CONTROLLING for ELITE TRAIL-O

Brian Parker (GBR)

There are very many similarities between controlling Foot Orienteering events of a high standard and controlling elite events in Trail Orienteering.

An obvious identical function is for the Controller to act on behalf of the competitors in ensuring, as far as is reasonable and practicable, that the competition is equally fair and testing for all contestants.

An equally obvious similarity which is demanded of controllers in both disciplines is familiarity with the Rules and Guidelines.

However, there are major differences between Foot Orienteering controlling and that for Trail Orienteering. Much more attention has to be given to the quality of the terrain and the conditions of the access routes. The Controller has to ask two questions.

Is the terrain suitable for Elite Trail Orienteering?

The key to elite Foot Orienteering is high quality terrain; terrain that is detailed, complex, interesting, subtle, a pleasure to be in and to run through.

The key to elite Trail Orienteering is exactly the same, except there is no running. The Trail-O competitor is indeed constrained to the tracks but, in all other respects, experiences the same rewarding stimuli from being in the terrain as the running orienteer.

The best terrain is that with complex ground and contour detail demanding skills of map interpretation in three dimensions. The presence of rock, water and vegetation features adds variety and further interest.

Man-made features can play a part in elite Trail-O but, in general, are of secondary value. The best Trail-O competition is based on complex natural detail.

Judging from an existing orienteering map whether the terrain is suitable for elite Trail Orienteering is not easy. Mapped terrain that is clearly suitable for elite Foot Orienteering - complex, runnable, absence of paths, etc. - may not be so for elite Trail Orienteering. Such areas can disappoint. It is essential not to pass any opinion about the suitability of a potential area until a site visit has taken place. The area must be examined carefully to establish whether the detail on a 1:15000 or 1:10000 map is both compact and varied enough to provide sufficient good Trail-O sites.

Can a wheelchair competitor get round the course?

Rule 6 says:

"The course must be accessible to the least mobile................"

In practice this means wheelchair competitors. This, in turn, implies firm surfaces and room to manoeuvre.

This last point is very important. There are good reasons why a competitor may need to turn and back-track. The course may be out-and-back along a single track or there may be spur tracks, or the competitor may wish to return to some earlier point along the course.

Whatever the reason, the competitors must have turning spaces in places where they need them. The space required for turning may be greater than imagined from experience with conventional wheelchairs. The recumbent style of wheelchair is much longer and cannot 'turn on a sixpence'.

The need for firm surfaces has to be carefully considered. There are two reasons. One is simply the requirement to get round the course. The other is to avoid the competitor getting excessively muddied hands, thereby degrading his or her enjoyment of the event.

It may be appropriate for the Controller to ask for track repair to be carried out.

The gradients on the course also need to be assessed. Not all wheelchairs are powered. Guideline 6.1.6 offers some advice on the matter:

"Maximum slope for unassisted wheelchairs is 14% for no more than 20m........."

This guidance may not be as useful as it first appears as most people, including controllers, cannot estimate slopes with any accuracy. It could be said that most could not recognise a 14% slope if it jumped out and bit them on the leg.

Controllers are advised to seek the guidance of those experienced with wheelchairs when considering surfaces and slopes.

If the two questions about terrain quality and wheelchair access can be satisfactorily answered, then you have an elite Trail Orienteering event. This then brings the Controller's attention to the administration of the event.

Comparison between Foot-O and Trail-O Controlling.

The structure of the mapping, planning and organizing processes, and how the Controller interfaces with these, is shown in the diagram 'Elite Controlling Information Flow'.(Not available)

For Foot-O the mapping, planning and organizing are largely separate functions. There is some information flow between them. Map corrections may be fed back to the Mapper. The Organizer does need to know where the Planner proposes to have the finish, etc. There is much more communication between the Planner and the Controller arising from course scrutiny and control site selection.

All these are well understood.

Much less well understood is that the functional arrangement for elite Trail Orienteering is very different.

Here we have the mapping and planning becoming a highly integrated function. The Planner cannot produce elite sites without a specially prepared map and the Mapper cannot produce such a map without knowing the exact intentions of the Planner. Closely monitoring and assisting this process is the Controller.

Such is the degree of intercommunication required that:

The mapping, planning and controlling should be carried out together on site at the same time.

Note also that there is increased communication with the Organizer, arising from more in-forest involvement (pushers, timed control manning, etc.)

Window of Validity

Some consider that the viewing point is very precisely set as the exact point at the top of the marker stake. Indeed, a recent question on the O-net asked whether seats should be provided for walking disabled who cannot bend so that they could view from the top of the stake.

This is incorrect. The competitor may view standing or seated and it is the Controller's task to ensure that viewing from either height is acceptable. In practice this usually means that the visibility from the lower position is not obstructed by vegetation.

There also have been examples of control flags being placed so precisely that only a minor sideways displacement of the head alters the alignment of two or more of the flags. This is over precise and not good practice, if only because disturbing the marker stake could alter the answer.

It is recommended that a one metre square window be considered at the viewing position such that the flags do not change lateral order when viewed from any point within the window. This is not to say that all flags will be visible from all points, but that the answer remains the same.

  
             <-      1m       >
             __________________
            |                  | ^
            |                  | |
            |                  |
            |                  | 1m
  Window of |                  |
 Validity-->|        VP        |
            |        --        |
            |        ||        | |
            |________||________| v
                     ||          ^
                     ||          0.75m
                     ||          |
                     ||          v
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


All flags to count

Those who set multi-choice questions in education know that good questions of this form are difficult to generate. Elite Trail Orienteering is no different.

Avoid placing flags simply to make up numbers. Each flag should be positioned so that it has some definite connection with the control description. The best distracters are those flags which are right in several respects but wrong in one.

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