I am sure that many of you will have noticed, on the weekend, that the controls were covered with orange PVC pipe and there was not a steel cover in sight.

There is a back story to this involving the type of punch used and the covers. It became clear many years ago that we needed to secure controls hung in populated areas. We have had occasions, in the past, where mischievous locals have tried or suceeded in breaking or stealing punches.

Graeme Cooper, a Committeee member at the time, took it upon himself to create control covers. He did this by using steel sleeves which could be padlocked to an object. This made it hard for a control to be stolen or vandalised. While I applaud Graeme for taking the initiative and for all his hard work, I hated these steel covers. I hated the steel covers because they were a bit long and on a bright day it was very difficult to see the flash of the light from the punches, and I never move on from a control until I have seen two flashes. The difficulty in seeing these flashes added to frustration of competitors and caused queuing at controls near to the hash house.

In parallel, NSW Rogaining was having trouble with punches which were losing their clock time during an event. To make sure all the punch times are as accurate, as they can be, before each rogaine all punches are charged and have their clocks synchronised. When a control is punched it passes the control number and time to your “watch”. The control number is then mapped to points and the time is used to calculate splits. When a punch loses its time we can no longer calculate accurate split times which inhibits our ability to produce post-race analyses.

Did you know that the punches also store the fact that you were there, so in the event of a long overdue rogainer we can use the flight plan and a punch reader to find out if a team did visit a control before going missing.

The reason for so many clock resets in days gone by, was that the batteries were held in the punches by battery clips and any sort of rough handing could cause the battery to become temporarily unseated and this would reset the control clock, or in some cases the battery would not reseat properly and the control would no longer register a punch.

Peter Squires, a very good Kiwi rogainer, and the developer of the Navlight system addressed this problem with the battery clips by soldering the batteries in the punches. he sent many of these soldered battery punches to NSW Rogaining for use.

Roll forward again to the 2023 Minigaine at Little Bay and the post events scoring was a mess because we had 4 controls that simply stopped working for part of the event and a few others which had lost their clock. A bit of post event analysis revealed that the new punches, with the soldered batteries, did not fit in the steel covers and we were using the “old” punches with battery clips for the vandal proofed controls. As you can imagine the risk of dislodging a battery inside the punch is much higher when the punch is dropped in its steel cover and this is what was happening.

My scorecard from the 2023 Mingaine showing the clock failures and that control 41 which has stopped working was manually added (and my scorecard had relatively few errors).

Having accurate results is fundamental to running a rogaine so the Committee had a look at the problem and Graham Field, having been newly appointed as President, rose to the challenge and manufactured 50 control covers out of PVC.

So, thanks to Graham Field we have new lightweight and shorter control covers which fit the soldered battery punches. As a result, the flashes on the control are much easier to see, the controls do not move in their covers and we had no clock errors or failed punches on Sunday and I didn’t have to give up my Monday to trolling through and sorting out real miss-punches from punch failures.

Thanks to Graham Field and thanks to Graeme Cooper (who is no longer involved with rogaining)  for all your efforts. Rogaining is run by volunteers and both Graham Field, and in the past, Graham Cooper, are both outstanding contributors to our sport.

Other Reading

If you are interested in this and related topics you may wish to read:

Also, did you know that after the 2020 Paddy Pallin 6hr at Willoghby, I had to rescue a control from Chatswood Police because a member of the public had reported what looked like a pipe bomb, despite the fact that it’s real pupose was clearly labelled.

4 Responses

  1. Chris, thanks for providing this interesting backstory. How lucky we are to have you, Graham and the other NSWRA committee members look after us for so many years making our rogaining events such a delight to attend. Big hugs 🙂

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