Making Rogaining Professional – A History of the Navlight Scoring System

By Tristan White 29-Nov-2019

Those who partook in their first rogaine within the past decade will most likely only know the electronic scoring system known as “Navlight,” used at all NSW (and most other Australian) rogaines. In addition to simplicity of registering or “punching” a tag at the checkpoint and bringing up the results within minutes of the finish, it has done much to add an element of professionalism to the sport. Thanks to this system participants and organisers can click on any team and check out their routes, and the number of teams visiting each control, exponentially enhancing the post-event analysis.

An urban control with a locked Navlight – now the standard scene at a control site

But just like almost any piece of technology, there was a time that it did not exist, and people knew a world where rogaine scoring was done manually with many problems until such a mind came along to develop a system that could automate the process.

At the recent Australasian Champs in Tasmania I had the privilege to meet this great mind, Peter Squires, the Kiwi who invented the system in the early 2000s, and hear a bit about how it came about. He kindly offered me his time to share this in a bit more depth over a series of emails so I could share this story with the rogaining community and also get a feel for what old-style rogaining was like!

Peter and his daughter Anna at the 2019 World Rogaining Champs in Spain

Tristan White: Where do you live and what did you do as a career?

Peter Squires: For the last 45 years I have lived on a sort of farm, 40km south of Christchurch. I still live in the country but we have a lovely holiday home in Takamatua (near Akaroa) where we spend at least half of our time nowadays.

I have two engineering degrees, one in Mechanical and one in Electrical. After working as a robot on an electronics production line, I started my professional career working as an engineer with the Dunedin City Electricity Corporation, then the North Canterbury Electric Power board.

I obtained a position as a lecturer at Canterbury University in 1973, with the Electrical Engineering Department and spent most of my working life there.

TW: When did you do your first rogaine, and what has made you keep coming back? How many rogaines do you think you’ve done in total?

PS: My first “real” 24-hour rogaine was the first World Championship in 1993, but I have been participating in the 24-hour “TWALK” organised annually by the University Tramping Club since 1967. That means at least 46 TWALKS, and I have lost count of how many 24-hour rogaines I’ve done, but it’s something approaching 30, including about 10 of which I’ve organised.

It’s that feeling of anticipation when you start a course, and that feeling of relief when you finish it, and all the challenges in between that keeps bringing me back. It’s like the pleasure of tramping without the boring bits, and you are always thinking. It’s also the social side. Rogainers are an amazing group of people.

The Navlight punch and tag

TW: Many people have only ever used the electronic scoring system. When you were doing rogaines in the earlier years, what were the methods used for scoring at events and what were some of the problems you observed in them?

PS: Rogaining in NZ started with the orienteering Control cards and clip-punches. These were always a problem; whereas an orienteering event seldom needed more than 15 squares, a rogaine could have over 70 controls, so the squares in the card were much smaller. Trying to get the central squares into the throat of a clipper was always difficult, and “wrong’ squares were often punched, especially at night. Then you’d come to another control and had already punched the square for that one, so you needed to punch somewhere else.

There was also the problem of the card not being able to withstand the wet or mud, and in the cold our wet fingers weren’t strong enough to actually penetrate the card!

Other means of scoring in earlier events included:

  • Q&A-type scoring in urban events. A multiple choice question was asked at the CP location instead of the flag (such as “how many fence panels at the lookout’),
  • a code written on each flag to be copied down, and
  • in the very earliest events I was told a story of a different type of washer or nut left at the control at which teams would take one with them to show at the end, progressively adding another kg to their load!

A common problem for all manual means of scoring was the inability to police cheating, as all of them allowed one team member to run up a hill to the control whilst others could have a rest, something that would dampen the integrity of the sport.

TW: What gave you the idea to create an electronic scoring system for rogaines? A marriage of your career and hobby?

PS: Not really. The idea was born from the desperate need to get something better than punch cards. Competitors and organisers alike needed something simpler and more automated, particularly for the post-event scoring.

I had enough of an understanding of electronic hardware and embedded software to believe that something was possible, and I spent a year or two experimenting in the skunkworks at home. The biggest challenge was to transfer enough energy to power a tag, without a heavy battery drain from the punch, and in a small physical format. The next significant challenge was to superimpose bidirectional signalling onto the energy transfer.

I still have a collection of partially-built circuit boards, and paper tubes with wire wound around them, as a reminder of the development stage.

Early prototypes

TW: When was the Navlight first used in an event and how long did it take to develop the system?

PS: Navlight was first used in the NZ Champs in Otago in 2005, and again later that year in the Australian Champs near Brisbane. Since then, the tags have not really changed, but the punches have been through several iterations, and the software has grown from 200KB to nearly 3MB, and it is still evolving.

The original development took about two years of spare time to get a practical working circuit with embedded software, followed by about 10 months to get the mechanical housing designed and made. I employed a professional engineer to create the punch and tag components in Solidworks, and then get tooling made for injection moulding of the three parts. This was by far the biggest capital outlay.

Forging the AA battery holders from flat brass sheet

TW: Could you briefly explain the process for how the Navlight works? How long does the battery last, and how long is a unit expected to last before it must be replaced?

PS: Each punch and each tag has a unique binary number assigned to it. This is represented to the user as the 3 or 4 character ID code, for example AXCY. Punches also have a crude clock. The clock doesn’t tell the actual time; it simply counts the elapsed seconds since it was programmed.

The text file showing No. of teams visiting each control in the 2019 NSW Champs

PS: When a tag is connected to a punch, they swap ID codes. The Tag records the Punch ID code, and the elapsed seconds from the punch counter. No other information is used.

The score value of the punch is obtained from a text file on the computer (PunchNums.txt) which relates the ID code to its score value, and also whether the punch is a FINISH, BRIEF, or other “Status” punch. Similarly, the Tag code is used to look up who is using it, and their team number and course, from another text file, (Tagnums.txt). Likewise, course information (start time, finish time, penalty rates etc.) is also held in a text file.

A snapshot of the data taken from the Navlight following an event, in this case for NSW Socialgaine winners Brooner and Richard. It makes it infinitely easier for the setter to find out where everyone went, rather than asking individual teams!

PS: The original punches used an AA battery, which would last for at least one year. Their problem was that the electrical contact between a battery and any terminal is very flaky at low voltage and very low power levels.

The ONLY metal which does not form an oxide film is gold. But you can’t get AA batteries with gold ends on them. So I made the switch to soldered-in batteries, which meant that they had to be re-chargeable, in situ. The need for a charging circuit in the base of the punch made the battery space smaller, so an AAA battery had to be used instead. Being smaller, and also a secondary cell, meant reduced battery capacity, so now the expected life between charges is about 2 months.

There are three main wear mechanisms:

  1. The NiMH batteries may have a life of ten years. Certainly, there are some which have been in service for 7 years already. The new PINK punches have been built in a way that allows easy battery replacement.
  2. Stress cracks in the plastic have caused water ingress in the original AA punch nozzles. The polycarbonate plastic used develops these cracks after about three years if exposed to continuous stress. Hopefully, the AAA punches should not be subjected to these stresses if properly maintained.
  3. Water damage. Water is a very small molecule, and water eats electronics through electrolytic corrosion. This has been the main source of damage in the past. The latest PINK punches have an additional “O” ring seal which will hopefully mitigate this problem.

Otherwise the life should be indefinite – apart from the 24LC64 memory chip which is only guaranteed for 1 million read/write cycles. (This means > 1 million Tag registrations – at 100 punches per event, say 8 events per year – that’s 10,000 years!) Currently, the attrition rate is 3-5% per year, which is of concern. Losses occur from water or battery damage, punches being eaten by animals, burnt, blown up, or simply falling out of packs.

Sealing nozzles with hot-glue on a 15-minute carousel

TW: How do the lights and tags get manufactured?

PS: The bare circuit boards are manufactured in Auckland, and then populated with the soldered-on components. I hand-soldered the first several hundred punches and tags, but after that I had them populated by an assembly company in Christchurch. The plastic bodies and nozzles are pressure injection moulded in Christchurch, but both need subsequent machining which I do myself.

The grey buttons in the middle of the tags also need machining, and then each one has seven turns of copper wire wound into the machined groove. I have hand-wound every tag. I assemble the button into the green tag body with a highly polished jig which I made. The “O’ ring slides against the polished cone as it is pressed into the green body, and a very thin sliver of brass projecting from the cone allows the compressed air to escape.

TW: What equipment do you have?

