Welcome to the first edition of the Orienteering Tasmania Technical Newsletter. OT has identified a need for a regular communication mechanism to:
Impart technical information to planners and controllers
Provide useful advice to planners and controllers
Provide information to event organisers (e.g. policy changes)
Educate organisers on available software tools (Condes, SITiming etc)
Other stuff will no doubt come to mind…
The intended audience for the newsletter is all those involved in event organisation however anyone else with an interest in event organisation is welcome to join the mailing list. The plan is to have regular contributions from those responsible for the more technical aspects of our sport, but others with something to share, e.g. what went wrong or worked really well at an event, are more than welcome to contribute. Contributions should be sent to . Suggestions for other discussion items relating to the more technical aspect of Orienteering are also welcome.
We plan on the newsletter going out monthly.
So - once again welcome and hopefully we all get something of value from the newsletter.
This section of the technical newletter is intended to keep organisers up to date with anything new you need to know. For our first newsletter we have a bumper edition because we have made a few changes recently.
‘READ THIS FIRST’ – The Organisers’ Toolkit
The first thing you need to know about is the Organisers’ Toolkit. Here you can find lots of resources: orienteering rules; advice on how to organise events and set courses; information on Condes; our safety and cancellation policies; documents you may need to provide to landowners; and templates for providing information about your event. Note that the latter do change quite regularly so please always download the latest version.
NEW! Newcomer Registration
OT has developed a new system for registering newcomers at events using a QR code. This will allow newcomers to turn up at their first event for free without registering on Eventor, as well as enabling us to collect contact details for safety and COVID-compliance purposes. For more information read the document ‘How to register newcomers’ on the Organisers’ Toolkit
NEW! Pre-entry Policy
Local and Twilight Events
Pre-entry by Eventor remains the preferred option while the COVD pandemic continues.
Online series entry to Twilights available for 2/3 total cost of all events.
Limited Enter on the Day (EOD) will be offered for an extra charge of $2 per adult, $1 per junior, $5 per family (maybe 5 maps of each course).
EOD for free is available to complete newcomers (see above).
On the day payment will preferably be via our EFTPOS system. The extra charges are built into this.
No guarantee EOD will be able to do the course of their choice.
The extra maps printed for EOD will be need to separated from the pre-ordered maps, so that people who have pre-entered do not miss out.
Entries close 4 days before the event in the south (and whatever timing suits you in other areas).
EOD replaces the Eventor late entry option.
OST and Championship Events
Pre-entry by whenever the organiser wants (usually 4 days before event, can be earlier but not later unless OK’ed with map printer).
Late entry via Eventor 2 days before the event, with a $5 late fee for adults, no fee for juniors.
Very limited EOD only on moderate and easy courses 6,7,8 (post-COVID).
EOD discouraged because payment online may not be available due to lack of mobile reception.
I think we all agree that from a participant’s perspective, orienteering is great fun.
I think we would all also agree that organising an orienteering event is challenging. It’s not rocket-science difficult, it’s just there’s a lot to things to think about, and there are so many ways that things can go wrong.
What is ‘wrong’ ?
Unfortunately there are also many different types of ‘wrong’! There’s the obvious mistake like a misplaced control. There’s ‘wrong’ in terms of the courses being wildly too long or too difficult for their audience. There’s other ‘wrongs’ when the queue for the toilets cause people to be late for the start, or the parking areas are full, or competitors get lost on the way to the start.
In fact there can’t be many other sporting events which have so many opportunities for ‘wrong’ as orienteering. I think that experienced major event organisers would be well equipped to organise something simple outside of orienteering, like the City to Surf, or the Olympics.
So this occasional series of WCGWWGW is for two purposes. Firstly to inform us of things which have gone wrong in the past, so you, as event organiser, might keep it in mind as you go about planning your own event. And secondly to comfort those who have had something go wrong – rest assured it happens to everyone at all levels.
This issue will focus on something really, really simple : the taping of routes – I mean what could go wrong with that?
Orienteers can be dumb. And blind.
I think as organisers we often overestimate the cognitive ability of an exhausted, or even just anxious orienteer – for example who among us hasn’t seen someone completely fail to see the blindingly obvious taped finish chute? Or fail to follow (what you thought) were clearly marked tapes to the start. Ultimately humans under pressure can be completely stupid, so if you want someone to do something (like follow tapes or markers), you have to make it next to impossible for them to do any alternative!
As an example of this, in the Middle Distance Champs JWOC in Hungary in 2018 the athletes had a very short section of spectator run through midway through their course. It was marked on the map, and clearly taped on the ground. What could go wrong?
