Jukola-team The SHOC TeamJukola is the biggest orienteering relay event in the world, held annually in Finland on the nearest weekend to the summer solstice. It is a 7 leg relay beginning at 11pm on the Saturday and taking around 8 hours for the winning team, with a women's 4 leg relay (Venla) also ran on the Saturday afternoon. This year's edition featured well over 3000 teams across the men's and women's fields including an all Australian team competing as SHOC (in running order and left to right in photo): Niko Stoner, Hugo Taunton-Burnet (QLD), Jett McComb, Oliver Freeman (NSW), Eric Zheng (NSW), Duncan Currie (NSW), and Sam Woolford.

Niko led the team out in the mass start of 1655 teams from position 494 (seeding is determined based on the previous year’s results, as we didn't run then we don't know how our start position was assigned), Jett ran the dawn leg (sunrise was officially at 3:19am but the dawn period was very long due to being only 3° south of the arctic circle) and Sam anchored.

The terrain was mostly flat and marshy, with a contour interval of 2.5m and a fair scattering of bare rock and boulders. The map, being 1:10,000 for 7 long distance courses, was enormous and the forking very complex. The arena was at the north end of Kauhava airport (an ex-military airfield) with event camping along the grass adjacent to the runway, and the infrastructure set up for the event was very impressive, with a massive finish/changeover area, several O shops, food tents and running water provided for the full 1.5+km length of the arena and camping areas. The atmosphere was fantastic, and hype was built even more by spectating Venla in the afternoon before, and a formation airshow by four fighter jets. Given only 2 members of the team had competed in Finnish forests before, we started with minimal expectations and a goal only to place better than our starting seed of 494th. Jukola-Forkings Relay Forkings

Leg 1 - Niko. Distance: 13.6km. Position 249th, 1:31:25
After walking the 1.5km down the runway from our campsite to the arena and going through the prestart check in I entered the start/warm up area, warmed up and lined up in my starting place of 494th. At 11pm they fired the cannon to signal the start and all 1655 runners in the mass start took off down the approximately 2km run to the start triangle this long run presented me the opportunity to get past some of the slower people starting in front of me. Once the enormous train of runners reached the start triangle we split off to one of 3 first controls, I was somewhat pushed to take the road to the right by the part of the train I was on. From there on I had a pretty clean run only marred by a few silly errors on the tricky controls in a vague area near the north of the map where I went with the train to a couple that weren't mine. Passing people out in the forest was rather difficult at times due to the train taking the same newly made track through the green, so whenever I could I took a road route as it was easy to pass people on them. Eventually I had made my way around the course (and recaught the train I'd been dropped from when I made my mistakes) and handed over to Hugo in 249th a massive improvement from our starting position and a smaller improvement from my place of 302nd at the first radio control.

Jukola-Master-Map Jukola Master MapLeg 3 - Jett. Distance: 13.2km. Leg position: 164th, Time 1:30:33
Strong performances from Niko and Hugo put me out on course around the 270th position. Up against strong competition in the Scandinavian 16 year olds and over 50s I knew it would be hard work to hold this place. Having completed rigorous night-o training in Tasmania I felt prepared for pre-dawn darkness however, at 3 am in the morning about 1 hour before “sunrise” my head torch was barely visible in the forest. Thankfully that training, previous experience in similar European terrain and some slight (massive) tracking from the 3000+ earlier runners allowed me to cleanly move my way past others and up to 207th around halfway into the course. After a small mistake following the wrong tracking and visiting some other controls I handed over to Oli in 212th.

Leg 7 - Sam. Distance: 15.8km. Leg position: 99th, time 1:43:56. Total time 11:24:21 (+3:26:00)
It was getting a little tight before the 7th leg mass start at 9am while I was waiting in the prestart, but I'd seen the radio times and was confident that Duncan would finish in time to hand over before the exchange closed at 8:45, which he did with 3 minutes to spare in 261st position. My course went well, I had a couple of mistakes but on the whole was running quite consistently, I was regularly overtaking people on previous legs and managed to gain 44 places for our team, although was never really running in a train for more than a couple of controls. The terrain was quite spongy and very uneven underfoot due to thick ground-level vegetation with moss covered rocks, which made the running quite physical but not particularly fast, and it was very muddy especially on the tracks or areas near controls where lots of people had trampled. The best navigation features were the changes in vegetation density and the small rises which tended to have more rock detail and less undergrowth in the forest which made for higher visibility. A fair portion of the map was quite vague, and I had a few controls where I struggled to read the terrain and resorted to following footpads in the general direction and hoping to see something to navigate by.

Overall the team ran very well and are very happy with the excellent result of 217th in a time of 11:24:21. Having smashed our goal and had heaps of fun in the process everybody was very satisfied. We’d like to thank everyone who followed our team from home and supported us to make it to Jukola in the first place. We are now looking forward to next year's competition with hopes to do even better!!