What is Orienteering?
Orienteering is a sport which combines running and map-reading skills. People of all ages and ability can take part as the courses offered in most events range from very easy to technically difficult and longer distances. West Cumberland Orienteering Club host events at least once a week, many of them on an informal basis. Click on the ‘Events’ tab above to see what’s on offer.
The maps used for orienteering are usually a larger scale than most people are used to. Walkers and ramblers, for instance usually use 1:25000 scale maps where orienteering courses use larger scales such as 1:15000, 1:10000 or even as large as 1:7500, depending on the courses on offer. Events are organized on all kinds of areas, from town parks, to forests and fell areas. Each map has a course pre-marked showing features (known as controls) on the map where the participants will find a red and white marker flag and an electronic punching device (control box). As competitors find the controls, they insert an electronic chip (e-card) into the control box which proves that they’ve visited the control and also records their times between each control on the course. The winner on each course is whoever visits all controls, in the correct order in the fastest time. On all of WCOC’s events, each competitor gets an immediate print-out showing their overall time along with split times between all controls.
Courses are graded in length and difficulty to accommodate all-comers from beginners (whose course will be on easy paths and tracks) to experienced orienteers who will compete on longer, technical courses covering all kinds of terrain. The larger, more formal events have classes arranged for each course which takes account of age and sex so that anyone can be competitive. These events often cater for participants with disabilities through provision of a variant of the sport called ‘Trail-O’. Other types of orienteering include mountain bike (MTBO) and Ski Orienteering. See the British Orienteering website (www.britishorienteering.org.uk) for more details.
Anyone interested in the sport is welcome at any WCOC event. Just turn up and introduce yourself at registration, or if you would like more information first, contact any of the people listed on the ‘Contacts’ tab above. If you would like help at your first event, we often have experienced orienteers available to take you round your first course!
To take part in the sport, you only need a decent pair of trainers or all-terrain shoes and outdoor clothes. Often, full body cover (arms and legs) is deemed mandatory if the courses go through areas where competitors are liable to be scratched by brambles or where sheep roam freely (risk of ticks). When there is risk of inclement weather, the carrying of a cagoule or waterproof is deemed mandatory, especially on the longer courses. A whistle is usually compulsory as this is the recognized method of raising alarm if a competitor gets injured (although this is rarely if ever required). While not strictly required for beginners on first courses, a compass will soon be required to take part in the sport competitively.
As you master the sport and become more competent (and confident) you will progress through the various levels. Events held at district level (approximately once monthly in the Lake District) use a colour coded system to gauge progress. This starts with Yellow class for the really easy courses, progressing through Orange, Light-green, Green, Blue to Brown for the longer technical courses. District and National events use age group/sex classes. WCOC’s informal events that take place every Thursday night have a novice course, a short course and long course on offer.
WCOC are very proud of the links with local schools. Our members organise and run a series of schools league competitions with hundreds of pupils taking part. The club also has a growing number of junior members who attend regular coaching sessions organized by the club and compete in national competitions against many other junior squads around the country.
A word of warning! This sport is addictive. Only take it up if you are prepared to spend all of your Thursday nights and most Sundays in some of the most striking scenery in the country while getting fit and mastering new skills that will give you (and your family) many hours of enjoyment.