PS: I still have and use the Myford lathe. It is an essential part of Navlight production, for finishing the nozzles and boring the orange and pink casings. I also use it as a press and drill. It has been essential for making the many jigs I need.

I also own three welding plants, five oscilloscopes, two drill presses, a number of signal generators and power supplies, several soldering irons, and I have two ovens in my workshop, so you can see that I am a nut case!

TW: In NSW, the Q&A type controls were still used up until 2012* in urban events, due to the risk of the Navlights being nicked by the public. Were you the one who also designed the locked metal “cages” that are now used at urban events?

PS: No, I didn’t design the locked cages. They’re good, aren’t they? This was created by NSWRA icon Graeme Cooper. Other associations have followed suit, including ACT, which has created several holes around the flashing light to avoid having to squint to check if it’s registered.

A metal cage around the light, used for NSWRA urban events, has a metal cable locking it to its hanging location, deterring passers-by (or rebel rogainers!) from stealing it.

(*) Many may remember the 2012 incident, where one question concerned the colour of a mailbox. After learning that his front yard was the subject of a sporting event, the resident took his mailbox inside! As if we needed any more incentive to upgrade!

TW: The orienteering community has been using the SportIdent (SI) system (I think) for longer than Navlight has been around. Why can’t the SI system be used for 24-hour rogaines?

PS: In 2004, SportIdent was used for the first time in a 24-hour event, near Auckland. It worked, but there were many problems. Firstly, there was no supporting software; secondly, the punches were large and heavy, and had a very short battery life, but most critically, at that time the SI cards could only store 32 controls. Later SI cards can store 64 controls, and the rest of the world uses SI cards for rogaining championships because that is the system that they already have. Someone has written some software to read the cards in a Rogaining application rather than orienteering, but there are still some potential issues with SI.

One is the weight and size, and battery life, of the punches. I have set courses where I had to traverse some high country, carrying up to 20 punches, with flags, anchoring tape, and string to protect the flags and punches from gale-force winds. This may need to be done up to 3 weeks before an event so battery life is as critical as weight and size.

Another issue that has occurred with SI is the incompatibility of different cards with different systems. This was manifested in the 2014 WRC in South Dakota, USA, where the SI cards came from at least three sources; privately owned, hired from the organisers, and rented from a website. Many were incompatible and the results were not known for three weeks after the event, after all the punches had been collected, read, and translated.

Thirdly, some argue that the SI cards are physically more awkward to register in a punch than the Navlight system – but that may be a matter of opinion.

Pushing the grey button into a Tag.

TW: How many rogaining associations now use the Navlight scoring system and how do they “sign up” to it (for want of a better phrase) – do they buy a set of punches and tags from you, and then I think a small portion of the entry fee goes towards this? Are there rogaining assocations that use scoring other than Navlight (or SI) and is there much difference with the operation of these systems?

PS: I have made 2,250 punches in all, about half of the AA variety and half the re-chargeable variety. I have also made 5,100 tags. The sets are distributed amongst NZRA, QRA, ACTRA, NSWRA, VRA, SARA, and ARA, and until recently there was a set in Hong Kong. There has been a significant amount of cross-sharing of equipment to handle big events, so it is getting hard to say exactly who has what – but it doesn’t matter as long as there is enough to go around.

Most of the equipment is “on hire” – there is a rental fee per competitor or per team, by agreement with the particular organisation. Both QRA and ACTRA purchased their sets in the early days, and this gave me the capital I needed to recover some of the development debt and to produce bigger quantities, and to pay people to do the PCB assembly. I prefer the rental system because it justifies the on-going maintenance and replacement cost and effort, whereas purchased electronics of any type usually has only a two-year guarantee, which is void if you hang it outside in the rain! The income also allows me to justify having a registered company in NZ (Navlight Systems Ltd) where I can get corporate travel insurance, in spite of my age.

WARA has developed their own electronic system but I know very little about it. Some smaller semi-commercial private organisations in NZ use an SFR Russian e-punching system, which is cheaper. The cards are like a key tag, which you place against a punch and then press a button. The punch uses a non-rechargeable Lithium Thionyl Chloride (ER) battery. See

TW:  I thought the system of being able to view the live progress of teams at this year’s World Champs was really cool for “spectators” and would also be a great safety feature for organisers to immediately know the whereabouts of teams. As someone with an acumen for technology, do you see this or other technological advancements becoming mainstream?

PS: For many years people have been suggesting that it would be good to have a communication from a punch to event HQ. And it would. The trouble is that radio waves, like light, travel in straight lines and get absorbed by trees and rain. Your mobile phone relies on multiple reflections of radio waves to reach you. It also needs a close cell tower. The further from a cell tower, the more power you need, and the shorter your battery life. Has anyone taken a phone (not in flight mode) on a 24-hour event and still had a working battery at the end?

Most controls are surrounded by bush and/or in hilly terrain, far from a cell site. The best chance of getting a radio signal out is to go upwards to the sky – a satellite. This was probably the method used at WRC this year, but the transmissions were not from a control site, but from the competitors themselves who were moving around, and thus often in open ground where transmission was possible.

An alternative is to use a High Frequency transmitter, operating around the 3 MHz frequency, which bounces off the ionosphere. This requires a wire antenna some 40 metres long which is getting impractical when you have to install a number of controls on one trip. The antenna is also likely to strangle people in the dark, and would require several antenna poles if in open ground.

There have been suggestions about networking the controls, so each punch has only to reach another punch. This is probably the most likely way forward, but there is still the problem of bad radio paths, high power requirements, large physical size, and battery life – not to mention cost.

TW: Thanks Peter for your service to the sport! All the best with your future projects!

Paddlegaine 2019, Coordinators Report from Geoff Peel


While researching the 2017 world orienteering day, Margaret stumbled across a South African based paddle orienteering event and thought – “we can do that”. The seed was planted but it needed a lot of effort to finally germinate.


Initially slated as a Newcastle Orienteering event for 20 people or so, we eventually decided to go a little bigger. A Facebook page was created and we threw around options before eventually settling on an event title. We then smugly congratulated ourselves on our fab choice – “Paddle Hunter”. This seemed perfect to us as it described everything about the event in an economical two words. You paddle, you hunt (checkpoints) and it was based in the Hunter region.

The fact that we didn’t have an Aquatic Event License (AEL) was brought to our attention by Andrew Haigh. This nearly sunk the project. After quite a few phone calls and emails it became apparent that Orienteering Australia currently had no public liability insurance for on-water activities and were unlikely to change that situation. You can orienteer on foot, riding a mountain bike, on ski’s and even in a wheelchair but not in any sort of boat. At that point we seemed dead in the water.

Dejected but not defeated we spent the next 18 months seeking other groups that might host our pet project. Local bush-walking and paddling clubs were approached but each time there was a stumbling block. It looked bleak and our enthusiasm was almost depleted when Margaret saw a Queensland paddle event. A rogaine! A paddlegaine! Why had we not thought of a paddlegaine before this? We had competed in many rogaines over the years and had even competed in a local rogaine that year. A quick call to Trevor Gollan revealed that NSW Rogaining were looking for a November “Surprise Event” and this was a perfect match. Finally our event had a home.


Why did you change the snappy and descriptive “Paddle Hunter” for the much longer and unwieldy “Lake Macquarie Paddle and Promenade Rogaine”? The simple answer is money. We successfully applied for a generous grant from Lake Macquarie City and wanted to give them naming rights as recognition for their support – thanks LMC! We also thought the area covered by our AEL was a tad small and that unless there was a foot section some of the stronger competitors might finish too early – thus “Promenade” was added to this now six word title which would prove challenging in graphic design considerations.


It didn’t take too long for us to realise that we didn’t really have any idea how to set a water based event. Margaret owned a kayak but was only an occasional recreational paddler while I didn’t paddle at all and while we have decades of orienteering and rogaining experience, including setting and organising major events, all our activities to date had been land based. This was a different kettle of fish – were we in over our heads? How fast do paddlers go? Do we need safety boats? How do we go about applying for an AEL and getting over all the regulatory high jumps? Should it be a paddle event only or do we have land based checkpoints? Will the navigation be too easy for regular rogainers? What number of competitors should we expect and what will be their expectations of this event? Can we place checkpoint in the middle of the lake and if so how do we do so?

