Friday, 30 January 2009

Nocturnal Navigation

In order to explore the international dimension to the great night-O debate (but actually to avoid annihilation by the CNOC orienteering machine at Ballinastoe) four of us travelled to Mytchett, Surrey, for the 2009 British Night Orienteering Championships. The forests south of London are near perfect for orienteering; open and runnable with complex contour detail and undulating terrain. Mytchett is also criss-crossed with a multitude of tracks, some little ones from mountain bikers and some gargantuan ones gouged out by military vehicles. Recent wet weather had made the churned up forest roads into tank traps that were best avoided, sometimes forcing me to take a cross country route against my path-preferring night-O instincts. But the bramble-free open forest was a joy to run through.

The turnout of 250 on a cold, clear, Saturday night was unusually low for a British Championship event, however it should be noted that they, like us, have a 16+ age rule for night-O. I asked the organisers why the event was held on a Saturday and not a Tuesday and was met with a bemused blank stare.

I did an unscientific survey while waiting for my start slot: of the 27 people around me, three had small hillwalker-style headtorches (about 60 lumens), one had an interesting looking home made job, one woman had a dual-beam system that I think she unscrewed from her mountain bike, and the other 22 had the ever contentious (in Ireland) Silva or Mila 20-watt halogen Night-O headlamp (about 200 lumens).

The popularity of the 20-watt night-O headlamp was illustrated by the fact that the Ultrasport shop at the event was sold out of them before most competitors had even arrived. It was also interesting to note that modern high-power LED systems were in a very small minority at the event. One member of our group pushed the light bar even higher with a brand new 550-lumen Silva Alpha system that lights up the terrain by setting fire to the surrounding vegetation.

The courses were very well planned and challenging, testing our technique to the limit; even tiny lapses of concentration were punished with several minutes of tricky relocation. Proper international night-O is not dumbed-down for the lack of light or for the competitors’ choice of equipment; it has exactly the same level of technical difficulty as daylight-O and there is also little difference in course length. The men’s elite course was won in 6.9 minutes per kilometre.

Úna May of 3ROC was the star of our party, winning the W40 class (but not the British title; she’s still one of our own). Horror of horrors, Úna had a problem with the high power bulb in her headtorch and had to join the ranks of the photon-deprived with a mere 100 lumens, but even this impediment did not stop her magnificent navigation skills shining like a beacon through the darkness. The Lagan Valley junior development squad was also there, spending their UK Lottery money on shiny new Silva headlamps and compasses. Already a formidable force to be reckoned with, they performed very well in the M/W16/18 classes. Maybe we should arrange a night-time shoot-out between LVO and CNOC? He who has the biggest torch wins…

A great orienteering weekend was topped off 14 hours later on Sunday morning with a second very enjoyable run (orienteering, not hillrunning) at the nearby Yateley & Minley Concorde Chase event.

Here are the results of the event and here are the courses and routes on Routegadget.

By the way, in his 2009 event calendar I think John McCullough has found the ideal solution to everyone’s night-O concerns; it is possible to orienteer through the night with no need of a headlamp at this event:, the perfect politically correct compromise solution.

Marcus Geoghegan, January 2009

Editor's note: There is still some night-O to be had at home. It's a great way to sharpen up your navigation and add a new challenge to your orienteering. Check out the Fixtures List on the IOA page. In Leinster we've had two night events in Wicklow and there's one at Tara in Co. Meath on 1st February, plus Killiney Hill, Belfield and Phoenix Park to come. And who says that orienteering doesn't help your geography? Why shouldn't Wicklow and Meath feature in the Dublin by Night series?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

2009 Orienteering Preview

2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the start of Irish orienteering: why not mark the occasion by spreading your wings a bit?

A strong Euro, weak dollar, weak pound, recession: whatever the economic climate, now is the time to start planning or fantasising about your orienteering year. If you have never taken an orienteering trip abroad, it’s something every active orienteer should do at some stage and it may become part of your annual orienteering plan. It will bring you to interesting places, allow you to do something you enjoy and provide enough free time for non-orienteers in the party to do things they enjoy too.

Even if you don’t stray from Irish shores, you can take in multi-day events like the Irish Championships in Donegal or the Shamrock O-Ringen in Killarney. Without travelling too far, you could take in the Jan Kjellstrom in Northumbria at Easter or the Scottish 6-Day in Perthshire in August.

