Strategic Plan – What’s Wrong with Rogaining

Posted on 18/11/2017 by Chris Stevenson

What’s wrong with Rogaining? I reckon there is nothing wrong with rogaining. I love the sport and I have been happily competing for 23 years now and I am looking forward to giving the Super Veterans a run for their money when I qualify next year. So I am probably the wrong person to answer this question.

But we know statistically that about half of all rogainers only ever attend one event and few rogainers ever compete in more than four events.

Why do few rogainers ever attend more than 4 events?

I do not know.

What I do know is that while rogaining participation rates have been growing gradually, participation in other adventure sports have been growing exponentially. What I also know is that most rogainers prefer the shorter events.

This year’s NSW Champs was a fabulous event but only 81 people took the field for the 24 hour Championship event and numbers for the NSW Champs have historically been well less than half the number that attend the Paddy Pallin event each year.

I am on the NSW Rogaining Committee and contributed to the Strategic Plan, so I think this Strategic Plan embraces a series of strategies that we need to put into place to improve the participation rates in our sport, but I would love to hear from those with other ideas. I would also love to hear from those who think these are the right set of strategies to improve participation rates in our sport.

9 Responses to Strategic Plan – What’s Wrong with Rogaining

  1. Shanti says: 18/11/2017 at 4:48pm

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. The other one is access – it’s great to be able to move around the state and see new places but sometimes it can be difficult to get out there (especially when they don’t always have camping). Having more events as per the plan will definitely help – sometimes they fall on inconvenient dates when you have other things scheduled.

  • Andy Macqueen says: 18/11/2017 at 4:53 pm

Good work on the Strategic plan Trevor and committee. All very sound ideas.

This is a bit left of field and probably revolutionary (though perhaps not new), but here goes anyway …

While at the World Champs in Latvia it struck me how orienteering and rogaining in Latvia are both under one (orienteering) organisation – and (so we were told) the combination is the biggest sport in Latvia.

Rogaining arose as a variation on orienteering, and indeed the details of how the Paddy Pallin orienteering contest – I competed in one of the first – morphed into the Paddy Pallin Rogaine seem to have been lost in the mists of many events.

I have no idea of the politics which caused rogaining to set up separately in Oz, or the current politics which might hinder a union, but might it be worth exploring? For what it’s worth, I mentioned the idea to a prominent member of the NSW orienteering community over a few wines last weekend, and he thought it was a good idea …

Advantages might include greater mutual participation, coordination of events, a greater pool of volunteers, more efficient employment of executive staff, and increased marketing power (for both “camps”). A risk might be loss of identity, but I’m sure there will always be enthusiasts to push the rogaining barrow.

Just a thought.

  • Chris Stevenson says: 20/11/2017 at 8:25 am


Heretical indeed, but certainly worthy of good consideration.

  • Ian Dempsey says: 21/11/2017 at 2:31 pm

Worth adding your idea to the mix Andy and interesting that it seems to work in one country.
I can see the efficiencies that might develop from a merge, but, given the different state associations across the 2 sports here and differences in mapping standards, equipment and entry systems, it will require a heroic effort to push it along.
One of our longstanding rogaining administrators in Newcastle has confided that he likes doing work for rogaining more than for orienteering because the rogainers complain less. Apologies to the orienteering community and let it be known that I like both sports.

  • adrian plaskitt says: 20/11/2017 at 9:04 pm

Thanks for all the work you guys do – it is much appreciated.
My thoughts from the graph are that something needs to happen to inspire people during their first few events. How about some sort of welcoming ceremony after your second event? First event you get dragged along to but if you come to a second event you are clearly bloody-minded enough to be a potential repeat offender. So I reckon a special mug, getting called out and clapped, and your photo in an email that goes around to everyone a week later with the results and the winners.
Then, anyone who has done two events or more gets entered into a division called something like “Best on the day” which is awarded for the top 3 teams that do better than predicted based on the average previous performance of the members – ie a handicap system ( but handicap is a bad word – maybe a rating system). This would almost always be won by non-elites – as the better you are the harder it is to do better than your previous performances. That way everyone entering has a chance of walking home with a prize based on performance, even if they have no hope of ever competing for the upper places, and you have a metric by which to measure your progress. Might help the beginners and middle of the road competitors to maintain interest.
Not that most of us do rogaining for the prizes – but it is kinda nice if you are a plodder like me to have a hope of getting a clap and a mug if you have a good day. And if you have a bad day then at least your average will go down and you have a better chance next time!
An event wrap up email with the winners and photos and maybe some navigational tips or route choice ideas would allow us all to gradually put names to faces and improve our technique. I know it’s all on the website, but you have to go looking for that rather than have it come to you directly.
They’re my thoughts – thanks again for providing such a great activity – don’t regard any of the above as a criticism – its great just the way it is, and I know every suggestion comes with more work and organising. Cheers adrian

  • Chris Stevenson says: 20/11/2017 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for these good ideas. Certainly worth a discussion at our next meeting.

