At the most recent meeting of the NSW Rogaining Association Committee the issue of mis-punching electronic controls was discussed.
By default the event software we use “RogaineScore” records the lowest score recorded by a team member so any mis-punches lower the entire team’s score.
In the past we have been fairly generous in adjusting scores in the case of one team member not “punching” correctly but this approach has two problems, firstly this approach causes problems post event and secondly does not align with the rules.
Our previous generous approach to mis-punching has been causing problems after the event. Our target is to get all the scores up and the presentations started 30 minutes after the event finishes and while sometimes we do not make this deadline we are usually pretty close. At the presentation we want to be giving the right teams the right prizes and this is difficult if we have teams who add up their scores some time after the event, realise they have a mis-punch and then want a score adjustment. The discussion at the Committee was prompted by one instance of this.
At the NSW Championship, one of the 24Hr category winners changed on the recognition of a mis-punch. It was this event that provoked the discussion at the Committee meeting in November.
Our rules are not silent on the subject and actually say: “Rule 18. Where more than one electronic recording device is provided to a team, all devices must record a visit to a checkpoint to gain points for that checkpoint.” That seems pretty straight forward and there is little room for misinterpretation.
We applied Rule 18 more strictly at the Socialgaine with interesting consequences. One of the consequences was that our President, Gill Fowler, got “hoisted on her own petard”. Gill and her team mate Jess Baker would have placed first overall except one of them mis-punched control 38. My heart also went out to a family team who had 4 out of 5 team members punch an 80 pointer but it seems one of the team mis-punched that control and lost the family some places.
Part of me says that it’s cruel to deny Gill and Jess their win and also to deny the family team their 80 pointer when rogaining should be about bush navigation, guile and endurance and not punching technique. On the other hand they are the rules and who says that the winning team of Martin Dent and Rowan Walker didn’t lose time because they were more diligent with their punches and perhaps could have got another 30 points if they didn’t lose a few seconds at each control making sure of their punch. I am not as fast as Gill and Jess or Martin and Rowan so I always make sure that I see the second flash of the Navlight punch before moving on.
Sometimes the punches, not the human using them, fail and this happens occasionally during an event. In these cases though, it is usually obvious to the event administrator because many teams have the same problem and bulk adjustments are made to the scores. Given the fact that the Navlight punches sit quietly in the bush, often for a couple of weeks before the event (and a couple of weeks after) it is amazing how robust and reliable these units are.
I can’t finish this blog post without commenting on the metal covers we use in events where the controls are more likely to be found by members of the public. Put simply, I hate them. I am not a patient person during a rogaine, as my team mates will attest (Sorry guys) and my patience is pushed to the limit because it is very hard to see a flash from the end of the metal cover. The result is precious time lost trying to contort my wrist and the navlight into a position where I can see the second flash under the metal cover.
Also note that you can lodge a protest after an event if something happens that is not aligned to the rules and I cannot anticipate what a protest Committee may decide, but given our rules, it is unlikely that they would facilitate a score adjustment after a mis-punch.