Every year the excellent CompassSport magazine ( publishes a review of many of the events to feature in the coming twelve months and you are referred to this for a more comprehensive list.

Another good place to look for international orienteering information is the website "World of O".

If you have been to any interesting events abroad that you would recommend, please send in details and I’ll include them.

Now read on …

Ireland has the usual Championships plus the Shamrock O-Ringen in 2009. The Leinster Championships, run by Fingal, are on April 4th at Rossmore forest in Co. Monaghan, an area which has not been used for 20 years or more. Make a two-day of it with the LVO event on Saturday 3rd at Crosmurrin, Co. Fermanagh.

The Irish Championships on open mountain in south Donegal on May 2-4 at Lough Eske. Closing date (cd) 18/3, 1/4. There is a proposal to run a Northern Ireland Sprint Championships on Friday 1st May, so you could maybe manage 4 days orienteering on the trot. Later that month, the Shamrock O-Ringen is based at Killarney on May 30-June 1 with events at the Black Lakes, Crohane Mountain and Muckross, three great areas with a range of terrains.

If Trail Orienteering is your speciality, the Irish Trail-O 2-Day Championships are listed on the IOA fixtures list as being at Castleward near Strangford, Co. Down on April 25-26, run – of course – by LVO. For information on Trail Orienteering, see here.

The Setanta Rogaine, a 6 and 24 hour score event for pairs, moves back from midsummer to 18th July in Wicklow.

On September 12-13, the NIOA hosts the BOF Junior Inter-Regional Championships which may be tied in with open events for the rest of us: if not, you could offer to help, or at least go along to see some of the future stars in action, while the Senior Home International comes to Fermanagh on October 3-4.

The October Bank Holiday weekend sees the Munster Championships at Ballydavid, in the Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary on the 25th, staged by Cork O and the major events of the year finish with the Connacht Championships on 29th November, venue to be confirmed.


The big events in Britain include the Jan Kjellstrom festival at Easter and the Scottish 6-Day in August. There is a National Event in the Lake District the Sunday after Easter which you could take in as part of a JK trip.

April 10 -13: JK in the Northumbrian Hills. Sprint in Newcastle City, 2 days individual at Kyloe (JK85 anyone?) and Relay. Trail-O also. Closing dates 31/1/09, 28/2/09, 20/3/09. (If you really like planning ahead, the JK will be in Northern Ireland at Easter 2011 …)

2-8; Scottish 6-days, Tayside with event centre at Perth racecourse. Easily accessible from Edinburgh or Glasgow. 6 days with a rest day in the middle. High quality orienteering in a relaxed atmosphere.

The major British events for 2009 can be found at

Jan 24 British Night Championships: Aldershot
Feb 14-15 Regional Event & Welsh Championships: Newport
Feb 21 Scottish Night Orienteering Championship: Aboyne
Feb 22 National event & Southern Championships & Interland: nr Beaconsfield
Apr 19 National event & Northern Championships: Ulverston
Apr 25-26 Lincolnshire Bomber Weekend: Lincoln
May 3 British Elite Championships – Long: Forest of Dean
May 3 The "Mike Nelson BOKTrot" National event: Forest of Dean
May 9 British Elite Sprint Championships: Nottingham
May 10 British Elite Championships – Middle: Loughborough
May 23 National event & Scottish Championships: Kingussie
Aug 2-8 Scottish 6 Days Regional Events: Tayside
Sep 5-6 Junior Home International: Newborough, Anglesea
Sep 12-13 Junior Inter Regional Championships: N Ireland
Sep 12 National event: Skipton
Oct 3-4 Senior Home International: Fermanagh area
Nov 14-15 Veterans Home International: Longshaw/Eyam
Dec 13 National event & Midlands Championships: Cannock

Easter in Eastern France? April 11-13: Easter in Kaysersberg, near Colmar. 2 x Classic, Chasing Start. C/D 25/1, 8/3.

On July 11-13 there’s a 3-day in the sandy, rocky forests of Fontainebleau, south of Paris. See here. It's followed on Bastille Day by an event called "The 77" including a course with 77 controls, 2 x 7.7. km loops, in Seine & Marne, Départment no. 77.

