – courses planned. Others, like me, could be likened to a good whiskey, which improves with time. So we mulled over our courses a lot longer. Hence, by the time we finished, we were leaving at 11-11.30 pm! All hope of a nightcap in the bar was forgotten, as we fell straight into our beds, to recover in time for class at 8.30 next morning. The one time I did succumb to a bit of leisure time before bed, I was up and at my desk at 7.00 am, to get things done!
In a conversation with Colin Dickson, the Course Co-ordinator, an M50 and many times British Champion, he told me that the course centre was chosen for all the necessary onsite facilities it offered – quiet location; permanent orienteering building - with classrooms, computer room with OCAD 9 installed on all seven PCs, toilets, kitchen, equipment room; accommodation dormitories; restaurant providing full board – food was excellent to my mind; bar with TV. We didn’t ever need to leave the place. Although, the last night, we all went to the local pub instead, for a meal out, which was a good social end to a hard week’s work.
So, if any of you are offered the opportunity by the IOA to go on another one of these BAOC courses – Planner or Orienteering Skills – I say “Go for it!” It’s a brilliant opportunity. Top class instructors, who couldn’t do enough for anyone, all necessary facilities provided, packed but excellent course content. Be warned – it’s intense, it’s demanding, but it’s extremely rewarding and well worth doing. Essential, I’d say, if you aspire to being as fully qualified as you can be, to get the job done right.
But don’t forget your sleeping bag, unless you want to sleep under the grey hairy blankets that were provided, like Niall and I had to do, instead of all the snug-looking sleeping bags everyone else knew to bring!

Mary Healy,

(Photos: Mary Healy at the 2007 Irish Relays in Wexford; Niall Ewen at Longmoor).

Orienteering News

Get ready for the JK …

The Northern Ireland Orienteering Association has announced that they will be hosting the 2011 Jan Kjellstrom international orienteering festival. The “JK”, as it is known, is the premier multi-day orienteering competition run under the auspices of BOF, the British Orienteering Federation.

Jan Kjellstrom was a young Swedish orienteer who came to Britain in the 1960’s and helped establish the sport there. He was tragically killed in a car accident in 1967 and the first JK was run later that year in his memory. Nowadays the event can attract 3000 competitors.

The JK features four days of orienteering: a two-day individual on Saturday and Sunday, a Relay on Monday, and another event on the Friday, which in 2008 will be a sprint race.

The events take place over the Easter weekend, which in 2011 will be on April 22nd -25th.

The NIOA are no strangers to running major events: the Junior, Senior and Veteran Home Internationals and the Irish and British Championships have all been run in Northern Ireland, but this will be the biggest in terms of numbers.

Just as the 2012 Olympics is expected to have a positive spin-off effect for Ireland, JK2011 will have a major impact on raising the profile of orienteering on the whole island.

The NIOA is smaller than lots of orienteering clubs in other countries and this is a huge undertaking. The IOA plans to cooperate with NIOA to organise a series of complementary events to make the whole ”Irish Orienteering” experience a successful one. Hopefully, just as the fire engines from Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk raced to help when Belfast was burning after a German air raid on 16th April 1941, orienteers all over the island will be happy to lend a hand when the time comes for the JK, 70 years later almost to the day.

A meeting of interested volunteers will take place in Dungannon Rugby Club, Co, Tyrone, on 13th February. The event co-ordinator is Harold White.

Irish Championships entries open

Cork Orienteers have started taking entries for the Irish Championships at the beginning of May. Entries are being accepted online for the three day competition on May 3-4-5 on Bere Island in West Cork.

Bere Island has been used for the Shamrock O-Ringen in the past, the detailed open mountainside with spectacular sea views providing fast running with challenging navigation.

The plan for the weekend is to have the Classic race (normal distance) on the Saturday, Relay on the Sunday and Middle Distance on the Bank Holiday Monday. This will probably mean travelling down on the Friday for most people. Unlike Inisbofin, Bere Island is only a short hop from the mainland, so staying in Castletownbere or thereabouts should be possible.

Entries close on March 31st.

