Report by Amy Curtis member of Bristol Orienteering Klub
During the summer, Bristol Orienteering Klub (BOK) organised a very successful series of Junior Sprint Virtual Orienteering Courses using mobile phone technology.
History will doubtless remember 2020 for the onset of the Corona virus pandemic: in the Orienteering World, we will remember it as a time where our experience of orienteering changed and widened.
For a while, there was no orienteering at all but then members started using their local Permanent Orienteering Courses (POCs) or their old kept maps of local areas to challenge themselves, but this wasn’t quite enough and so it quickly developed from a ripple to a typhoon of activity throughout BOK members.
One of our BOK members, Scott Bailey started using and sharing the Norwegian GPS virtual orienteering App “UsynligO” (Norwegian for invisible orienteering) which was already very widespread and well used in Scandinavia and which BOK embraced. He presented a webinar with British Orienteering on Virtual Orienteering using the UsynligO App which was well watched and as a result the App has also been taken up by some other clubs.
With many members taking new-found time during lockdown to map new areas and update older maps, we were able to use our library of georeferenced maps to rapidly produce a plethora of virtual events. We now have a very large mapping team with highly developed skills in digital mapping technology and many members surprised at their new-found ability to not only download a mobile phone App, but also to successfully navigate the App and even enjoy its technology!
At least 29 different virtual orienteering events were made available over the lockdown period – generally one a week, and it has proved an effective and safe way to maintain orienteering training, skills, races and series/leagues.
Accurate figures are not available for the Virtual Orienteering Courses (VOCs), which have continued throughout the summer months. However, we know that participation exceeded 300 runs by late July and is now probably considerably greater.
By the beginning of the school summer holidays, there were enough local areas mapped to the correct specification to add them to UsynligO that Jamie Hayward who leads BOK Juniors set up a brand-new, local challenge, open to any juniors (and seniors!) in the area.
The events were based in the many wonderful parks in and around Bristol and courses were planned so that roads and trickier terrains were avoided for the junior routes. Most were within a larger map available as a virtual urban race, so that families could making a whole day of it!
Using the UsynligO App, maps could be printed from home and then the course run in your own time, using your own smartphone to record the checkpoints you've visited.
Names and times were added to a scoreboard, so there was a little bit of friendly competition which was communicated via our weekly email newsletter. There were eight events in total and the top four scores on one standard of course counted.
We advertised and promoted the new BOK Junior Summer Series both to all our members, and to other local running groups and families with an interest in outdoor sports and health.
Three courses were offered for each week in each location. The White course was recommended for primary aged juniors who have limited experience of orienteering with very easy to follow line features like paths, fences and hedges between controls no more than 100m apart; the Yellow course for experienced primary aged juniors, newcomers and younger teens with easy to follow line features, but where they might have to make decisions between controls and where some corner cutting might be fastest; and the Micro-sprint for experienced juniors and adults who fancied a new challenge with a variety of difficulty where it does not follow line features with some more challenging terrain and route choices.
Clear and precise instructions were provided about how to download and use the App and then users encouraged to print off their chosen map, go to the location, upload the app following the way to the start and then turn up the sound and Go! As simple as that!!
Each time you hit a virtual control; your phone makes a jingle that tells you you've found the correct one. Depending on your phone GPS, this can sometimes take a few seconds, but there is also a noise for finding the wrong control which makes it easier to distinguish. As you reach the Finish, you will get a fanfare sound. It’s so fun it always makes you raise your arms in cheer! You are done! UslynligO saves your result and BOK added it to their score sheet.
Encouragingly, this summer series attracted and included a number of runners not previously involved with BOK events.
The leading competitors were:
1. Tessa Johnson
2. Rachel Dudman
3. Laurie Taylor
1. Daniel Wareing
2 (Joint). Isla Overy and Connie Rogers
1. Marcus Perry
2. Megan Wareing
3. Rachel Peatfield
Both Rachels and Laurie are newcomers to the sport. Laurie, who is 8 years old and just going into year 4 had never orienteered or even heard of BOK before, but until lockdown he was doing parkrun each week. He does hillwalking with his family, so he was already involved to some degree with map reading and he had also used his navigation skills in his Beavers group.
We are hoping that Laurie and both Rachels will join us at some of our restart events and hopefully join BOK Juniors.
Daniel won the yellow course!
We are supremely proud and happy with how engaged BOK members have been in working together to keep orienteering alive and running during this strange time and thrilled to have been able to introduce the sport to newcomers which we welcome with open arms.
What activities or events has your club organised? Have you recently attended a re-start event? Was it your second or third? How did you find it?
Maybe you have downloaded a Permanent Orienteering and/or Virtual Orienteering Course and enjoyed it with your family? Or you have recently enjoyed taking part in a local MapRun course or even designed your own MapRun course for members of your club to take part in?
However, you have been taking part in orienteering, share your experiences with others who may not have re-started orienteering at their club yet.
Share your orienteering news and send your snippets, and photos to Jennie Taylor Communications Officer for publishing on the British Orienteering website. Email: email@example.com
Or share direct on social media channels - don't forget to tag British Orienteering into your posts.
To view the current British Orienteering Guidance visit: