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Tweet Sunday 30th May 2021

TVOC’s Chiltern Challenge and SCOA Championships 2021, Hambleden

Report by John Dalton, member of Thames Valley Orienteering Club (TVOC) and Event Organiser.

Thames Valley Orienteering Club (TVOC) held its annual Chiltern Challenge alongside the SCOA Championships Level B event at Hambleden, near Henley-on-Thames on Sunday 23 May. This is only the second event TVOC have organised this year.

Start 3 of three.  Photo credit:  John Dalton

The event marked a swift return to the Hambleden. TVOC held the British Night Championships and Chiltern Challenge weekend on the same area only 15 months ago. Why did we go back so quickly?

Firstly, the landowner was very encouraging of a return, especially as we were very clear about conforming to British Orienteering Covid Guidelines. And secondly, a very large event field means that there is plenty of space to spread cars and people around. We therefore had no limit imposed on us to entry numbers. We determined a three hour start window, and were able to keep online entries open until the day of the event itself. However, there was no entry on the day, and the event was open to British Orienteering members only.

We had 805 entries in total. On the day, we had 747 runs. This is by far the largest Chiltern Challenge we have run since 2011, when that event (also at Hambleden) was run in association with the Southern Championships.

What differences would a competitor have seen? Quite a few, actually. Copious quantities of hand gel in many places. Three separate starts (though in close proximity), each with only two lanes (with a middle lane for safe reaching across for the various SI unit check punches). Stakes on the ground at key points to retain a 2m distancing. Toilet touch-points being cleaned on a regular basis.

And so many signs!  Warning signs. Keep apart signs. “Do not attend if….” signs. Covid code of conduct signs… etc. The starts looked very different to normal with all the signage.

But, once in the forest, all was well. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their courses. Feedback was excellent. And no one seemed to have any problems with the arrangement we put in place to protect them.

Did we have any problems? Yes. But not COVID-related. May had been so wet. Friday before the event was wet. The forecast for the weekend was wet. And the field itself on Friday was getting wetter and wetter. So the landowner offered us an alternative field. One which proved to be much more stable. It was the right decision to switch. But this unfortunately did mean that SI dibber collection, Finish, Download and toilets were somewhat marooned away from the new car park and traders. But that was about it.

Would I change much next time? Apart from the weather? Perhaps reduce the Covid-related signage. I do wonder how much of it actually got read. This might be one case of where “less is more”! And we do have ambitions to encourage newcomers back to our events as soon as possible. But that is about it.

Covid signage.  Photo credit:   John Dalton
In the woods.  Photo credit:  Hannah Stafford
Orderly queue with Tom and Julie.  Photo cred:  John Dalton
Keeping dry after a run.  Photo credit:  John Dalton

Celebrating the re-start of orienteering across all nations!
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