Well it was short. For a rogaine that is. How about the “Sweet”? Tell us what did you think of this event? Would you like more using much the same formula?
Tell us here!
Well it was short. For a rogaine that is. How about the “Sweet”? Tell us what did you think of this event? Would you like more using much the same formula?
Tell us here!
From Richard’s report I see he and his team turned on another very successful event. Tell us here about your experience at this rogaine and any suggestions that may make for better future rogaines. If you took any photos and would like to add them to those already on the event page, give me a call on 6772 3584 and I’ll advise you how to send them.
Ian McKenzie’s two articles in our March newsletter (on selection of teams for the World Champs and whether there should be a change to the convention whereby only the 24 hour event is given championship status) and Michael Burton’s follow up in the last issue (on the selection criteria) have certainly stirred the possum. A number of rogainers have expressed support for the issues raised while others have been dismissive. What I’d like to do is to stimulate the debate further because I feel that rogaining, as we do it in NSW, will be the better for it.
Central to the debate is the way that rogaining has evolved both in Australia and NSW. Those who’ve heard it all before are free to go to the next paragraph. The sport’s roots go back to 1947 when the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club initiated 24 hour walks. An Intervarsity Competition followed in the sixties with a format similar to the rogaines we know today. The VRA was formed in 1976 and WARA several years later. Both States have much larger associations than NSW whose association, the NSWRA was formed in 1983. While there has been a lot of informal contact between the associations, mainly at the annual Australian Championships and orienteering events, there is little in the way of regular contact and exchange of ideas. An Australian Rogaining Association (ARA) exists, as does an IRF (International Rogaining Federation -the Canadians couldn’t handle it being called the IRA!), but to date has done little to develop a national identity for rogaining. And so in NSW we have developed our own identity to a large extent. So much for the history lesson …
The main people responsible for starting the NSWRA in 1983 were Bert and Dianne Van Netten, Ian Dempsey (see the entry form for Bert and Ian’s latest challenge in September!) and Peter and Robyn Tuft (Robyn showed at the recent Paddy Pallin that she’s still as good a rogainer as ever by taking out the Women’s category). For the following few years one or two rogaines were held each year. About this time Trevor Collan, Peter Wherry, John Keats, myself and a few others became more involved and from 1988, when we took over running the Paddy Pallin, we decided to run four rogaines a year -one 24 hour, two 12 hours and the 6 hour Paddy Pallin with the ACTRA running another two or three -until the NSWRA had grown sufficiently to be able to run more. We felt it was better to run a few events well than to spread our resources too thinly; I think that the success of NSWRA events shows that we made the right decision.
But with the NSWRA turning ten next year perhaps it’s time to not only reassess the number of events but also their nature. (To this end the NSWRA will be holding a ‘think-tank’ later in the year.) In this context I’ll now address the issues raised by Ian and Mike.
The issue of the number of entrants at an event is a difficult one and one which we’ve only recently had to address although the VRA and WARA regularly tum people away (the quota is 400). The two main reasons are impact on the environment (and being able to enjoy an event without feeling that you’re never alone -as a teaml) and catering. The first is very dependent on the area, with many areas being conducive to larger numbers while others may only be suitable for a hundred or so. Catering requires helpers and considerable logistics, both of which are directly proportional to the number of people entered. I see this as the major limitation to increased numbers. We could offer less in the way of catering but I’d be reluctant to promote such a -rnovc as it’s the catering which provides the basis for that wonderful ambiance which is so much a part of rogaining.
As for the selection criteria, as the proposer of the original scheme (three 24 hour rogaines and two years membership), I have to admit to making a mistake. A selection criteria should be based on performance! As it’s turned out, NSW won’t fill its quota. This is due to the fact that our quota (which is pro rated according to state membership) is much higher than originally envisaged because of the rapid growth in our numbers over the past couple of years. While some of this increase in membership could be termed ‘highly competitive’ or ‘elite’, the majority would be more accurately termed ‘socially competitive’ or ‘participatory’. I’ll come back to this point, which was the main issue raised by Mike, shortly.
