Report by Colin Matheson, Assistant Coordinator, Scottish 6 Days, Lochaber 2021
Lochaber 2021 is go! This multi-day event is widely recognised as one of the orienteering world's greatest regular festivals and has been staged every two years since 1977. Lochaber 2001 was in serious jeopardy due to Foot & Mouth Disease, but we could never have predicted that twenty years later we would face what was not just a UK crisis but a global pandemic.
As restrictions started to bite, plans for the usual 3,000 entrants from across the world were shelved and to meet "social distancing" rules agreed with sportscotland (our conduit to the Scottish Government) a limit of 2,000 participants per day was set. Under Level 0 in Scotland this would make a viable event but as things stand it seemed most likely that both Argyll & Bute and Highland Council areas would still be at Level 1 come the 1st of August. 1,000 participants at Level 1 had been signed off with sportscotland and with full support from all the main stakeholders the Scottish Orienteering 6-Day Company Ltd and the Scottish Orienteering Association met and agreed the best way forward was to stage two "3 Day" events. Most competitors had already booked accommodation and there was overwhelming support that some orienteering was better than none!
Delivering a quality event is now the top priority. There were some great lessons learned from the recent Lakes event and there is an acceptance that more of a bare-bones event has to be the way forward in the short term. No commentary, no club tents, no caterers, no results boards, no run-ins but a focus on some great orienteering in some fabulous scenic areas. The three-day split is designed to give a reasonable geographic spread, one run over an area previously used, one Middle distance race (new areas) and an additional Long distance race on a new area.
The Central Organising Team and other key volunteers are now compressing last minute plans into the last month. Fortunately, draft maps had been produced before the second lockdown bit and planners and controllers have worked very hard to deliver print ready courses. Fingers crossed that the situation doesn't go backwards and as they say locally... Fàilte gu Loch Abar agus don Ghearasdan, dà mhìle fichead’s a h-aonl.
Photo credits: Colin Matheson