British Orienteering

The journey to ETOC 2024: GBR Trail O Team share their hopes ahead of the competition.

1 May 2024

Next week the selected eleven members of the Great Britain Trail Orienteering team will make their way to the European Trail Orienteering Championships in Finland.

The competition takes place in Turku from 812 May 2024, so we caught up with current top ranking GBR member John Kewley (Manchester & District Orienteering Club), Graham Urquhart (Octavian Droobers) and Iain Phillips (Leicestershire Orienteering Club), to learn more about their expectations ahead of the event, and how they became involved in Trail Orienteering.

Ahead of this year’s competition can you share in your own words what your aspirations are and what you are most excited about ahead of the European Trail Orienteering Championships?

Iain Phillips: As I’m selected for TempO my main aspiration is in the TempO qualifying round hoping for a performance that will be close to the top 18 that are taken forward to the final. I also hope to make one of the GB relay teams, so I can take part in the combined PreO/TempO tournament. I would love to run the final leg as I think I can perform well under the time pressure that comes with that position.

TrailO is about accurate interpretation of maps to terrain and TempO does this at speed, so thinking time distinguishes the best from the rest. To me this is the purest form of TrailO. PreO is also a valid discipline, prioritising accuracy of interpretation of complex terrain over simple speed, but there’s still a time limit. I will join the public PreO races at ETOC, which are on the same courses as the main championship and hope to compare well with the rest of the team.

John Kewley: My aspirations will be to qualify for the TempO Final, get a top 25 place in PreO and compete for the podium in the TrailO Relay; but like all forms of orienteering, your position depends not only on your performance but that of others, so we’ll see how that goes.

Graham Urquhart: This is a chance to compete with the best in high quality competitions on great Finnish terrain. I am keen to improve on my results at WTOC last year where I just missed out on a top 10 in PreO and made the podium in the relay.

I am also competing in Tempo for the first time at this level which will present a completely different challenge focusing on accuracy as quickly as possible.

Iain Phillips - all images credited to David Jukes

How did you become involved in Trail Orienteering?

Iain: My first TrailO event was at the JK in 2014. I was part of the club running the footO event and my duties and run were complete quite early, whereas my daughter was working on download for many more hours. I needed to kill time so entered the novice PreO tournament and was hooked. I continued at the White Rose that year and met Peter and Christine Roberts who helped me out a lot. We helped out at the JK in 2015 and met John Kewley.

After a silver medal performance at the JK in 2016, I started taking part in International Competitions. Somewhat surprisingly I was selected for ETOC in 2018 in Slovakia, and then again in 2020 (cancelled because of the pandemic) 2022 (also for WTOC) and now, 2024.

John: My Uncle Jim Young (LOC) got me interested in Orienteering when I was 14 although I concentrated for many years on Mountain Orienteering like the OMM.

I was doing the H21E course at the Swiss 6 Days for Swiss Mountain Marathon training and saw there was a TrailO class so, without knowing what it was, I entered it thinking it would be extra physical training. Instead, I found it a very interesting technical challenge, enjoyed it and won. I returned to GBR a few years later and tried it a couple of times, but in those days BOF only sent Physically Challenged competitors (who double up in Open Class). In 2009 this changed, so I took it more seriously and have been in the British Team ever since.

Graham: As with many P-Class competitors, I was a foot orienteer and became too disabled to continue in FootO. This meant I at least had the basic map skills to build on.

I discovered TrailO through the races alongside the JK, and I first tried PreO abroad when attending WTOC in Sweden as a spectator and doing the public FootO races. Once I became P-class it became possible to get selected to compete internationally.

John Kewley

What advice would you give to individuals who might want to get involved in Trail Orienteering?

Iain: Go to events, ask questions, and get help. I didn’t do enough of this. If there’s time, ask someone to show you around the course afterwards. Offer to collect controls so you can see where they are in the terrain.

TrailO is about understanding maps accurately at speed, so look at maps and terrain, look for the interesting detail in contour shapes, distinguish between similar features, see how a side view of terrain compares with the top-down picture a map gives. Practice standing still and navigating through the terrain by sight to particular features, follow the land shapes, boulders, vegetation, pits and depressions as you navigate to where a control site may be.

John: The classic form “PreO” is great technical training for heads-up orienteering in highly technical terrain so is ideal training for all levels of orienteering.

TempO on the other hand is a great one for a family to see if the kids can beat their parents (this usually happens a good number of years before they can beat them at FootO).

Graham: Trail Orienteering is designed to reduce the physical elements of orienteering and focus on the map reading. As a result, it is way to continue to compete on equal terms if you have a physical disability and to continue to enjoy some of the challenges of FootO. But regardless of this it is also a great way to refine and measure your map reading skills in support of competing in other disciplines.

The key to starting is to get experience in events and find someone help mentor you to understand the challenges. As a start, the virtual TempO events provide many training events and regular competitions and can help you understand the sort of problems you will face in physical events.

Graham Urquhart

ETOC 2024 takes place from 8-12 May 2024. We wish all of the team the very best of luck at the competition. Check out our Facebook for the latest updates throughout the competition, or learn more about Trail Orienteering here.