Thoughts About the Future of Rogaining … by Brett Davis
The main feedback I would like to provide on the NSW Rogaining Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022 is its failure to embrace rogaining for individuals rather than teams.
I am aware that the definition of rogaining is “the sport of long distance cross-country navigation for teams travelling on foot” – and I think this is the crux of the sport’s problem, especially if one of your objectives is to “increase participation rates by 15% per annum”. Rogaining is essentially an individual sport that has been forced to become a team sport because of safety concerns that were quite reasonable when the sport was created, but which may now be holding it back.
Would sports like tennis, golf, running, triathlon, swimming and cycling be as popular as they are today if participants were forced to compete as teams rather than individuals?
When I started researching the history of rogaining to find out why the sport was limited to teams, I was astounded to find that solo rogaining was already happening in both NSW and the ACT – and had in fact been happening for years! Because I never go into events shorter than 12 hours, I had no idea that the 3 hour Minigaines in NSW had been allowing solo entries since at least 2010 (despite Rogaining being a team sport). A quick check of past ACT rogaines showed that the Ainslie 5 hour rogaine in 2011 allowed solo entries, as did all the 6 hour Metrogaines since 2014.
I examined the results of the NSW Minigaines and found that the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from a low of 13.5% (in 2010) to a high of 28.73% (in 2013) – with an average solo participation rate of 21.8%. For the six ACT rogaines where solo entries have been allowed, the percentage of competitors who chose to go solo varied from 9.7% to 21.15% with an average solo participation rate of 16.2%. Whether the solo entries were made up of teams that had split up or not is open to conjecture, but at least some of the solo entries would have been competitors who would not have been at the event if solo entries were not allowed.
While I was going through the stats I noticed that solo competitors did very well in the rogaines. In fact, I could only find one rogaine that had been won by a team in the 11 rogaines I found that allowed solo entries.
As Julian Ledger said in a post on the NSW Rogaining Association Forum in April 2017 – “Looking at the results one has to ask do Rogainers do better on their own? Safety considerations aside if longer rogaines allowed solo entry would the lone wolves clean sweep the places …?” He also said “going solo means no distracting conversations, less chance of forgetting what you are supposed to be doing or partners pulling up with cramp. Left only with your inner voice you can focus on the navigation.”
On the same forum, Chris Stevenson said “I made a deliberate decision to enter yesterday’s event as a team because I recall from previous events the competitiveness of the individuals … To put it in context, the average score of the individuals was 1,390 whereas the average score in the teams was 855.” Chris also said “Perhaps that is why they can’t find a friend to be their partner” – and this certainly happens to me. I would compete in every rogaine I could if solo entries were allowed.
On the NSW Rogaining blog under “Strategic Plan – What’s Wrong with Rogaining” – Shanti wrote in November last year “I find that the main thing holding me back is finding a partner (the partner finding service is great for this and I usually have success, but a lot of people might not want to walk around the bush for a day with a complete stranger). The 3 hr ones are great because you can do them individually but it would be nice if some of the 6 hr Metrogaines had an individual option.”
Similar feedback has already been published in the outcomes from your 2017 survey. One comment was “Wish you would offer solo entries for 6-hr event” while another comment said “About 3 hours, solo entry, in a natural environment, would be perfect for me …”
So I am not the only one who would like to see more solo entries allowed in more – if not all – rogaines.
What are the advantages of going solo and the disadvantages of teams? As mentioned above, finding a suitable partner can be difficult or impossible, because partners should be a similar age with similar fitness and similar motivation. And even if you are lucky enough to find the perfect partner, they will not necessarily be available for all the rogaines you want to enter. This is not a problem if solo entries are allowed.
The age categories for teams are based on the age of the youngest team member. I am 65 which means I am an ultra-veteran, but at the Wingello Rogaine recently I was teamed with a 54 year old, which meant our team was not even a super-veteran team, and I had to compete against veterans 25 years younger than me. Solo entries completely eliminates this problem.
Another disadvantage of compulsory teams is the risk that your event could be ruined due to the misfortune of your partner. If they are injured, or get sick, or tire early, get blisters, or have a gear failure like a dead torch or a hole in a hydration pack, then your event is ruined too and you have done your very expensive entry fee cold. With solo entries, you only have yourself to look after, and blame.
The obvious reason that solo entry was not allowed in early rogaines was the safety factor. Teams were, and still are, safer than going it alone. But these days we have mobile phones, satellite phones, personal locator beacons (PLBs) and even the Strategic Plan seeks to “implement GPS tracking”, so solo rogaining is much safer today than it was when the sport was invented 40 odd years ago.
GPS tracking – and solo rogaining in 24 hour rogaining championships – will inevitably happen one day, so why not let it happen now? We already sign waivers acknowledging the inherent risks associated with competing in a rogaine, and if we are prepared to die in our sport and sign a waiver acknowledging this, there should be no chance of repercussions on the organizers. The fact that solo rogaining is actually allowed in shorter events means that insurance and litigation considerations have already been taken into account. To make it even safer for solo rogainers, allow them to compete only if they have a PLB.
Anyway, that’s my feedback.