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Preston Park Sprint O - A Rant!
Posted: 04 July 2009 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I am angry!

I wrote an article in the last edition of The Southdowner expressing my displeasure at being told where controls are WHEN I HAVEN’T ASKED. Today’s event in Preston Park was planned by Tim, my husband, but I did not have a preview of the courses and was running competitively. This was my very first event since The Southdowner came out as we were away for the Handicap and 3-in-1. So what happened at the very first control? Well, I was having difficulty locating number one (due to a sloppy bit of map reading). A passing orienteer, seeing I was puzzled, promptly told me where to find the control! Thanks very much! I wanted to do this course by myself and get my own time. There was no chance now, as I ran round the other 25 controls disconsolately. It was orienteering by team-work.

At this level of event, I don’t care if other people ask for and receive help. It’s supposed to be fun not an exam. But why, oh why, give unsolicited information to experienced - and I was wearing club colours - orienteers?

Why do so many do it? Am I a lone voice, an eccentric?

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Posted: 04 July 2009 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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It is awful when something like this ruins your race isn’t it? In Wales last summer (on one of the days that it absolutely threw it down) I was approaching the last two or three controls and I had to drop down into a valley. There were no further attack points so I had to be absolutely sure that I knew where I was. So, I stopped at the top of the hill and was double-checking everything. I had been running for 90 minutes in the most horrendous weather, absolutely exhausted, but really pleased with how it had been going so far.

At that very moment one of my best mates from SO comes along and, obviously concerned,  says, ‘Are you alright Rob?’. So, of course I tell him I’m fine and charge off down the hill.

Ran round in circles for the next 15 minutes, no idea where I was. Then I messed up all the remaining controls. I was so incensed that if it hadn’t been open moorland I would have punched the nearest tree :)

Still, 12 months on I can almost laugh about it…

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Posted: 04 July 2009 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Rob, I sympathise. These situations are always worse when you’ve run through adversity - whether weather or injury.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 07:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Another sympathetic vote here.  Needing to concentrate totally in order to stay in touch with the map, I also prefer not to be approached!  Of course, I would also help a lost child, but even then I tend to lose the plot!

One very successful orienteer - not from our club - told me that her strategy is to “keep her head down and ignore all sounds!”.

If I remember correctly the World Masters last year in Portugal had a rule (or a plea) which stated that it was not within the spirit of the sport to ask for help or to speak to fellow competitors.  However, of course, the participants were all old enough to know better and it was an international competition!

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Posted: 04 July 2009 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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The flowerbed issue seems not to have gone away though. Reading the details on the website on the Friday night I have to admit to being sad enough to do some serious “map-geeking” and using the routegadget file from last year memorized the layout of the maze. When I saw the leg I immediately knew that the quickest legal route was to run down the right-hand track to the second entrance and then cut back to the control. This I executed without any delay and took 20 seconds. I would suggest therefore that anyone taking less than 20s almost certainly illegally crossed one of the flowerbeds. Like many others I initially missed the control circle for 12 and didn’t take the optimum route to it. It took me 36 seconds but I reckon that I lost maybe 10 seconds here.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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In any competitive sport there will always be some that will do anything to gain an advantage but, in the case of these rose beds I do think the planners are as much to blame, in that the controls were placed to encourage competitors to step over the flower bed. I passed control 12 while trying to find my way into 11 so could just back track to 12 giving me a fast time of 24 seconds.

When I competed in the world masters in Canada I almost had the map torn from my hands by a competitor wanting to know where we were. He was unlucky as I did not have a clue, and when I did manage to relocate I was a long way from the position I had given him.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 10:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I quite like the rose gardens. If we return there for another Sprint-O, I think that it would be worth investing in the man-power to monitor it for cheating. When I was there with my camera, then no one jumped the flower beds.

If I were to plan it again then I would be tempted to pack it out with 5 or 6 controls, micro-o style…

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Posted: 04 July 2009 10:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Gosh! And I thought you only beat me every time because of superior navigational ability and greater running speed, Neil :-)

Actually, your time of 20 seconds compares with mine at 21 seconds when I ran it also knowing full well the route - your superior speed triumphs again. So hats off to those who managed 14, 15 and 16 seconds!

As for Ed’s point, that the planner encouraged competitors to step over the flower bed, the planner did his very best to explain that this was prohibited - on the website, by notice, verbally at the start, and in the control descriptions. My system may have failed; if it did I apologise - but don’t people read control descriptions? Two people declared themselves to have broken this rule at the end. I suspect that, if anyone else wants to declare themselves as disqualified then the results could yet be adjusted.

The control sites, by the way, were selected as the hardest routes through the “maze” and were not chosen to “tease” competitors unduly. (And they had to be at least 15m apart.)

It is a shame about this flower bed business, because the vast majority obeyed the rules and seemed to enjoy the challenge, which was, for me, one of the highlights of this area. It’s not often you get what is effectively a “maze” on an orienteering area to test map reading skills at that sort of micro scale. Perhaps we do have to leave that area of Preston Park out of future events - but it would be a shame.

