On a glorious midsummer night 36 teams went to battle against each other and the terrain of Tilgate Park in Crawley, West Sussex. The race started at midnight Saturday 24 June with the lighting of a cake to commemorate the 40th running of this competition. The competitors on the start line, poised with map in hand and torches burning, declined the offer of a slice then and there but welcomed it when they returned around an hour later.
By the time the course crossed the M23 (via a footbridge) about 2km into the race Jegor Kostylev had built up a lead for Forth Valley Orienteers (FVO) that the club were not to relinquish for the next seven hours despite their last runner Will Hensman not being at the handover when Grace Molloy appeared in the arena, perhaps a little earlier than anticipated, and with the 2nd fastest time on that leg. Behind Forth Valley Orienteers (FVO), British Army Orienteering Club (BAOC), South Yorkshire Orienteers (SYO) and Southdowns Orienteers (SO) were fighting for the other two trophies on offer. Although SO eventually came in 2nd an earlier mis-punch meant that SYO took the Handicap Trophy and BAOC the Sutton Park Trophy.
On the five person race the juniors from SYO finished first to take the Happy Harvester Trophy. The Southern Navigators (SN) Starlets were the third team to finish but being the first all female team took the Panasonic Trophy home. The next team to finish were local club Mole Valley Orienteering Club (MV) who used the experience of organising the South East Relays in a neighbouring forest the weekend before to claim The Devilla Trophy for best handicap team. The final honours went to South London Orienteers and Wayfarers (SLOW) who took the Star Posts Trophy for best Women’s handicap team.
The indoor event centre was a popular venue; for much of the race the most popular entertainment was sitting in a semi-circle staring at the wall where the position of each team at the two radio controls was projected. Come 6am attention switched to the kitchen where egg and bacon butties were being prepared and consumed with relish. Camping at the Harvester is normally in a big field but this year use was made of a lovely bit of beech forest from which members of SO had spent several person hours clearing brashings two weeks beforehand. It was a large and comfortable enough site that some competitors even claimed to had a reasonable amount of sleep.
As always these events require a dedicated team to make them operate smoothly. The running of the event was largely driven by Neil Crickmore after some early nagging from CompassSport editor Nick Barrable that it was about time that SO hosted the race. Neil ended up both planning the event and redrawing the map. Organisation was overseen by Ralph Phillips who also provided the underfelt used to protect the toilets and other communal areas from spiked-shoed competitors. This may just have been an excuse to get his own house re-carpeted. Controlling duties were performed by Gordon Parker of SLOW who conveniently had recently been promoted to a Level B controller (by the SEOA competitions officer – Neil Crickmore). Gordon also provided the expertise to get the radio controls working and integrated with the results system.
The Harvester is not an event that clubs are queuing up to organise, it’s a long night for the organisers and the planner is invariably subject to competitors complaining about the vegetation hiding all the paths and features. However for many runners it’s one of the highlights of orienteering calendar and most will put up with a few bracken cuts or nettle stings to get their fix and the buzz of being in a forest as dawn breaks.
Full results can be found on the Southdowns Orienteers website here.
Photos supplied by Neil Crickmore (SO)
British Orienteering would like to take this opportunity to congratulate both the Southern Navigators and Forth Valley Orienteers on their winning performances at the Harvester Relays this year. Many thanks to all the other clubs who have worked hard in putting together teams and travelled to Sussex to compete and make this a great competition.
British Orienteering would also like to say a big thank you to the officials - Organiser Ralph Phillips (SO), Planner Neil Crickmore (SO) and Controller Gordon Parker (SLOW) and all volunteers who have worked hard in putting on this event. The event proved to be a great success!