Well the start of the tape was a metre away from the control, slightly obscured by a small tree, and because the section was so short there was only a tiny bit of dashed line on the map (see photo below). Something that you’d notice 100% of the time if you weren’t running, but in the heat of the race with sweat in your eyes and your heart beating at 200 bpm, you just might not see it. Unfortunately some athletes (including the favourite) failed to see it, punched the control, and without tape stopping them, navigated straight to their next control. See Simone Aebersold’s track below in orange. Ultimately 4 athletes were disqualified for not following the taped route.
Where possible, save orienteers from themselves.
Ultimately, following the taped route was the athlete’s responsibility, but I also see this situation as an organiser failure – using 2 extra metres of tape to create more of a funnel from the control to the run through could have avoided the heartbreak for these 4 runners and their teams.
Another example of ‘saving orienteers from themselves’ were the officials at the sprint final of the World Masters in NZ in 2019 (and commonly at other sprint events now). Rather than hide themselves in out-of-bounds areas and take down the race numbers of orienteers who accidentally crossed them (so they could disqualify them later), they taped the areas off and/or positioned officials really clearly to discourage orienteers from sabotaging themselves. Having a large amount of disqualified competitors is not the sign of a successful event!
So keep in mind when you tape the route to the first control, or create a taped leg for kids, or to the start, or for a spectator run-through, that in the pressure of a run, with a mind focussed on other things, or simply from a child’s perspective and height, that tape might not be as obvious as you think it is.
Introducing Ask Turbo - What you always wanted to know but you were too afraid to ask:
Why isn’t the start always where I pick up my map? And do I have to visit the start triangle if it’s not on my way to my first control?
S. Hortcut, Mt Nelson
At major events such as OST events and championships, start of the course is deliberately obscured from view so that the runners who haven’t started can’t see where the runners before them went, thus giving them an unfair advantage. This complies with Orienteering Australia rule 22.5:
22.5 The start shall be organised so that later competitors and other persons cannot see the map, courses, route choices or the direction to the first control.
If necessary, there shall be a marked route from the time start to the point where orienteering begins. The marked route shall be shown on the map if it extends beyond the area occupied by the start triangle on the map.
Ideally organisers will be able to place the start so that you naturally pass by it, but even if it is out of your way, you must still pass by the start control as the rules state that an orienteering course begins at the start (not where you pick up your map).
So Mr S.Hortcut, make sure you pass by that start control.
Starting back in June 2005, John Brammall who sadly departed a couple of years back, started a regular contribution to what was our monthly newsletter, O-Know. John’s comments which he named Controllers Corner, are as relevant today as they were back then. Valerie has kindly allowed us to reuse John’s Controllers Corner columns so they will become a regular contribution to our newsletter. Valerie sees it as a fitting tribute that his contribution and passion for orienteering lives on and that through the column he continues to give back to the sport. Those he had encouraged or controlled still acknowledge and apply what they learned from him in course planning and fairness.
The following article was provided by John and appeared in the Jul 2005 edition of O-Know.
The Competition Rules for Orienteering Australia include a really useful Appendix (2) on Principles of course planning ( - you can access this through the OT website.
Paragraph 3.5.4 Fairness of control sites states: ‘It is necessary to choose control sites with great care and notably to avoid the ‘acute angle’ effect where incoming competitors can be led into the control by outgoing runners.’ In other words – avoid dog-leg controls!
A key aspect in course planning is to ensure fairness. A dog-leg control is potentially unfair. We can’t predict where runners will be at any given time, so with a dog-leg, some runners could gain a benefit, while others will not.
In the above examples, the legs A-B-C show a sequence of controls where runners leaving B are going to be running away from following runners (from A), and will not give away the control (B). Contrast this with the sequence D-E-F where if there is a runner leaving E to go to F, there is the strong probability that anyone approaching E from D will see them, and profit by it. This is a fairly obvious case that course planners can correct.
The legs G-H-I show a more complex situation. The leg from H to I offers interesting route choice either to the right along the spur and over the creek, or to the left (back towards G)to a creek crossing near the rock faces. This second option potentially creates a bad dog-leg. If the course planner wants to preserve the H-I leg, then the approach to H needs to be from a much more southerly direction.
It is very easy to get caught out by this third situation when we are course planning. Contours, vegetation and actual route choice can create an unexpected dog-leg. We really need to look carefully not only at how a control is likely to be approached, but also the direction in which runners are likely to leave the control, and what terrain features might affect this.