We did have one big similarity to bush events in that safety is paramount. We quickly reached the conclusion that Margaret and I cruising about in a little rented tinny pretending to be a safety boat wasn’t going to look too flash on our license application. We immediately contacted the Lake Macquarie section of the SES that had taken on safety boat roles at the Lion’s Club Paddlefest for a number of years. Our contact, Tom Mackel, was enthusiastic about our event and was very familiar with water based sports. This would give his team a fantastic opportunity to keep up their skill levels … they were on-board. We are sure their presence helped us get over the line in eventually acquiring our AEL and Tom offered a few free tips in regards to safety and aquatic issues.

For the Queensland events double kayaks are provided (limited to 52) and the rental included in your entry fee. This seemed a good idea in that all participants are on an equal standing as far as their vessels are concerned. It became obvious that there were few companies with the capacity to provide enough kayaks and the one that did was already booked that day so we reverted back to BYO boat. We knew a few rogainers would like to participate but not actually own a paddle-craft so we contacted Lake Macquarie Kayak and Bike Hire and they were happy to be involved. We must thank Jennifer for taking this task off our hands and completely organising all the bookings – seems you had very happy customers.


Still worried by our lack of paddling credentials we asked around and were told that fellow local rogainers Rob and Marg Cook were extremely experienced and very successful paddle sports enthusiasts. I approached the pair and asked if they’d like to be our paddle advisers for this event. I might add that this conversation was while we were all purposely making our way to our initial checkpoint at this years 2019 Lake Macquarie Rogaine at Mulbring. They agreed, but on hindsight, a few checkpoints later, it occurred to me that possibly they’d only done so just to shut me up so that they could concentrate on the job and compass at hand. Not so, these guys were brilliant, constructive, professional (if you can be if not actually being paid) friendly and always willing to help. They pre-paddled our course to finally give us an idea of paddling times and were very encouraging about our course design and gave a glowing assessment of how much fun it was.


We were given free rein as to how to present this event so long as paddling was a major component to fulfill our Surprise Event promise. We looked at a few different options. Paddle only? Paddle & Foot? Concurrent separate Paddle and Foot events. As mentioned above we ended up with a promenade section simply because we knew the fast competitors would complete the course too early without it. It also allowed regular rogainers that perhaps were not great paddlers to rest their arms for a while. Concurrent separate events would have seen a bigger entry list but this seemed a bit complex and we wanted to test the waters to see how a predominantly paddle event might fair (a week out we were concerned that the answer to that question was NOT GOOD). The addition of a promenade section added its own problems many of which were solved by utilising our transition checkpoints.

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We were clever enough to select an area that offered easy road access to many places that might offer good checkpoint locations. There was of course some areas of the shoreline that were private property and unavailable. A quick ask around of a small group of fellow orienteers and rogainers at a social lunch provided access to the private jetty at CP 62 and to our event administrator Anita’s parents and sister place along L.T creek at CP 90. It’s amazing how there are hidden resources and contacts all around us just waiting to be discovered. Ideally for a paddle event you’d like to be able to paddle right up to a checkpoint, punch it and paddle off toward the next. How could we achieve this? Overhanging branches? We soon discovered that overhanging branches don’t grow on trees. Well yes, of course they do, but there were only a limited number that were of any practical use. We also realised that navigation itself would be too easy if you sighted the checkpoint out in the water as soon as you rounded the bend or could see it from across the bay. Some checkpoints would need to be land based – just a little way from the shoreline. Could we place checkpoints on water? How would we do that? One council throw-out day we drove around collecting boogie boards then over a few weeks designed, constructed and tested a prototype of a “floating checkpoint”. The “mast” needed to be easily detachable to allow them to be carried in a car. Our original idea of a brick to anchor them failed miserably – we needed real anchors. A google search revealed that new anchors were well over our budget but luckily Facebook Marketplace provided the answer providing 3 at around $10 each. We may have used more of these but our AEL only allowed us to use buoys provided they were placed after sunrise on the day of the event (and removed before sunset). There was no way we’d be able to place many of these and carry out other tasks on the morning of the event. Three was as many as we figured was possible. This task was delegated to Marg and Rob our paddle advisers. We also decided we could use star-picket posts driven into the lake bottom a few metres out but were worried their steel construction and narrow edges may damage vessels if you accidentally rammed it or moved up and down along side it due to the any wave action. Voilà– pool noodles. We had many other ideas some good, some bad, we were even going to hang CP 20 from the Fennell Bay bridge at one point in time. Eventually we settled for what we thought to be the best compromise as to what might be ideal and what was physically and logistically practical.

