There have been several instances of late where competitors have "run" (or "cycled") off the map. Recent discussion by the OA Mapping Committee suggests that this might be more prevalent, especially where maps do not have clearly defined boundaries.
When a new map is being made, the limits of the map are generally set by various things such as natural features, linear features like roads and fences -often the boundaries of the property. These boundaries serve as crucial catching features if a competitor is at risk of going off the map.
Traditionally maps are mass printed through off-set colour printing. This is still the cheapest way to reproduce high quality maps on good quality paper. Gradually, though, those maps can become out of date due to changes in the terrain (eg. farming or logging operations).
However, since the switch to OCAD (computer drawn) maps, and the improving quality of digital printing, we have been moving to print maps "as required" for events. This allows us to keep the map up-to-date, and is also especially useful when we want to overprint courses onto maps (rather than hand-drawing onto already printed maps).
Computer drawn maps also have the added advantage that only that part of the map used for a particular event need be printed, and the selected area can often be fitted to an A4 sheet making copying cheaper. But this might leave to various problems that the Course Planner and Controller must be alert to:
1. The "natural" boundaries of the map might be lost. By reducing the map, the natural boundaries can be lost, and with them important catching features. Setting courses that go close to the edge of any map is always problematic. It is much more risky if there are no clear catching features. So it becomes essential to ensure that the courses are set well within the limits of the printed map, and with good catching features - especially on courses for the L and P plate orienteers. It is also vital that clear safety bearings are provided for the event. There have been suggestions that safety bearings (instructions) should be included on the control descriptions – an excellent idea!
2. The North arrows might be cut off the map. North arrow/s is required on all maps. The most fundamental skill in our sport is to keep the map oriented (to the north). This becomes somewhat difficult if there are no north arrows on the map. If a map is being reduced in area, then it may be necessary to redraw the north arrows.
3. Legend. It is generally accepted (and this view is supported by the OA Mapping Committee) that maps should have legends, although it is accepted that experienced elite athletes do not necessarily require them (the map has been drawn strictly in accordance with international requirements). While the absence of a legend does not necessarily incorporate risk, it can certainly reduce the understanding and enjoyment for our newer orienteers who have not yet become really familiar with the symbols, etc.
4. Scale. The standard scale for an orienteering map is still 1:15,000. Variations from this need to be sought from the state mapping officer. The use of 1:10,000 is becoming more wide-spread, especially on complex maps, and for younger and older age classes. Scales for sprint events can be 1:7,500 or 1:5,000. The scale of the map is often agreed and permission granted when the map is drawn. Editing down the area of the map is not an excuse to enlarge the scale. The important point is that variations from the original scale of the map need to be discussed between the Course Planner and his/her Controller, and the appropriate guidance and permission sought to vary from that scale.
Also, the scale must be clearly shown on the map – both as the figure (i.e. 1:10,000), and the N-S gridlines set at the proper distances (which might require editing on the reduced map).
Course Planners and Controllers should never lose sight of the fact that events should be enjoyable and fair and safe. It is important that they ensure that the map has appropriate boundaries (i.e. catching features), that the scale is appropriate (and approved) and shown on the map, that the north arrows are there, and there is a legend (at least for the easier courses).