British Orienteering Chair 1989-92 and known widely in the orienteering world at large as the ‘Mother of TrailO’, Anne Braggins passed away peacefully in her home on 27 November.
Anne once said that she’d been put off from Orienteering for years by the energetic descriptions of it by a friend. She was finally introduced to the sport in autumn 1975, as a result of an ‘explorers’ talk by Hally Hardie, West Anglian OC, and an event a couple of weeks later. That led in due course to Anne and her family competing in the White Rose Weekend in 1976 and then Highland '77.
She started taking on officials’ roles quite quickly; she helped organise the 1981 Midlands Championships, helped form a schools’ league run jointly by WAOC and Happy Herts, filled most of the posts in the East Anglian Orienteering Association, and was Coordinator of JK 1986 held in East Anglia. Following this event, she was named as the person “making the most outstanding individual organisational contribution to sport in the Eastern Region” at the annual Service to Sport awards of the Eastern Region Sports Council.
Anne was elected Vice-Chair of the British Orienteering Federation in 1987, but her time in this role was only 2 years after the new Chair, Roger Lott was posted abroad in his job and former Chair Clive Allen held the fort for a period. Anne was Chair of British Orienteering Federation from 1989 until 1992, a period of considerable activity with the introduction of a radical new levy scheme, issues with land access connected with environmental concerns, and reviews of National Office staffing and the membership structure. A highlight, organised by Anne together with David Peregrine, was the 15th International Orienteering Federation Congress held in New Hall, Cambridge in July 1990, with 26 nations represented. Anne and her management team were also able to negotiate continued long-term sponsorship for British Orienteering from TSB Life, which included a smart 40-page ‘Orienteers’ Handbook’ in 1991 distributed to all members.
Anne was introduced to Orienteering for handicapped people in 1989 at the World Orienteering Championships in Sweden. At that time, the then Minister for Sport Colin Moynihan was suggesting that all Governing Bodies should provide for disabled people in their sport. Sponsored research into the development of Orienteering in the UK for handicapped people supported Anne in going to study and take part in ‘handicapped orienteering’ at the 1990 Swedish O-Ringen. After her report back, the British Orienteering Federation got a grant to get started, and in April 1991 Anne used her ‘View from the Chair’ text in CompassSport to set the scene for the new discipline known as TrailO. A steering committee was formed with representatives from the disabled community as well as British Orienteering Federation clubs.
Anne put tremendous efforts into starting TrailO in the UK, and together with Tom Renfrew she was successful in getting a grant of £25,000 from the Foundation for Sport and Arts for a 2-year research and development programme, including the creation of permanent courses. The equipment purchased with the grant is still used at major UK events. In 1993 she wrote ‘Trail Orienteering - a comprehensive practical manual’, 64 pages A4 with many illustrations and coloured maps, published by Harveys. She was the first Chair of the British Orienteering Federation TrailO Group when it was formed in 1993, and continued in this role until 2006; she remained a member until stepping down in 2017. She was voluntary Team Manager of the Great Britain TrailO team for over 20 years.
In 2017 British Orienteering presented a special certificate to Anne, recognising her long-standing commitment and dedication to orienteering.
At the beginning of the 90’s Anne was getting more involved in the international TrailO scene too. She took the Chair of an IOF TrailO Steering Group in 1993, and continued as Chair when it became a Committee and then morphed into a Commission, finally retiring from this post in 2010. For her work in developing TrailO internationally, she was awarded the prestigious IOF Silver Pin in 1998. The inaugural World Cup in TrailO was held in Scotland in conjunction with the 1999 World Orienteering Championships.
Both in Britain and internationally, Anne was always strongly supported by her husband Don, who provided his own significant input as an IT specialist. He once famously commented, at a TrailO World Championships (WTOC) banquet, that "the majority of people in this room are here because of your input." One of Anne’s happiest moments was handing the gold medal to Dave Gittus when he won it at WTOC 2006.
Anne had a very sharp mind when it came to planning the way forward for the new IOF discipline of TrailO to make it into one with clear and unambiguous rules, fair to all participants, and requiring skill levels at least the equal of other Orienteering disciplines. She envisaged a top-quality sport that would attract both handicapped and non-handicapped orienteers from nations throughout the world, and to achieve her vision, she was involved in considerable negotiation with others with alternative views on how things should be done, especially in Sweden. But she battled on, and eventually got her way on most issues. Many countries began TrailO as a result of her efforts, and this led to the first World TrailO Championships taking place in Sweden in 2004. She did as much if not more work outside the committee room and one of her greatest achievements was to organise a very successful WTOC in Scotland in 2012, an event that included the first (unofficial) WTOC TempO competition.
Anne had a quite outstanding missionary zeal, which meant that very many capable people all over the world were carried away by her enthusiasm and contributed valuably to the cause. One such was Brian Parker, who contributed by writing a comprehensive manual on course planning at an elite level for use internationally. Anne has also always been a great communicator, in this case doing her utmost to make the world aware of what was going on. For example, a 3-page spread ‘TrailO blazes new trails’ in a 1993 edition of the IOF magazine Orienteering World gave a really clear explanation of this new discipline, together with a map example and notes of developments in Portugal, Belgium, Sweden, and Great Britain. Updates on technical progress and TrailO’s spread around the world appeared regularly in the Orienteering press from then on. International TrailO clinics, initially at the Swedish O-Ringen, started in 1994. She worked very hard to get TrailO better known in the handicapped communities both in the UK and abroad, but at the same time, she was rigorous in applying rules that ensured that a clear definition of ‘handicapped’ was applied to participation in the Para class in TrailO events.
Anne’s legacy is a thriving sports discipline, now further developed worldwide with speed and relay formats and very popular ‘virtual’ competitions online. She contributed significantly to British Orienteering Federation’s development leading up to its Silver Jubilee in 1992 but will be remembered best for her quite remarkable achievements in bringing TrailO up from almost nothing to the sophisticated sport it is today. RIP
The tribute for Anne was written by Clive Allen in consultation with Dick Keighley and Brian Parker.