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Tweet Monday 16th November 2020

Using of a hybrid punching system at Southdown’s Kent Night Cup event

Report and photos by Neil Crickmore, Event Organiser and member of Southdowns Orienteers.

Please note:  This event took place before the new government lockdown restrictions came into force in England at 00:01 on the 5th November 2020.

Although based in Sussex Southdowns Orienteers (SO) annually contribute three events to the 26 event Kent Night Cup (KNC) league. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation the KNC organisers declared that it was fine for those events based in urban terrain to ask competitors to write down lamp post numbers rather than hang controls. Having spent much of lockdown setting MapRun courses for SO members I wanted, as Event Organiser, to give competitors the opportunity to use this technology that many of them had learnt to love. However, this came with several potential problems including the fact that some regular KNC competitors didn’t have the equipment/desire to use MapRun, and even those that did had experienced problems with some “virtual” events. This led to the use of the hybrid system in which all controls were lamp posts and competitors could record their visit to each control either using MapRun and/or the traditional pen and paper approach. Allowing the use of MapRun then introduced the problem of how to keep the course hidden from competitors before the start. While the use of a PIN number would work well for MapRunF (phone) users, since they could be given the PIN to reveal the course in the start lane, it would be less useful for MapRunG (watch) users since the PIN is required to download the event files. Network connectivity can be rather patchy in Sussex so we felt that it would be problematic to assume that MapRunG users could download the event files in the start system. These considerations led to the final solution of publishing the event files in advance but with a “redacted” map which would hopefully prevent competitors working out exactly where the course went.

KNC event showing hybrid punching system, writing down lamp post numbers on the map or using MapRun with the map redacted to hide the actual control locations.

The official timing for the event was based on SI so everyone ran round with a dibber to punch both a start and finish control. The start punch was placed about 25m away from the start kite and the kite was set up as the MapRun start. This allowed competitors to click the “Go to start” button on their phone/watch in the start system. Despite this there were some interesting moments with competitors checking dibbers, starting watches, phones and headlights in the one-minute box and then having to punch the start box. What proved to be more comical – from an organiser’s perspective – was competitors reaching the finish, getting the MapRun feedback signal, but then forgetting to actually punch the unit. Fortunately, download was close to the finish and all competitors in this situation were able to rush back and dib having been informed that they had no finish punch.

The 2020 lockdown has seen a lot of clubs trying GPS orienteering for the first time and I certainly feel that it has potential for integrating with more traditional punching methods. Over half of the competitors used MapRun to record their control visits and only one had a problem with their trace not being accurate enough to record two of their control visits so they wrote down those lamp post numbers. One of the organisers of the Southern England GPS Orienteering League (http://seoul.sportsontheweb.net/segol2020/ ) – Tom Dobra – was competing at Maidenbower and was keen to gauge opinions on the use of MapRun from both a competitor’s and an organiser’s perspective. I can certainly report that I was more than happy not to have to organise the putting out and collecting in of controls on a damp October evening.

Photo above:  SEGOL Organiser, and Maidenbower winner, Tom Dobra socially distancing discussing the event with a fellow competitor.

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