We’ve all seen or heard experienced orienteers breaking rules such as seeking help. It’s a shame that they are not honest enough to participate fairly. The spirit of fairness should be all-pervading. Indeed, it is explicitly set out by British Orienteering rule 1.5 - perhaps a sad indictment of what the regulatory body expects!

But then I should be old enough and wise enough by now to understand that, as Ed says, there will usually be those who seek to gain an advantage somehow.

As a debating point, which is worse? Asking for help in some way, or stepping over an out-of-bounds area when you know you must not? And at what level of competition does this become important?

By the way, I do not imply that anyone deliberately cheated today. I suspect my message was probably not clear enough - and for that I apologise. The paragraphs about fairness above are general points.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Tim. This was a well planned sprint course it kept me thinking all the way round and we should not let 2 controls detract from that. I agree you did everything possible to warn competitors about crossing flower beds. My comments were based on the fact that on leaving control 10 and entering the rose garden I was faced with a large gap in the roses where I could have stepped over the flower bed, which I admit I did do last year not even thinking it was cheating. My point is that some will have stepped over this flower bed without even thinking that it was wrong to do so, and may even still not be aware of their mistake. As this gap looked very much like a path.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Just another view point: It was my first time doing a Sprint event (which Sam and I really enjoyed, thank you very much all!). I didn’t understand the subtlety of the instructions at the start, thinking that “do not step over the flower beds” meant “do not trample all over” ie respect the park. Just from my newcomers perspective I must say that I do feel the rose bed issue is a little bit “insider-y” – especially if it was actually possible to look it up ahead of time.
Anyway I agree with Edward’s summary above of how it worked, there were some big empty gaps and I stepped through unaware that this was supposed to be a sort of maze. I’ve asked Jaquie to take out my results, which I’m absolutely fine about, but just wanted to place a reminder that for slow-learning newcomers like me always, using words like “it’s a maze” would make it a lot clearer.
In any event, really enjoyed the idea of a Sprint event and will be back soon to try and post a valid score!

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Posted: 05 July 2009 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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I thought it was a great course, and really enjoyed it. I thought the maze aspect was good - orienteering is supposed to be about reading the map to identify your route, and then navigating along it. Picking the best route through a technically complex area is part of the game; unusually the technical complexity resulted from intricate rose beds rather than intricate contours, but none the worse for that.

As for making the rules clear to the less experienced, I think two points which could perhaps have been more emphasised were:

(1) it’s the map which determines where you are and are not allowed to go, not the terrain, thus an unmapped gap in the rose bushes is still out-of-bounds if it’s shown as olive-green

(2) the prohibition is on passing any part of your body through or over the out-of-bounds area. So no jumping the rose bushes, and (not relevant yesterday, but I have known it be an issue), no poking your arm over a not-to-be-crossed feature to punch a control on the other side.

My personal experience also set me thinking about what sort of problems a planner should try to set and what sort he/she should try to avoid. After punching 11, I went straight to the visible circle closest to the number 12 on the map, which turned out when I got there to be number 23. I then had another look at the map, spotted another circle near the number 12, realised that I had already been there, and so went straight to number 13.

With hindsight, I realised that I never spotted the circle to which the number 12 really related. If I had only checked my control descriptions, I would have realised that 12 was a monument, and I would have remembered that the last control I had visited was a vegetation boundary, and could therefore not possibly have been number 12. So all the information was there, but I failed to apply it, so certainly it was a legitimate course and my own silly fault that I missed a control.

On the other hand, is spotting all the circles and working out which number applies to which really an orienteering skill which the planner should be trying to test? Or would it have been better to use two maps, possibly back-to-back on the same sheet? If start to 12 had been on one side, and 12 to finish on the other, I would never have made that mistake. Those people who stood for a while at control 22 trying to find number 23 on the map would also have found it much easier had there been two maps. On the other hand, if you have back-to-back maps, there’s always somebody who gets confused between the two of them, so there’s no right answer. I just suggest it as a thought that maybe two maps might have been better this time.

Anyway, I enjoyed the event; thanks for putting it on.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Have been looking at the BOF rules http://www.britishorienteering.org.uk/downloads/documents/2007Rules_Jan07.pdf
I see it says “1.1.3 Competitors take part singly and independently….” which I guess implies ‘no comunication’ during the event with others. Can see anything more explicit but havent read the thing cover to cover. Tim mentions the ‘Fairness section’ above.

I operate on the silence rule, mainly because I am absorbed in my O. It is certainly good proceedure and ‘fair’ to only speak when spoken to, and only speak first if you have a ‘problem’. ‘A problem’ is certainly not ‘being unable to find the control’, especially in a park/sprint race! If a member of the public speaks to me I general say something. If someone says, help, I’m lost, which is rare, I’ll generally ignore them, but sometimes I stop! Depends on the race.
I think Judith has a fair gripe and it is good to highlight here that just because someone might look lost, they may only be in the process of working it out - which is, after all, the challenge of navigating.