The Map can be found here


Entries as usual began very slowly and continued to stay worryingly low even a few days out. “Everybody enters on the last day” we were told, but would they. Other events have historical data going back a number of years and can base their numbers on that. Paddy Pallin 400+, LMR 300+ etc. We had zero history to guide us. In the end after encouraging, cajoling and bullying as many people as we could, we ended up with very decent entry numbers of just below the 100 mark. We thank you all for supporting our event as it wouldn’t happen without participants. Unfortunately when trying to enter you were faced with an entry system that didn’t quite reflect the nature of this event. As rogaines are usually team based event, the page is geared up for teams entry. New rules now allow individual entries for events of 3 hour duration. We decided to have no teams but instead base it on the paddle-craft you were in. Either ”singles” or “doubles”. This was a bit of a square peg in a round hole situation and we apologise for the confusion. Purely our fault as this was difficult to convey to a group that has been trained to think of team configurations of 2-5 persons.

Green flag starts the race


We were well organised and prepared and had wonderfully capable people supporting us but still had sleepless nights in the week leading up to this day. The realisation that our event with its two year gestation period was about to arrive and be presented to the rogaining world had us a little worried. Would it float or would it sink? Would the expected bad weather hold off until after we’d finished and packed up? Would lightning appear and force us to cancel the whole damn thing? Fortunately we woke up to a nice day and although the wind did increase at times during the 3 hours it was insignificant compared to the previous weekend which may have seen a postponement. The rain did eventually arrive but not until I was collecting the last checkpoint, CP 22. It was a water-based picket and I stopped for a while to watch the raindrops hitting the smooth water, creating a beautiful series of rings. As I stood there a flash of lightning reminded me I was standing knee deep in water with a 2.4 m metal rod conductor. Oops, time to leave.


Event dates tend to set themselves due to having to fit in with many competing elements. Sunday 3rd of November it was. The only tidal information available is at Swansea near the mouth of the Lake. By our observations is seemed to be two hours ahead of this northern section our event was to take place in. Many locals suggested that recent rain, air pressure, wind and weather conditions have a great affect on the water levels this far north. We’d visited the area on numerous occasions, many of these on a low tide. Tidal charts plus the estimated 2 hours suggested that we’d be around about low tide at the start of our event with an inflow during the event. Quite recently we had noted a very low tide, so low that it caused us to change our thinking considerably as to where we might place some checkpoints. Placing checkpoints on Saturday which had a low tide listed as 0.28 m (at Swansea) we observed it was nowhere near as low as the one we’d experienced a few weeks prior and our event low tide would actually be higher at 0.33 m. Phew, what a relief! Imagine then our horror turning up on the morning of the event to find the tide extremely low and still out-flowing. Half way through the event I saw a mud island that had appeared in Fennell Bay. Where had that come from? Checkpoints that on a normal high tide may be 2 metres from the water were now a staggering 50 metres walk. Wow – this must be a super low tide, our event is ruined. I took photos back from my drive around the course to show Margaret how bad it was. She was disappointed and dumbfounded. How can this be, given the tide charts and our previous observations, weren’t sea levels supposed to be rising? We’ll have to grin and bear it as there’s naught we can do about it.

At the Finish


  • 96 participants
  • 18 doubles
  • 58 singles
  • 76 different paddle craft
  • 20 volunteers
  • 15 SES personnel + 4 boats


2 singles and 3 doubles cleared the course within the 3 hour limit most with less than 10 minutes to spare. Rob Bennett and Lachlan Bakewell completed the course in their double with a staggering 34 minutes to spare but were shattered to learn they had failed to properly register at CP 101. In a great show of sportsmanship (is there a gender neutral equivalent) doubles winners John and Mardi Barnes presented Rob and Lachlan with one of their matching doubles trophies (they also still had the energy to remain behind and assist with the pack-up … amazing). Steven Todkill was first back of the singles to clear the course and was also outright winner.

Full results can be found here.