The 24 hour ‘Championship’ event is one of the aspects of rogaining which we have in common with other states. I believe that there may be a good case for an ‘8 hour Championship’ in the future; some would even say that the 6 hour Paddy Pallin is in effect a short format championship.
This aside, I would like to make several points in answer to Ian. First, the Championship status of the 24 hour event: rogaining is a ‘complex’ tactical sport, far more so than the sports with which Ian drew comparison (running, swimming, cycling), and even it’s close relative, orienteering. An event begins in earnest when the maps are handed out, with the eventual winners of many rogaines being decided in the hours before the start. Out on the course the competition has a number of phases, not the least of which is how to cope with the changes in light and energy levels which come with the night; the greatest challenge often coming after midnight. These elements, which many see as the essence of rogaining, are the reasons for the 24 hour championship status. A shorter championship event would lack some of these elements. I’ll resist drawing an analogy between test match and one day cricket but you’re welcome to!
Second, I would challenge Ian’s premise that there are ‘clearly many rogainers who prefer shorter formals’. The majority of people participating in these events are often not in the ‘highly competitive’ or ‘Championship’ category. Ian is a clear exception. To give short format events which are run in conjunction with longer events championship status would diminish the status of the shorter championship as the majority of the competitive teams would probably be competing in the longer championship. (It’s worth noting that the NSWRA acknowledges that more points may be gained by teams in the shorter event and at this year’s NSW championship the womens class was won by Debbie Cox and Judy Micklewright who were only entered in the 16 hour event.)
Ian wrote his article before competing in longer events en route to the World Championships. I would be pleased to hear whether his views have changed. Also as lan, along with ACT’s Blair Trewin, will probably be NSW’s most competitive team in -the World Championships I’d like to take this opportunity to wish him every success.
Michael Burton sees the forthcoming Rogaining World Championship as heralding a significant change to rogaining in NSW. Having lived with and been part of the changes in rogaining in NSW over the past six years I disagree.The numbers of people attending rogaines in NSW has increased considerably over the past few years and the majority of this increase has been made up by less competitive rogainers. The Paddy Pallin gives a clear indication of this. In1987 the event drew some 60 participants most of whom were serious orienteers; in 1991 and 1992,when the numbers reached 400,there was still a very strong core of orienteers but their ratio to those who have discovered rogaining as an enjoyable ‘recreational activity, albeit an arduous and adventurous one’ has fallen considerably over the years. This same trend is reflected in other rogaines.
I am not opposed to catering for the ‘new breed’ of rogainer who sees the sport as seriously competitive. My point is that it is important to maintain a balance and not fall into the trap of catering for an unrepresentative minority. In spite of our mistake with the selection criteria NSW appears unlikely to fill its quota for the World Champs -less than 25 (and several of those aren’t members) out of a total membership of about 300.
In the NSW context, I see the offer of prize money at the Lake Macquarie rogaine as having more immediate consequences. If rogaining is to cater for a more competitive breed then there are a number of technical changes which will need to be made. Here are three examples:
Yes, these changes can all be made but they will require resources well beyond those presently available in NSW. Personally I believe that our limited resources should be used, in the short term at least, to cater for the majority of rogainers and in recognition that growth in our wonderful sport is coming from a less
competitive new breed. But let’s keep talking about it.
For any sport to thrive, it needs to be responsive to and respect its members’ preferences. The traditional 24-hour format has its adherents, but there are clearly many rogainers who prefer the shorter formats (6/8/12/16 hours). This is illustrated by the (excellent) 1991 NSW Championships. In a choice of 8, 16 or 24 hours, the 24 hour event was the least popular (23 entries, d. 8 hours -29 entries, 16 hours -26 entries).
The rogaining decision makers in Australia, however, persist in derogating the sub-24 hour formats, most notably by such practices as designating only the 24 hour event to have ‘championship’ status. This attitude also seemed to be reflected in the newsletter presentation of the 1991 NSW Championships results where 8 and 16 hours were not separately grouped but merely shown as ‘also-rans’ in the 24 hour event.