Flower beds - marked on map as OOB. BOF rules say
1.6.5 Competitors shall not enter ‘out of bounds’ areas.
I would favour the taping of the flower beds (thus blocking off the gaps between roses). I suggested this last year. This should make people look twice on the map and stop people crossing them.
Shame that there seem to be issues this year when the problem was highlighted last year.

It also says elsewhere that competitors should not be tricked or tried to be ‘caught out’ - so also needs to be considered.

I guess you could have said that in this area, as an exception at this event, you can jump flower beds which are narrow as long as you dont touch any plants/flowers - but then I guess you are missing out on the navigating/routechoice, etc. (maybe mapping in OOB green with white stripes??)
You could also have a 1:2000 blown up insert of the maze on the edge of the map if legibility is tough.

All interesting stuff…

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Posted: 07 July 2009 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Regarding speaking to other competitors, British Orienteering rule 7.2.3 states “Competitors shall not collaborate in any way unless members of a pair or group competing together”, while rule 7.2.2 says “Competitors shall not deliberately draw attention to themselves. Shouting and calling are prohibited”. Silence is golden then, certainly with respect to the course.

In any case, I’ve never understood why competitors would want to help someone they’re competing against. My own strategy is to leave the control sites as quickly as possible so I don’t give them away.

However, at every level of event I’ve taken part in I’ve seen orienteers asking others for assistance - the “Where am I?”, “Where’s the control?” questions. This is clearly cheating. My own view is that this should not happen at the level of National and International events, (eg JK, Scottish 6-Days). But it does. (I would also include Badge/Regional events in this stricture if they still existed. I haven’t quite come to grips with the new event structure and what the replacement event is called though.) Nowadays my own response to navigational questions is “Don’t know” (whether true or not) or “This is a competition” depending on the situation. Elective deafness can also be useful.

There are exceptions of course for the ill/injured or those who are truly lost - though I think the latter, having received help, should retire or declare themselves disqualified at the end of the course. I’m still referring to higher level competition here. Can anyone quote the BO rule for the lost?

Returning to the issue of the maze, I see that CompassSport includes a sprint map of Millhouses Park which also includes a maze, this one a temporary construction of iron railings. Presumably reaching over the “uncrossable” railings is banned producing similar problems to ours in Preston Park.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Re: CompassSport Cliffhanger map - Ian D points out in his post that reaching over ‘uncrossable’ objects to punch is not allowed - same goes for Orient show style events (like at Cliffhanger). It seems only fair and logical.

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Posted: 08 July 2009 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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What an excellent and interesting discussion – just what this sort of forum can be good for.

Orienteering is an evolving sport and we are an evolutionary club hosting events with evolving formats. We should look at the event as a learning exercise and this discussion as the basis of a plan to go forward.

The rose garden maze at Preston Park provides a good bit of novel technicality to O events there. I think that we have to be careful about how such challenges are presented, however, in order to maintain fairness (and keep on good terms with land custodians and other users).

I thought that the concept of the course was excellent, and something that could be further developed in the future – I like Rob’s idea of having half a dozen controls in the area for instance. My biggest issue with it as it was at Preston Park last weekend was clarity of the course and terrain in that part of the map. Practically speaking, if you’ve got a network of 2m wide paths threaded through 2m wide rose borders then, to map to scale at 1:4000, these paths and borders need to be shown as 0.5mm wide features. This is pretty tricky to sort out when stood still, never mind when trying to move through a course. Orienteering should be a test of navigational ability, not eyesight! A further complication was that you couldn’t just regard the symbols as “info only” whilst traversing the area – there were distinct OOB/uncrossable rules attached. The course over-print was made particularly tricky and probably sacrificed some clarity to try to leave the shape of the maze as clear as possible on the map.

I think that the solution would be to have that part of the map at a larger scale as an inset – 1:2000 or even 1:1000 would probably be reasonable. There was some discussion about this at Preston Park after the run and Ravinous has mentioned this idea used in a very similar context above. NB. It wouldn’t be new for SO to do this at an event: Mike Gammon provided a course like this at his Training event at Slindon last Summer, where a detailed quarry area was mapped as an inset at a larger scale.

What is the consensus for including “Super detail” sections like this in subsequent Sprint-O races, and how could we do it to maximise fairness?

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Posted: 08 July 2009 07:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Peter Chapman - 08 July 2009 12:20 PM

What is the consensus for including “Super detail” sections like this in subsequent Sprint-O races, and how could we do it to maximise fairness?

I think enlargement of small sections of map which need extra clarity is an excellent idea.

However, experience suggests that the change of scale will upset some people.

I think the perfect solution is to show the whole map and the whole course at the main scale, and then have the enlarged sections as additions, possibly on the same sheet of paper, possibly on the back, whatever. Then those who don’t want the enlargement can ignore it, while others can take advantage of it.

Of course, it means more work for the planner/printer, and since some controls would be shown twice, offers scope for introducing a whole new class of map production error.

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