Welcome to the latest edition of OT's Technical newsletter. Topics covered in previous editions can be found on the OT website HERE.
Lots of great information in this issue:
1. Control placement (John Brammall)
2. Event cancellation (Sally Wayte)
3. Condes leg lines (Jeff Dunn)
4. Control numbers (Greg Hawthorne)
5. Checking control sites for Twilight events (Cathy McComb)
Controllers Corner - Control placement (John Brammall)
The most crucial aspect of an orienteering course is that every control is exactly where it is meant to be. An incorrectly placed control will almost inevitably mean the cancellation of any course that uses that particular control.
One of the main tasks of the controller is to ensure that controls are correctly and fairly placed for an event.
There are a couple of basic "rules" that govern the placement of controls in general:
On easy navigation courses, there needs to be a control at every major change of direction. The controls need to be placed on the approach side of the feature so they can be easily seen by the beginning orienteer. When a control is placed at a track junction, then the control needs to be placed just into the beginning of the road or track that the competitor will be taking for their next leg. In other words, once the competitor is at the control, they are facing in the right direction to move off on the next leg.
For moderate and hard navigation courses, the competitor is meant to see the feature before seeing the control (providing the feature stands higher than the control stand and flag, which is not always the case). This means that the flag is generally on the opposite side of the feature from which the competitor is approaching.
Several points need to be remembered when actually placing the control:
The control must be where it is meant to be. This should not be a problem when the control site feature is a point feature (eg. a boulder, root mound, knoll, rock-face, etc.). However, there is the possibility of error when the feature is a contour feature or a linear feature. The likelihood of error with a linear feature is avoided by placing the control at a bend or corner (of a fence, track, watercourse). With a contour feature such as a gully or spur, then it is more difficult to determine exactly where the control should be placed. For example, how far up or down the gully should it be? Control descriptions allow for the planner to identify the site as in the upper part or lower part of a gully, but this is only really useful in a reasonably short gully (such as is common in the Pittwater sand dunes). In a longer gully, then the planner needs to locate the control where there is a good reference point such as a near-by point feature. It is likely that this feature will also be used by competitors as an attack point. If there is no reasonable point from which to locate the control, then there is the risk that this becomes a "bingo".
An important task of the controller is to make sure that the chosen control sites are accurately represented on the map. If for some reason they don’t quite match up eg. there might be an unmapped feature, or the relationship between the mapped features mightn’t look quite right, then the controller should possibly suggest to the planner that that control should possibly be moved to a nearby feature that they feel is better represented. Remember, mappers are human and given the large areas covered by our maps, there will be small errors or ‘misfits’.
The control must not be hidden. Once the competitor reaches the correct side of the control feature, the control should be clearly visible. After all, the challenge of orienteering is how to navigate to the feature, not a treasure hunt for the control once you are there. It is very easy for the planner and controller who might have visited a control site several times and become familiar with the terrain to feel that the control is too obvious, and want to tuck it away a bit. The role of the controller is to ensure that the control is fairly placed. It should not be tucked in tight against a rock. (How many of us at some stage have stood on a rock or rock-ledge and not seen the control just below our feet because it is tucked in tight?) A good guide here is that you should be able to comfortably move between the control stand and the feature.
A control can also be hidden by vegetation such as bracken or a fallen tree or a tree trunk, and this is not obvious to the planner and controller until they actually put the control I place. With low vegetation then you can generally trample it down a bit to improve visibility. If there is a fallen tree or tree trunk blocking the competitor’s view of the control, then it is best to ‘ease’ the control away from the obstruction to make it more visible.
If planners and controllers remember that our sport is meant to be enjoyable and fair, no one will complain if any control site is possibly a little easier to locate that is generally expected. Hidden and bingo controls are unfair, and no-one enjoys a frustrating treasure hunt.
Event cancellation (Sally Wayte)
Due to the large amount of work that goes into planning, orienteering events are rarely cancelled. Yes, I can hear you all laughing - last year probably set a record for the number of events cancelled. Not only did we cancel numerous events due to COVID, we cancelled the Tasmanian Middle Champs in St Helens at the last minute due to high winds and fire.