  • Scott Taylor says: 20/12/2017 at 10:51 am

Echoing everyone else’s thoughts that the work done by few is fantastic and very appreciated!

I’d have to agree that the lay person is probably more likely to have a go at an event up to about 6hrs long, so perhaps more of these events, and leave the longer events for some of the championships.

To encourage more participation I think you need existing Rogainers to help bring new people in due to some of the skills and equipment required for these events. I think I’ve probably encouraged 10 new people into the sport who are repeat offenders by dragging them with me, providing some basics and a compass, and then asking them to do the navigation whilst I following along behind offering any advice required. Most of the people love it after they’ve done it the first time, and more confident to give it a go by themselves next time. If you do increase the number of events per year, perhaps target one or two events in the year as a “come and try it” day whereby newbies are teamed up with someone with a little more experience and try to provide them the confidence to have a go by themselves next time.

I like the concept of encouraging the Scouting group to be more involved – a good source of growth for the sport in the longer-term, and as the kids get older, hopefully drag some of their mates along. Perhaps create a dedicated Scout group for awards and encourage some inter-group rivalary? Scouting groups normally have all the required equipment covered (I borrow compasses from the Cardiff Scout group each year for newbies for the Lake Macquarie Rogaine), and they could use it as a weekend activity if they wanted (camping overnight). Might also provide a pool of more volunteers with parents. Perhaps offer free entry for little Jimmy if mum/dad volunteer to help for the day?

The reason I don’t do more events is usually the amount of travel required. I’m usually happy enough to travel up to about 2-3hrs, so based at Lake Macquarie that means just south of Sydney through to probably Taree in the north, and west to around Yengo. I have travelled to Canberra and Lithgow way for longer events, but I’m unlikely to drag newbies to these events.

One thing to keep in mind if trying to encourage more participation for shorter events is that several times I’ve been told parents can’t go because of little Jimmy’s sporting event on Saturday morning.

Cheers, Scott.

  • Vicky Howe says: 27/12/2017 at 3:41 pm

I started rogaining in 2010. We used to do several rogaines a year but then I got pregnant and had morning sickness for 40 weeks, so rogaining was out of the question. Now with a 9 month old, the events are a bit long, and we wouldn’t be able to go off track.

Also, we don’t have a car, so would either need to hire one or go to a rogaine that was accessible by public transport. So we would probably do a metrogaine or socialgaine if it was in Sydney and easy to get to.

In short, there’s nothing wrong with rogaining, our circumstances just changed. We look forward to getting back into it when our kid(s) are older.

  • John Anderson says: 01/01/2018 at 12:12 pm

A link between Rogaining and Orienteering is of benefit to both sports – after all the Sydney Summer Series is a rogaine format. The Minigaine was briefly an event in each sports calendar and in my opinion should be reinstated to encourage participation in both sports (retaining the option of individual or team participation). I don’t think one governing organisation is a realistic option but it is to both sports detriment not to market each other as many participate in both.

Attracting entries to weekend bush events distant from Sydney is a challenge for both sports. Both Chris and Trevor have provided good reasons to attend. I think it is important for course setters to provide route choice for lesser mortals to achieve a reasonable score if they spend (say) 12 to 18 hours on the course and the luxury of time around the fire at the Hash House. This need not affect the championship event – just cater for all entrants.

The ACT at their night/day event attract a large contingent of entries from a Sports Science/Outdoor Education mob. It lifts my spirits to see the young people enjoying the night event!

There has been a big improvement in the website recently. Results, photo’s etc should continue to be uploaded quickly as interest declines exponentially after an event.

I’m not an advocate for more prizes/ribbons. Another option is to have a draw (done quickly) after the presentation to category winners for a selection of items (cakes, drinks etc). This encourages staying for the presentations.

Keep up the planning!

Night Navigation

[Due to a server failure in Aug-2019 we have restored this historic post]

Posted on 27/02/2018 by Chris Stevenson

With the Navigation Workshop coming up in April, I thought I would write some of my thoughts and experiences about night navigation.

My first experience of night navigation was during my first event, which was the 1994 Australian Championships at Bethungra (near Cootamundra). Prior to entering this event I had never used a compass at night, but that still made me the team expert, because my two companions had never used a compass at all.

I was really pleased with my control finding ability until the wheels fell off about 2 in the morning. We found a tricky control about midnight and then proceeded to the next control about a kilometre away. We never found it.