Why these needless slights to sub-24 hour competition? The sub-24 hour formats are still major tests of the fundamental rogaining attributes of endurance, navigational skill etc. And the standard of the winning performance in the sub-24 hour formats compares favourably with that in the 24-hour formats. For example, the winning team in the 9-hour event at the 1991 ACT Championships achieved 82% of the score of the winning 24-hour team. It is hard to think of other sports (d. running, swimming, cycling etc.) where similar discouragement against shorter events exists. Rogaining will prosper more if it caters fully to the tastes of members generally, rather than needlessly discriminating in favour of the 24 hour format.
I therefore suggest that at national and State championships, the sub-24 hour formats should have championship status. Similarly, why should the World Championships be only a 24 hour event? Any needed restriction on total entries could still be accommodated if, say, a 12 hour event were also held.
Most rogaines are set in a mixture of farming country and public land held by the NPWS, Water Board or the Forestry Commission. One of the time consuming aspects of rogaine organisation is acquiring permission to use private property. Each farmer has to be visited and convinced that no damage to his property will occur and that he will not be held liable for accidents that may happen. From many points of view, dealing with a single landholder, such as the NPWS, would be desirable. On the other hand, many rogainers prefer to spend part of the event in farming country. In any event, the smaller the area of the course, the fewer the number of land owners who will be involved. A small course area also allows small pockets of suitable land in regions that would not normally be considered for a major event (eg close to Sydney) to be utilised. So, how small an area can be used for a successful 24 hour rogaine?
The main determinent of the area required for a course is the average spacing of controls (S) and the straight line distance that a team would need to cover to collect all the controls (D). Two simple equations are needed to calculate the course area (A) and the number of controls (N) required:
Distance = number of controls x spacing D = N x S
Area = number of controls x square of the spacing A = N x S x S
The successful NSW Championships at Jaunter were set in typical rogaining country, a nice mix of farmland, pine forest and more rugged national park. There were 55 controls covering an area of about 62 sq.km with a straight line distance to collect all the controls of about 58 km. For comparsion, the distance actually covered by the two teams that collected all of the controls (in 22-23 hours) was about 70 km. Applying either of the two above equations above shows that the average spacing of the controls was a little over 1 km.
If the average spacing of controls was set to 1/2 km, then the number of controls required to maintain the same course length would increase to about 120, and the area required for the course would shrink by half to about 30 sq.km. Each 1 km grid square would have four controls. The [aunter course, for example, would then comfortably fit onto the eastern half of the map. A course of this size could make use of the location advantages set out above. There would be other advantages as well. If the hash house were at the centre of the course then no control need be more than 3-4 km from the hash house. This would allow realistic route choice for ambitious teams that includes multiple visits to the hash house to partake of the good food on offer. There would be about 50 controls within 2 km of the hash house which would be excellent for the morale of novice or less ambitious teams. And greater emphasis would be placed on accurate navigation. Competitive teams would be picking up controls at the rate of one every 12 to 15 minutes. Small errors resulting in the loss of a few minutes at each control would add up rather quickly.
I don’t see many disadvantages of having closely spaced controls. 30 sq.km is still a large area. In an event with 200 entrants there would only be three teams per sq.km, which is hardly crowded, and many of these teams would be participating in the shorter events. The enormous variety of sensible route choices (there would be no obvious loops) might actually reduce the number of meetings between teams! Small area courses would be best in timbered country because of the extensive visibility in cleared farmland.
Most NSW rogainers live in Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle or Wollongong. It makes sense, then, to locate most courses in the region bounded by these cities. This reduces average travel time which makes the events more accessible and return travel safer. Attempts have been made at several events to reduce travel risks by hiring buses but with disappointing response. Several areas of suitable land lie very close to intercity public transport networks. These include the Blue Mountains/Lithgow, Nowra/Robertson and Goulbum/Mittagong areas. Events in these areas could be co-ordinated with public transport timetables to provide risk free travel to competitors with no financial risks to the rogaine organisers. Some years ago Sutherland Bushwalking Club pioneered such an approach with an event in which the Hash House was located in a community hall only 100 m from the railway station in a small town near Goulburn. Since suitable rogaining areas close to public transport nodes are relatively small they could make ideal small area courses with close control spacing.