Details from Cork Orienteers

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Team Work

Division of Labour
Probably none of us would consider orienteering a team sport. We like to think of ourselves as independent, self-sufficient, able to survive on our own in harsh conditions. Mild eccentricity is tolerated; expected, even, if we think of the stereotypical orienteer. But at heart it is a team sport, in the sense of teamwork rather than in, say, the football sense.

I have heard it said, in the context of children’s sports, that the two teams are not enemies or rivals, but partners: without the other team there could be no game. This is true in orienteering where, without the other clubs, none of us would get very many competitions. It is even more true at the level of the IOA Executive, where the team pulls the sport through and drives orienteering forward.

What do the IOA do, you may wonder. Without their administrative and coordinating role, we could not be members of the International Orienteering Federation and could not run in international competitions; we would have no insurance; no co-ordinated fixtures list; no Sports Council funding for development or coaching. In short, without the IOA we would be back to the beginning of orienteering here.

And who are these people who keep the sport going: the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and so on? They are ordinary orienteers like you and me, with jobs to do during the day; volunteers with other things to do as well as devote time to their (our) sport. Surprisingly, two of the jobs on the executive remain unfilled since last year’s AGM. We have no Development Officer and no Honorary Secretary, while the Chairman also serves as the Mapping Officer. A welcome development, however, is the appointment of GEN’s Aine Joyce as the IOA administrative assistant.

Even more surprisingly, the 9 jobs on the executive are filled by members of just 5 clubs. There are benefits to be gained for your club by having representatives on the IOA, even though they are there to serve the sport as a whole and not their club constituents. Why don’t more clubs put their members forward to the Executive?

The IOA Executive committee now has 11 positions, 8 of which are filled
by Leinster clubs, one by a Munster club and two positions are vacant.
Though they have been very involved in IOA in the past, te two biggest clubs in Munster, for instance, currently have nobody on the IOA Executive Committee and have not had any for some time. Similarly for other active clubs in other ares. A relatively small club, Ajax, has three members filling four spots on the Executive.

So the (small) Leinster clubs do most of the administration and clubs
countrywide get the benefit. Or viewed another way: why should Leinster
do all the work? Is this right? Another view is that there are advantages for your club to being involved in the IOA: you can influence policy; you can avail of various initiatives that other clubs might not bother with; you can hear about opportunities and make international contacts.

Whichever view you subscribe to, there is an opportunity there for the taking: your sport needs you. (The IOA AGM is usually on during the Irish Championships at the beginning of May).

Friday, 18 January 2008

Jean O'Neill's Eastern European Tour 2007


Easter 3-Day
I went to the 2007 Czech Easter 3-Day in an area 100 km NW of Prague as an alternative to the usual JK in Britain. First I had to navigate in a hire car from the airport in the dark! All went well until I arrived in on the outskirts of Ceska Lipa, where I was staying. The map on the internet didn’t cover the whole area and I ended up in the town square, not knowing where to go. Seeing café lights on the far side, I drove across and went in. The bar girl knew where my pension was, but couldn’t direct me because of one way streets and my imperfect map. As I picked up my glass two policemen walked in and came straight up to me and took me outside - I had driven the wrong way around the square (I had checked for signs but couldn’t find any). After a lot of explanations in broken German and English, and showing of documents, they escorted me to the pension, round several twists and turns. I then walked back to the café- it was only about 200m away, around the corner - and the bar girl handed me my drink! It was 1 a.m. I later learned there is a zero alcohol limit! What a good start!
All three days orienteering were within a half hour drive. The terrain on the first day had lots of steep sandstone ridges and rocky passages. Days 2 and 3 were in another area on different parts of the same map: undulating mixed forest with a lot of marshes and not much white (runnable) forest. There was a chasing start on the last day. It was very good orienteering: runnable forest with sandstone pillars. Water and basins -in lieu of showers - were supplied. There were the usual equipment and food stalls and trestle tables and benches. The organisers arranged the pension (€8 per day) and gave me a car hire contact. I paid for everything on arrival. I would thoroughly recommend this event. The 2008 event - Sandstone Easter 2008 - is in the same region.