By 2am I had to admit that not only did we not find the control, but I had absolutely no idea where we were. We could see teams moving by headlight in the distance, but pride prevented me from trying to find them and ask for assistance. So rather than move around and get more lost (if that was possible) we slept on the ground until dawn. Once the sun rose the surrounding mountains made it pretty clear where we were and we headed back to the hash house.

From that night on I was hooked on rogaining and rogaining at night still has a special place in my heart. Rogaining at night is an interesting emotional roller coaster. With many emotions playing out as the night unfolds.

The first phase is panic as you rush to get as many controls as possible by the failing light.

The second phase is melancholy. Being at home just after dark usually means food, company and TV (or Youtube these days). Home, just after dark, is a very hospitable place. The bush, just after dark, is quite an inhospitable place and demons tend to lurk in your brain. More than once, just after it has gone dark on a rogaine, I have asked myself “What the hell am I doing here?”

The third phase of this emotional roller coaster is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that it is dark and you need to shift mentally into night mode. Night mode means pace counting and careful navigation using the lesser number of clues that are available at night.

The fourth phase of night navigation is confidence. Confidence comes at the time you have bagged a couple of controls in the dark and you have your pace counting distance down pat and you are starting to score serious points despite the handicap of the darkness. It’s a great feeling, but it never lasts.

The fifth phase of night navigation is “the fog”. No, not a literal fog, it is the fog that enters your brain from fatigue and being awake when your body is screaming for sleep. This fog has caused me (and my rogaining colleagues) to make some horrible navigation decisions. I distinctly recall my partner, Julian Ledger, and me walking up the wrong valley for 45 mins, at the Garland valley rogaine, and then looking for a control that wasn’t there before realising we had made an appalling mistake. That is what the “fog” does to you. Human beings just weren’t meant to be awake between 2 and 5 in the morning. My sister is a long term nurse on night shift and she gets my respect.

Assuming you don’t walk off a cliff while enduring “the fog” the next phase of night navigation is optimism. This is the optimism brought on by more points under your belt and an emerging dawn. There is something special about the optimism combined with the inevitable fatigue of rogaining into morning’s first light.

Night navigation also brings funny moments. I can’t remember which rogaine it was, but it had been raining and we had to ford the upper reaches of Cox’s river. It was a very cloudy night so it was pitch black. I had no idea how deep the river was going to be at the the ford so, pushed for time, I proceeded straight in. My rogaining partner baulked when the water reached chest deep, but I told him he was being precious and we proceeded across the river. Halfway across the river, chest deep in water, I could hear some people crossing the river next to us. I turned my light to look and see another team crossing the barely ankle deep river at the ford which was only about 3 metres away.

That partner never did another rogaine. I am not sure if it was the “ford incident” or the fact that it rained most of the night or the fact that one of our headlights failed and we had to share a headlight for the rest of the night (when I say share, he wore it all night).

In conclusion, I love night navigation. At the risk of being a bigot, the best rogaining is done at night and the best rogainers barely slow down as they trot uphill and down dale finding control after control regardless of what challenges stand in their way.

Rather than learning night navigation the hard way, like I did, come along to Navigation Workshop in April. Imbued by the skills learnt at the Navigation Workshop your nights in the bush will be full of confidence until “the fog” gets you.

6 Responses to Night Navigation

  1. Bert says: 27/02/2018 at 6:34 pm

Very good, I know all this all too well, thanks.

  • Carolyn Rigby says: 27/02/2018 at 6:35 pm

Chris Stevenson – you absolute legend. What a wonderful picture you paint of night rogaining and rogaining in general! Fantastic… and to everyone else – go to the Nav workshop! It will be great.

  • Reddall Leslie says: 27/02/2018 at 8:43 pm

Brings back memories of similar experiences plus the elation after being extremely lost at night and stumbling on a control.

  • Julian Ledger says: 27/02/2018 at 10:52 pm

It’s all lies
I was never there
It was just someone who looked like me

  • Andy Macqueen says: 28/02/2018 at 7:56 am

Spot on analysis Chris. I would add that – in my experience – some of the worst mistakes are made after dawn. The period of optimism you rightly describe is further heightened by the rising sun. This gives rise to over-confidence which, combined with fatigue, results in silly mistakes and crazy errors of judgement.

  • Pierre says: 10/04/2018 at 12:35 pm

Well explained Chris ! Everyone who read this should be tempted by the workshop.

I will add that I found my night navigation going significantly better when I have been on the same type of landscape before dark, because somehow I do understand the landscape and I have experienced it in daylight for the first part of the rogaine. However I found it much more challenging when you start to navigate in an area without trying it in daylight. This happens often in Adventure Racing.
In QLD, they have a special rogaine they called “Upside down” and this rogaine starts at midnight or something … Interesting concept that I’d like to try.