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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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.)
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
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 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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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