Hungaria Kupa
In August I went to the Hungaria Kupa (Hungarian Cup), encouraged to go by a Hungarian W55 and her English husband whom I had met at Easter. This is the largest event on the Hungarian calendar. It was very well organised and there were lots of extra activities. The event centre was at Orfu, a half hour’s drive from Pecs, a beautiful town near the Croatian border in the south of Hungary.. Bus transport was provided each day. It was a 5 day event with all days to count.
Days 1 and 2 were in adjacent areas. The forest was very runnable, with ‘negative’ relief – no hills but a non-stop series of circular deep depressions (dolinas) and lots of pits (not unlike Slovenia). Unfortunately I was not there for Day 1. On Day 2 I went very cautiously for the first 4 controls, then plunged in and found I could navigate OK, concentrating on the large depressions. I finished 8th out of about 20.
In the afternoon there was a mountain bike O- event and in the evening back at the lake the Micro Sprint was held: there were several heats with 10 in each in a mass start. 15cm x 15cm controls were used. There were also false ones. Map scale was 1:750. Courses were very short, finish times about 2 mins. It was very exciting to watch - especially seeing confused orienteers running in and out of changing cubicle area with lots of narrow corridors! The finals were held about an hour later. Neil Dobbs was the only other Irish orienteer in Hungary - he ran very creditably.
The 3rd day was a Park-O sprint event in the grounds of Harkany Spa, mapped at 1:2000. There were lots of individual trees and sculptures, kiosks, buildings, paths, pools, paved open areas. It was very fast and exciting! I won the 2 k course in 15.26 and won a voucher for a meal for two in a hotel in the spa town. (I ate with my Hungarian friend from Easter) When the Sprint-O was over I took part in the National Hungarian Trail-O Championships. After that it was a toss-up whether to bathe in the thermal pool, or swim in the regular 50m pool, or have a shower. In the end, I did all three! It was very hot, mid 30’s.
The assembly area for Days 4 and 5 was within walking distance of Orfu, the finish was beside the lake. Again it was karst with oodles of depressions, generally good runnability, but there were some cleared messy areas. I was 1st W60 again. As I had missed Day 1 I started last in the Day 5 chasing start and did not rank overall. The courses for the older age classes were short, however the Elite men ran from 9.5 to 13.6 km and the Elite women ran 6.4 k to 8.4 (excepting the Park O)
There was a Mobile-O on Day 4 mid afternoon…… This was for pairs - one had the map, the other had to find controls. Each competitor was given a SIM card.! I didn’t talk to anyone about it as hardly anyone spoke English. It must have been good craic! At 7.30 there was a road run around the lake - 7k. I chose that day to go sightseeing in Pecs so missed it. The whole week was very enjoyable, excellent orienteering, good weather, supplementary events.

Spartacus Cup
I enjoyed Hungary so much that I went back at the beginning of November, this time to Budapest. There was an exciting street/sprint–O event around the hilly medieval citadel area of Buda, overlooking the Danube, on the Friday. This was followed by a 2 day end of season (for them) forest event about 50 k away. So I spent one night in Budapest, got a lift to the Spartacus Cup and stayed in a student hostel with some Swiss orienteers. There were about 500 competitors each day.
Assembly was the same for both days, with forests on opposite sides of the road. What a contrast! Day 1 was undulating and very runnable, some green and undergrowth. Most controls were on re-entrants or depressions. My only complaint was that it was too short - I only took 25 mins and won by 15 mins! The 2nd day consisted of steep spurs, all white forest, and middle green areas with boulders and small clearings, rows of small re-entrants, poor visibility. It was very physically demanding. I was much slower than on Day 1, in 4th place, but I held on to win overall. Hot spicy tea was given to everyone at the finish out of a big vat - very welcome as it was cold with a biting northerly wind
So ended my 2007 European season!

Jean O’Neill
W60, Fingal Orienteers

Thursday, 17 January 2008

In the Dark about Night-O?