The top three Singles: Greigor Scott, Douglas Peres & outright winner Steven Todkill
The top three Mixed Doubles: Mardi & John Barnes, Shaun Anderson & Jane Holden, Nicole & Andrew Haigh


While we were aghast at the low tide it seemed you participants took it in your stride … or should that be stroke. Feedback has been very positive to date especially from many of the first-timers. It’s pleasing to hear such positive responses since the day was really quite a blur for us and difficult to gauge. Smiling faces at the end gave us some indication that you had a good time and that most of you didn’t really mind getting a bit muddy. We’d love to hear your stories and anecdotes. I heard one girl lost a shoe while another person may have lost or broken their paddle. Feedback would be appreciated even critical if it is constructive and helps to prepare another even better Paddlegaine in the future. Will there be one? If there is would you recommend it to others? What would you do to improve it? Would you like to set the course or organise it? Do you know an area that would suit this style of event? I’m sure that the Rogaining committee will be interested in your thoughts about this event and will take them into consideration as to if or when another may be scheduled. It’s up to you really, if you want it, ask for it.


We are very lucky to have the luxury of a wealth of navigational sports wisdom in our area. Our social environment is populated by many people who have planned and organised many major rogaines and orienteering events and we have sought ideas and assistance from many of these people. They were all generous with their time and we thank them for this. We are also lucky in that half the time we house the Newcastle Orienteering Club gear van at our home residence. Having this at hand saved us many hours of organising and sourcing equipment.

  • Margaret Peel – Event Organiser – Course Planner – Checkpoint Placement & Collection
  • Geoff Peel- Event Organiser – Course Planner – Checkpoint Placement & Collection
  • Anita Bickle -Admin – Paddle Adviser – NavLight programming
  • Carolyn Rigby – Admin
  • Marg Cook – Paddle Adviser – Course Vetting – Checkpoint Placement & Collection
  • Rob Cook – Paddle Adviser – Course Vetting – Checkpoint Placement & Collection
  • Bob Gilbert – Transition – Presentations
  • Denis Lyons – Transition Official – Checkpoint Collection
  • Viola O’Connor – Transition
  • Carolyn Chalmers – Transition
  • Adrian Plaskitt – Car Parking – Catering
  • Glenn Downey – Car Parking – Catering
  • Bert Van Netten – Catering – Checkpoint Placement
  • Maria Orr – Catering
  • Peter Orr – Catering
  • Neil Chappel – Car Parking – Catering – Checkpoint Collection
  • Baxter Peel – Anchor testing – Soft Drink Spruiking
  • Jack Hart – Checkpoint Collection
  • Ann Montgomery – Checkpoint Collection
  • Sam Howe – Checkpoint Collection
  • Nicole Haigh – Council liaison
  • Thomas Mackel – SES

Thanks to Lake Macquarie City for generously supporting this event.

(This report including many more photos is taken from the Paddlegaine Facebook page)

My Wrap of the 2019 Paddlegaine and being on the right side of the Ledger

I was really looking forward to the Paddlegaine and I am very happy I competed and I will remember the event for the rest of my life.

I am a semi regular kayaker and have access to a number of different kayaks. Unfortunately, none of the kayaks are racing kayaks, but I had a choice of:

  • 4m flat water fibreglass sit-in (I have two of these)
  • 5.1m sea capable fibreglass touring kayak sit-in
  • 2.5m plastic kayak sit-on

The immediate temptation was to go for the longest kayak available since speed on the water, all other things being equal, is a product of water line length. We had already been told that there would be some controls that require you to get out of the kayak and there is nothing quick or easy about getting out of a sit in kayak. Also, the longer the kayak the less capable they will be in tight manoeuvres. In the end I decided to go for the 4m flat water fibreglass sit-in since this should have yielded the best combination of water line speed versus manoeuvrability. The other consideration was that I had bought it 2nd hand for $80 so I was no too worried if it got banged about jumping in and out.

As it turned out this was probably the wrong choice. The wind and waves were quite strong at several stages of the event and it was a real fight to keep the rudderless flat water kayak above the water and on course against a maelstrom of wind, chop and tide. Having looked at my GPS track I was quite pleased with how straight my lines were given this challenge.

Me in my chosen kayak for the event. On this occasion I had my own navigator on board.

My other pre-event consideration was do I lend my spare kayak to my usual team mate Julian Ledger. Julian is only 2 points behind me in the 2019 Series Point Score I would never forgive myself if he beat me in the series point score using my own kayak (we are teaming up for the Socialgaine). In any case, in a moment of weakness or insanity, I decided to loan Julian my 2nd, 4m flat water kayak for the event. The race was on.