It’s pretty stressful making the decision to cancel. On the day of the Tas Middle Champs last year (which would have been the day of the Australian Long Distance Championships if COVID hadn’t already cancelled that) the organisers, as well as many current and previous Board members, were huddled together at Kellraine Units, debating the pros and cons, scanning the skies, and avidly checking the weather forecast.
The decision will be easier if OT has a clear policy, we realised. So you can now find this on the Organisers'Toolkit.
This document gives clear guidelines on when and how to cancel an event. It also states who is responsible for making the decision, and describes the refund policy.
I urge all event organisers to read this before your next event.
Condes leg lines (Jeff Dunn)
Recently Condes imposed a gap between the control circle and the red line to the next control. For very close controls this can result in no red line at all, or worse, just a red dot midway between. This is a deliberate attempt to prioritise map detail over red line, but you might not like it and it can be changed.
Such settings are found in Canvas > Course overprint symbols and dimensions, and this particular one is in the submenu Additional dimensions and fonts > Gap between circle and leg line. Changes apply to every control so if you want to tune this differently for each control you need to set the gap to zero and then use the Cut line tool to put in a gap where required - very fiddly!
Remember you can also uncover map detail by kinking the red line, using the Add point tool [+] then Ctrl drag.
Control numbers and control codes (Greg Hawthorne)
At the recent Australian 3-Days, some courses had a leg from 5-6 that for many competitors (myself included) became 5-9 when the nearby control 9 was mistaken for a 6 (unfortunately it's only an obvious mistake when you look at the actual map - I defy anyone to work out the legs by looking at the Livelox version of the M70 course for Day 1).
"How could you be so dumb?" I hear you say, and that's a fair comment, but should the controller have noted it and suggested a course change?
Identical control codes and controls within the proscribed limits
It’s unlikely to happen in Tasmania, but where clubs have their own set of SI boxes and different clubs are organizing an event on the same map (or overlapping maps) as part of a multi-day competition, it’s possible that controls could have the same control number. A more likely problem in Tasmania is that we inadvertently transgress rule 19.4 (controls shall not be sited within 30m of each other (15m for map scales of 1:5000 or 1:4000)) because different organisers use proximate features.
In such circumstances, the controller (or controllers) should look for potential problems by preparing a composite map of the controls for days when the same or overlapping maps are being used.
Another instance where confusion can arise is the control code
Rule 19.6 states:
“Each control shall be identified with a code number, which shall be fixed to the control so that a competitor using the marking device can clearly read the code. Numbers less than 31 may not be used.
The figures shall be black on white, between 3 and 10 cm in height and have a line thickness of 5 to 10 mm. Horizontally-displayed codes shall be underlined if they could be misinterpreted by being read upside down (e.g. 161).”
Once upon a time, we discarded control codes that could be misinterpreted, but this is impractical with control codes affixed to SI boxes as there is a limited number of potential codes (31-255 to be precise – Why? Simple answer “Computer says no!”)
Is this an issue? – not usually, but if you have controls in close proximity (and obviously not transgressing rule 19.4), it’s best make sure that:
The control codes comply with rule 19.6 and they have distinctly different numbers so that competitors don’t accidentally punch an incorrect control, even though rule 19.4 isn’t in play.
Checking Control Sites for a Twilight Event (Cathy McComb)
So you've set the courses and now it's time to check the control sites for twilight event - but what exactly are you checking for?..
Here's a list of things to go through at each site:
1. Is the map correct in the area of the control?
This is important - do things look right? Are there any new buildings or obstacles (construction work, new paths). Does it all make sense to you? If it does, then it's fine. If it doesn't, consider moving the control or getting a map update before using that site (contact Greg Hawthorne to discuss a map update)
2. Will you need a lockable control (most likely if it's a twilight event), if so, can you lock it to something? You may need to adjust your control sites to find lockable features. Don't assume people will find the control box if you lock it to something more than a few metres away from the marked control site. Make a note if you have to move the control site so you can fix it up later in Condes.
3. Once you have found a lockable feature, will you need more than one length of wire? Some trees can be surprisingly wide so you'll need to take extra lengths of wire with you when you put the control out. Make a note of this now so you aren't caught short later.
4. Finally, what is the correct control description - what is the feature you've selected and what side of the feature will the control be on? Make a note now before you forget.
That's it! Just don't forget to update the courses and descriptions once you get home and you'll be on your way to a successful and hassle free twilight event!
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