Last Tuesday's Irish Times article on orienteering by Ian O'Riordan may unleash a flood (is that possible?) of new orienteers seeking health, fitness and enlightenment, into the forests of the country, but how many of our current orienteers have sought the enlightenment of night orienteering? Night-O makes even the tamest area interesting, especially at this time of year when the plumes of steam from your breath in the beam of your head torch make the map hard to see and the way forward even harder.

Still, night-O is enormously enjoyable: the careful navigator can make up over the careless one as navigational errors can be made far worse at night when every tree looks the same, every path could be the one you want and you can't really see far enough to relocate on a more distant feature.

The 2008 Dublin By Night series has started with UCDO's event in Belfield last Tuesday evening. All the buildings looked alike in the dark, and every time UCDO use the map there are more and more of them. High fences and hedges (with the control always on the other side) rewarded careful map reading, a fact I only realised afterwards.

The series continues with Hellfire Wood on January 22nd, Howth Summit on February 2, Slade Valley on February 5th and Phoenix Park on February 16th. Some of the city parks (St Anne's, Bushy Park, Deerpark) are not being used this year. There are two courses each night, but night-O is not for novices or the faint-hearted!
If you live elewhere, look out for night-O events in your area.


2008 O-Planner

The Irish Orienteer Guide to Some Major, some minor,
and Some Holiday Events for 2008

It’s the time to plan your orienteering year: do you stay at home and do just the small local events, or take in the major national competitions like the provincial and Irish Championships and the Inishbofin 3-Day, or is this the year to go for something more exotic? If you don’t want to go too far, the Welsh 6-Day in August might appeal; otherwise, how about Scandinavia, Italy or France? We are becoming more adventurous in our orienteering choices – Jean O’Neill’s article to follow on her experiences in the Czech Republic – so have a look around and see what you can manage. Some of our elite Juniors recently went to Sweden for an intensive O-weekend, so there are lots of opportunities.
Even if you don’t travel far, there’s plenty of orienteering at home. How many events in Ireland is it possible to do in one year, I wonder? Now there’s a challenge!

In January there’s orienteering in Madeira (23-25).

Portugal will be popular this year in the lead up to the World Masters (over 35) Championships (WMOC) in June. You can kick off with the Portugal O-meeting near Faro on 2-5 February 205 ( This is followed a week later by an international and World Ranking event at Cantahede (Feb 8-10) on terrain similar to WMOC. (Look at for orienteering packages in Spain and Portugal).
At the end of the month the Mediterranean Open Championships are at Bari in southern Italy with training and two more events on March 8-9.

In March, Portugal also features with the National Championships east of Lisbon on 6th-9th . In neighbouring Spain the 21st Martin Kronlund Trophy is near Madrid the weekend before Easter (14-16th) and the 20th Murcia Trophy in southern Spain at Easter. Closer to home, JK2008 south of London offers a sprint, two days individual and relay ( at Easter, while the usual Czech Easter 3-day event is at Cezka Lipa, north of Prague. In SW France there’s also a 3-day in the Dordogne, based at Cadouin. After Easter some of our younger enthusiasts are heading to the Spring Cup near Hillerod in Denmark from March 28 to 30.

April starts with the Leinster Championships on the 6th at Fair Mountain, west of the Wicklow Gap, run by Setanta Orienteers. The British Championships on April 19-20 are at Culbin, on the Moray coast of Scotland, are on a forested sand dune area used for the 1976 World Championships. An adjacent forest featured in last year’s Scottish 6-Day and was a superb orienteering area. ( Training in Latvia in preparation for the European Championships runs from 5th to 13th April, with a WRE on 5th-6th (

May starts the island hopping with the Irish Championships on Bere Island, Co. Cork, run by Cork Orienteers on the 3rd-5th. The format is Day 1 classic; Day 2 relay; Day 3 middle distance. The World Championships training camp in Moravia in the Czech Republic runs from May 1-4 and includes the Czech Spring 4-Day.