Why are rogaines run in pairs? The easy answer is, of course, for safety. However, there is considerable scientific evidence to show that safety is not the major reason for the great attachment that most rogainers have for their partner. After all, how safety conscious can anyone be if their idea of a good time is to spend hours of darkness combing remote comers of the bush for mine shafts, lone stunted trees and the top of a waterfall?
Before a rogaine, a partner offers to hold the torch while you erect the tent, preferably some time after midnight in a howling gale. Rain also helps, but is not vital at this stage. Naturally, by the time your partner is ready to help, the tent is ready for occupation. Next, a partner suggests a route plan that you can shoot down and replace with your own superior plan. Even if your partner’s plan appears at first (or even second) glance to be the only sensible way to go, remember that it is always possible to insist on taking the controls in the reverse order. This will ensure that minimum use is made of daylight, attack points or any other sneaky little tricks that he may have had.
At the start, a partner strides into the vast unknown leaving you to labour with both pencil and control card, so heavily overburdened that it is no wonder that the first control punch fails to make a mark! The discovery of this fact at the next control leads only to a silent accusation of your total incompetence and the forceful removal of the card from your care and protection,
Once away from the Hash House, a partner is someone in whom to place all your trust, following faithfully wheresoever he may wish to lead, be this to the ends of the earth or off the edge of the map, A reliable partner will then refuse to listen to all intelligent suggestions of relocation (so what if it is 15 km to the nearest identifiable feature’) and insist on climbing every available rise in the search for a tourist information ‘You are here’ sign, In an ideal partnership, this exercise should occupy most of the remaining daylight. As dusk falls, female common sense should eventually prevail and you will be able to lead him back to your last ‘known for-sure’ location. Hopefully it won’t have moved much in the last four hours.
Many partners will be disheartened after such a setback and this will provide you with the perfect opportunity to practice your bush psychology (‘Come along bush, it’s not as bad as all that’) and industrial relations (‘I know it looks like a piddling little knoll, but it is dark and perhaps if you took your sunglasses off for just a brief moment you too would recognise that 500 m ridge to our left’). All but the most determined of partners should be won over by such diplomacy.
All good partners will have seen ‘The Mission’ at least six times and eagerly head for any control clued as ‘The top of the waterfall’. Such controls should only be attempted in the dark so that your partner can then disappear into into the night leaving you to risk life and limb abseiling down without a rope.
The trickiest part of a rogaine is often the return to the Hash House but you can prevent your partner from dashing off in the right direction by your own great care and attention to irrelevant detail. If you make it back, a partner should continuously hassle you, demanding to know your aims and ambitions for the future. This will allow you to display your total control by replying along the lines of ‘Bog off! I’m changing my socks’ before presenting him with the ultimate CP (cunning plan) that combines maximum distance with minimum points. This CP should take you through to dawn, by which time any competent rogainer will have abandoned any artificial forms of light and be fumbling around in the half-light while your partner runs on ahead in a blaze of halogen radiance.
Once the sun has well and truly established itself, a partner should begin leaping around doing star jumps every time you fall a respectful three steps behind. This display is meant to show off his inexhaustible energy and to help you feel revitalised. When the final assault on the Hash House arrives, a partner must contrive to lead you directly home (Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200) with at least one very large hill to climb on the way, Six would even be better.
And when it’s all over and the fat lady has sung, all that remains is to count up the score. At this stage, having discovered how dangerously close he has been to winning, your partner will thank you most graciously for not having punched that first control and beg to be allowed to bring you cups of tea, pieces of cake and anything else you desire before wandering off in search of a good divorce lawyer.
But the real purpose of a rogaining partner is so that nothing that goes wrong need ever be your fault and so that you can convince yourself that you really would have won if only …