A couple of final points:
It is possible that what looks like an obvious dog-leg might in fact not be one because the terrain will force runners to approach and leave the control in such a way that avoids the dog-leg.
It is not as critical to avoid dog-legs in sprint events because of the complexity of a large number of controls in a compact area (with routes criss-crossing).
Dog-legs tend not to be of concern in MTBO – but still need to be looked at in terms of fairness.
Overall, avoiding dog-legs will help us to set fairer courses.
Condes is the tool we use for course planning. It is awesome software and can do more than any of us know, yet it doesn't take long to learn enough to create most events.
Your finished courses in Condes will be very satisfying to you, but this is not the end product. What really matters is the piece of paper (damp, wrinkled, possibly blood-spattered) in the runner's hand. Good courses can be spoiled unless the printed map gives the runner all possible information.
Condes provides functions to help maximise the clarity of the printed map. This is all explained in the Condes_tips document in the Organisers Toolkit section of the OT website. Unless you are a pro, scan this before you start course planning, and then really read it prior to map printing. If you find anything wrong in it, please tell Jeff. Changes might arise from a software update.
You spent happy hours at the computer, zooming for detail or panning for context, fully appreciating how the course uses the country. The runner is instead struggling to piece together a clean run from the visible clues. They will not be lining up to thank the course planner if critical clues are carelessly obscured.
Course planning symbols and their dimensions are defined for forest competition in ISOM2017-2 (International Specification for Orienteering Maps 2017), and for sprint competition in ISSprOM 2019 (International Specification for Sprint Orienteering Maps 2019). Both these documents are available from the IOF (International Orienteering Federation) website
Sprint (1:4 000)
7 mm sides
6 mm diameter
4 mm height
Concentric circles, diameters 5 mm and 7 mm
Forest (1:15 000)
6 mm sides
5 mm diameter
4 mm height
Concentric circles, diameters 4 mm and 7 mm
The important thing to note is that these dimensions are specified for the printed scales of 1:15 000 and 1:4 000. When enlarged (or reduced), the overprint symbols should be enlarged (reduced) proportionally. This requirement is more noticeable for forest orienteering maps where we occasionally have maps drawn at 1:15 000 printed at 1:10 000 and 1: 7 500 (and occasionally at 1:5 000), so a 1:15 000 map printed at 1:5 000 will have control circles with a 15 mm diameter, compared to a sprint map printed at 1:5 000, which will have control circles with only a slightly smaller diameter than sprint maps printed at 1:4 000.
The reason why the circles are enlarged (or occasionally reduced) is to maintain consistency with control descriptions. Older versions of the mapping specification prescribed a fixed size for control circles, so for detailed terrain, it was often necessary to have different control descriptions for the different scale maps as the area covered by a 5 mm circle at 1:15 000 is greater than that covered at 1:10 000 – strict enlargement eliminates this problem, however, where forest maps are printed at a scale of 1:5 000 for all competitors, there will be no inconsistency, so it is reasonable that the course overprint symbol sizes should be a size that doesn’t dominate the map, although the much preferred option is to stick with the standard scales for forest maps (1:15 000, 1:10 000, and for detailed maps for older age groups, 1:7 500).
The course overprint symbols are generated by course planning software (in Tasmania we use Condes – currently version 10). The symbol sizes to be used are defined in the Canvas>Course Overprint Symbols and Dimensions menu. The symbol sizes for sprint maps don’t usually present a problem (unless printing at, say, 1: 1000), so the discussion will focus on forest maps.
By default, for forest maps, the ISOM 2017 dimensions are selected (as defined in the ISOM 2017 specifications, hence they are not shown in the dimensions panel of the dialog box). If you really want to change the symbol sizes, select the Configure dimensions and symbols for this canvas radio button:
When this option is chosen, you can change the symbol sizes to whatever you want, but remember that the map symbol sizes (not the overprint symbols) will be increased (e.g. 3x for a 1:15 000 map printed at 1:5 000), so you should probably increase the leg and circle line widths to compensate for the increased line widths (e.g. contours and tracks) on the map itself.
Note that the map will be printed according to the settings you choose, so it is your responsibility to ensure that the map looks sensible! Don’t assume the person printing the maps will make changes to improve the presentation of the competition map. If you feel you must deviate from recommended practice and insist on printing forest maps at 1:5 000, either accept that the overprint will look silly, or experiment with overprint symbol sizes and line widths before sending the map off to the printer.
Director, Technical Orienteering Tasmania
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