The longest running and best attended multi-day events tend to be in Scandinavia, the home of orienteering.

The 61st Jukola overnight 7-person relay in Finland - the biggest relay competition in the world, with more than 1200 teams running - on June 13-14 ( and the Junior World MTBO Championships (incorporating the European Champs and the European Youth & Masters Champs) at Birkerod in Denmark on June 22-28 may appeal.

On July 18-24, the O-Ringen (Swedish 5-Day) is based at Eksjo in Smaland, southern Sweden. It's is no longer that much more expensive than Ireland (unlike Norway) and a trip to the O-Ringen need not break the bank. They are unlikely to repeat last year’s attendance of 24000 but the events are all close together and cyclable or bussable from the event centre.

The week before, you could squeeze in the Finnish 5-Day at Hameenlinna (July 12-17), not too far from Ryanair's Tampere.

This is a busy year in Italy, with the Junior World Championships on July 6-12. On September 5-9 there's the Puglia 5-days in southern Italy, with 3 days of Forest and 2 days of cities, You could also run in the highlands around Asiago, in wonderful prealpine forests, on 16-17 May at the Highlands Open.

Mid-November attracts hundreds of orienteers to a street-O in Venice which is reportedly a unique event. In 2008 it was on 16th November and was attended by a group from Ireland. See

Other Europe
Some of the most memorable events I have run in have been in Switzerland. This year they are hoping to capture some of the magic of the mountains again, with a 6-day at Muotatal which unfortunately clashes with the Scottish 6-Day.

2-8: Swiss O-week, Muotatal, south of Zurich. 6 days with a rest day in the middle., Event includes a town sprint, short distance, three in pre-alpine terrain and an alpine long distance to finish. It sounds a bit like the superb 2006 Swiss O-week in Zermatt.

At the end of May there’s a 3-Day at Breda in Holland (May 29 - 1st June) with extra events sometimes involving beer drinking and the like,

Spain & Portugal have a range of events, particularly attractive in the winter and spring, like the 2nd Madeira Orienteering Festival (Jan 28-30) with 3 middle distance races and a night sprint.(

If you want warmer weather, try the 23 - 30: Portugal O summer 6 day in July, Cantanhede, Beira, 100km south of Porto. Runnable forested sand dunes, warm weather - not too far north of the WMOC08 terrain.

August 11 -16: The 5 Days of Spain. Up by the coast in the North, based just south of Santander.

Eastern Europe
10-12: Prague Easter 2009. Kokorinsko nature reserve, 45 - 75km north of Prague. Expect tricky sandstone terrain and cheap beer within 100m of the finish line at each stage. C/D 1/3, 29/3.

August - 9: Bohemia 5 Day, Novy Bor, Czech Republic. 90km N of Prague. Same area as used for the World Masters in 1998 - and winners from then can compete free of charge! Maybe a cheaper holiday alternative to Switzerland and the Scottish. C/D 30/4, 30/6.

You might like to tie this in with the World Orienteering Championships at Miskolc in Hungary from August 18 to 23. Though aimed at the Elites, the WOC welcomes ordinary orienteers too: spectators help to make the atmosphere and to make the event financially viable. You can run in the Hungaria Cup from the 21st to 23rd. (

North America
August : 2008 Canadian Orienteering Championships in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba, There is a 2 day the weekend before


Greenland June 24-27 Arctic Midnight. Certainly a different place for a holiday.

April 10-13: Australian 3 days. Launceston, Tasmania. Day 1 is a World Ranking Event. 4 more events up to the 19th make it a 10 day feast of orienteering.

In September the World Masters O Champs 2009 is at Lithgow, New South Wales, Entry fees are a bit pricey as it is part of the World Masters Games and you have to pay their accreditation fee too.

The World Mountain BikeO-Championships are at Belt Shemesh, in Israel on August 9-16. The International O-Federation are watching the political situation in Israel and will decide if they need to change the plans for the event closer to the date.

One of the most unusual events this year will be the Istanbul 5-Day on November 4-8. It includes a night sprint event in the Grand Bazaar, with a map on two levels: green control circles on the upper floor, red on the ground floor! Last year the 5th event had more than 600 runners.

After that, you're on your own! Good luck with your plans and please write about it for TIO when you come home.