Monday, March 10, 2014


Orienteering started as a forest sport, well away from the public eye. Terrain running and aerobic endurance were key strengths in an athlete and the ability to take accurate compass bearings across vague terrain.  While these strengths and this type of challenge remain important to our sport, sprint orienteering and increasingly urban orienteering have revolutionised the availability of competitive orienteering in our neighbourhoods.

This really represents the growing realisation that orienteering challenges can be found in a variety of environments as long as you shape the challenge to complement the terrain, not try to impose a particular idea of what orienteering is on unsuitable terrain.

The "Challenges" below represent some developments in Urban Orienteering, or orienteering in newer types of terrain. They have a New Zealand focus, but will also draw in influences from around the world. Try to think of them from your perspective both as a competitor and as a mapper and planner of events. This will be a live page, challenges will be added over time, so make sure to come back and see whats new.

1. What route choice for you?

The Sacred Girls race at this years Sprint the Bay certainly made a splash. But why? Two factors spring to mind: a growing focus on impermeability (the more unpassable features you have to avoid the better!) and the bold use of terrain with long route choice legs between areas of detail. The stakes are high on a leg like 15 in this race. Get your route choice wrong and you could be 1 minute down. The requirement for brute speed is also increased...this can only be a good thing as speed is required to perform on the world stage, look at current world sprint champ Marten Bostrom. What is your route choice to 15?

2. How do you approach unfamiliar terrain?

The 2012 Australian Sprint Nationals was held on the coastal platforms of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast. This is a great example of how new mapping specifications and scales have opened up possibilities for orienteering that formerly didn't exist. The terrain has shaped the challenge (or could the scale be even smaller?). The use of this sort of "special" terrain creates challenges for the competitor, it is hard to prepare specifically for unknown terrain. What can you do to mititgate this, what do you need to focus on before your start and as you move through the first controls?

3. What works for you?

The same route choice is not right for everyone. You need to know what your orienteering technique is and play to your strengths ,as well as improving your technique over time. The map above is part of the Wellington City map, the first three controls all have technically difficult straight (ish) route choices with longer easier options available left and right, what would you do? This map also shows the kind of course marking that will be used for the Urban Enduro. The timed section in purple...the untimed section in blue takes you to your next challenge.

4. Avoiding Distractions

This is a snip of map from the 2013 Vancouver Sprint Camp. Vancouver struggles for good traditional orienteering terrain nearby, but they are making up for it by excelling in sprint orienteering. This is a great example of how course setters can make it safe to orienteer in Urban terrain by making busy roads out of bounds for competitiors. What does it mean for competitors though? More pivots, more loops, more retracing there steps and more people everywhere. How do you handle passing, or crossing over with your competitors on course? Does it affect your ability to navigate smoothly, what strategies can you adopt to orienteer well through these situations?

5. How much can you read?

This is the famous Barbican Centre a key part of the City of London urban orienteering race. Can you read this on the run? How are your strategies in an area of this much detail different from a more typical sprint orienteering event. For the mappers it become a huge challenge of legibility, what to map and what not to map, especially when there are multiple levels involved. If you understand their constraints perhaps it might give you some insights as the best way to approach navigation. Expect this level of detail in places of the new Wellington City map that will host the Urban Enduro.

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