Continue island-hopping with the Irish 3-Day on Inisbofin from May 31 to June 2, perhaps confusingly called the Irish Three Day Orienteering Championships. In June the famous Jukola 7-person relay runs its 60th time through the night of June 14-15 near Tampere in Finland. Ryanair fly there from Dublin …

July is peak season for multi-day international events, with the Swedish 5-day O-Ringen in Dalarna in southern Sweden from 21st to 25th clocking up 11,500 entries by early January. Hungary has the Hungaria Kupa from 2nd-6th , Holland has the Holland OL 5-days at Breda (7th – 11th), Norway has the Sorlandsgaloppen near Ryanair’s Kristiansand (7th – 13th) and also the Nordvestgaloppen near Voss from July 30 to August 3rd; the World Championships in Moravia, Czech Republic, have spectator races open to all as well as Trail-O from 10th – 20th July.
Also in July, the Finnish 5-Day, Fin 5, is at Saarijarvi in central Finland on July 14 – 18.

August has two 6-days, the 6-Jours de l’Aveyron, near Millau in SE France, where it looks like the entrants get a “free” O-top from Noname, and Croeso 2008 in Wales. Both areas will feature open limestone type terrain, so it may be trade-off between convenient access and probable better weather for camping.

Heading for Autumn we have the Northern Ireland Championships and Veteran Home International in Northern Ireland on 4th-5th October, with the individual on the excellent Magilligan sand dunes in Co. Derry and the Relay in Co. Antrim.

There’s actually a great international orienteering calendar on-line at which fills in lots of the gaps in the TIO listing. Go and have a look, and don’t forget to write about your experiences for us when you come back!


Tuesday, 1 January 2008

e-TIO 31 December 2007

This is the first attempt at introducing TIO in electronic form since the printed version became rarer and rarer. Normally at this time of year there is a preview of the major events for the coming year and I hope to do that in the next few days: CompassSport has just dropped through the letterbox with its version and 2008 looks very promising for international multi-day events.

We've just had the traditional Christmas fun events so it's back to the more serious stuff in January, though Score Event aficionados might be interested in the Northern Ireland Score Championships at Gortin Glen, Omagh, on 23rd February. The highlights of the Irish fixtures list include the Leinster Championships at Fair Mountain, Co. Wicklow, on 6th April, the Irish Championships on Bere Island, Co. Cork, on May 3-4-5, and the Inishbofin 3-day on May 31-June 2.

For the Elites the year will be dominated by the World Championships in the Czech Republic on July 10-20 and the World Junior Championships in Sweden on June 29 - July 7. For the Veterans, the World Masters Championships are in Portugal on June 28th to July 5th.

Those of you with Juniors should note the planned training weekend in West Cork on February 15-16-17th, that's the end of the mid-term break. Check the details with Ruth Lynam or Greg McCann. The weekend includes a Munster League competition at Tír na Spideoige, near Ballingeary on the Sunday.

Leinster fans of night orienteering will be glad to hear of another Dublin by Night series starting on Tuesday night, January 15th, at Belfield. Five events are planned, finishing on 16th February with the Phoenix Park.

There are moves to have a mountain bike orienteering series on Saturdays in the early summer but details are sketchy as yet. In any case the NIOA MTBO Championships are at Craigavon on 31st May, if you're not on Inishbofin.

Congratulationa to mark Stephens, Harry Millar and Jack Millar of LVO on winning their class at the British Schools O-Championships in Dorset in November. The three, representing Down High School at Downpatrick, had 5 points to spare over closest rivals Ulverston in the Lake District. LVO W14 Aine McCann also won her class in the individual competition, adding this to her current Irish and British W14 titles. Aine was one of three LVO Juniors (Katarina and Andrea Stefkova being the others) who made up the winning Women's team at the Irish Relay Championships at the JFK Arboretum in Co. Wexford in October.

Happy News from Violet and Steven Linton
On behalf of Violet and Steven Linton, LVO are very pleased to announce the birth of their second daughter. Ruby Linton was born on the 22nd of December, showing great consideration in allowing her mum home for Christmas. Ruby weighed in at 7 lbs. and Rebecca thinks that it is the best Christmas present ever. LVO wish the whole family all the best for 2008.

Remember, for the latest information, go to

John McCullough