When I arrived at the event the first thing to notice was the range of kayaks on offer. I was looking very jealously at some of the sit on and sit in racing kayaks knowing that my only chance of beating them would be if some very tight turning was required. I also looked across to the hire kayaks which were very functional and practical but short plastic kayaks and slow and there was no way that I should be beaten by one of these.

Another consideration was the promenade rogaine. I had assumed that this would be a 5-10 minute frolic along some grassy foreshores. Instead it turned out to be, for me anyway, over an hour of slogging it out through bush and hills. In fact having picked up my map the promenade rogaine looked very like a Sydney Summer Series orienteering event.

The event started and Julian I had both decided to avoid any possible traffic at the early controls and go straight across the bay to do the promenade rogaine. Paddling across the bay was quite slow and difficult in the wind, chop and tide. I arrived at the other side about 10 seconds ahead of Julian and took off for my promenade rogaine. I went anti-clockwise around the course while Julian went clockwise so my next indication about how I was travelling was going to be at the half-way point of the run. On the way I missed control number 12. I saw a sign but no control and I was not going to waste time over a 10 pointer. As it turned out the control was just a little bit further up the hill. I also made a really stupid mistake leaving control 73. I went up the hill to the north and got to the top before I realised I should have been heading west (Doh). Julian and I passed each other at control 10, which I figured was pretty much half way, but I knew that Julian would not miss control 12 so even if we arrived back at the kayaks at the same time he would be 10 points ahead of me. My next indication of progress was going to be when I got back to my kayak. Would Julian’s kayak still be there?

When I eventually got back to my kayak I was a bit panicked to find that Julian’s kayak was no longer there. As I grabbed my kayak and headed back to the water I quickly scanned the horizon and I could not see him. Bugger! He was now at least 10 points and several minutes ahead of me. I jumped in my kayak and started paddling furiously towards control 101. By the time I was about 1/3 of the way there I realised I could see Julian’s (my) kayak in the distance and I figured that he was now 10 points and possibly 4-6 minutes ahead of me.

There is nothing quite as motivating as trying to beat a good mate, so I paddled as hard as I could and I realised that I was slowly gaining on Julian. To be fair I have done much more kayaking than Julian in recent years and I had gone to the effort to have a few training runs before the event. By the time we got to 101 Julian was only 76 seconds ahead of me. I passed Julian on the traverse from 101 to 62 and that was the last time I saw him for an hour. It is very hard to look directly behind you on a kayak without dropping pace so I just focussed on doing my own thing and paddling as fast as I could.

After 62, I went and did 20, 64 and 22. I then decided to do 36 and 90. Pre-event I had decided that the out and back from 36 to 90 was not going to be worthwhile, but having experienced the swell, chop and wind in the middle of the bay, I realised that this would be quick, flat water kayaking which was ideally suited to me and my kayak. As it turned out this leg was probably the difference between Julian’s and my course. Julian picked up 61 but in a similar time I had picked up 36 and 90.

After 90 and 36 I went to 74, 28 and 52. At 52 I had a very difficult decision to make. I had 28 minutes left and I felt like I could get to the hash house in that time, but did I have time to get 41, 27 or 40 on the way back? Having been late back on a number of rogaines I know it is not much fun, so I headed straight back to the hash house. By this stage I could see Julian and he could see me and I was confident that if I turned for the hash house he would do so as well.

As it turned out the run back to the hash house was much quicker then expected and I arrived there 15 minutes early, kicking myself that I had made a bad decision and forgone at least 40 points.

After the event finished and the points were tallied I found my self 50 points ahead of my friend and rival Julian and I finished a creditable 17th place out of the 58 competitors in the singles event.

The other thing to note about the Paddlegaine is that the basemap was credited to Russell Rigby who passed away recently. Russell was a fine map maker and orienteer and was of great assistance to me when I was trying to configure RouteGadget. Russell’s widow, Carolyn, was at the event helping out on the weekend. Thanks Russell and condolences to Carolyn from the Rogaining community.

Many thanks to Geoff and Margaret Peel for putting on a great event. The event was very well organised and the course well set. There were lots of volunteers on hand for every task and I had a great time. I feel a bit sorry for everyone who did not come along as they missed out on a really memorable occasion.