Planning Pointers

Entries for the armchair planning competition have now closed and, whilst we await the judging, Kevin Bracher, planner for the 2019 November Classic on Bramshaw, provides some insight into the reality of planning in general, and on Bramshaw in particular.

David has been very kind in allowing us the luxury of putting the Start & Finish wherever we like. When planning an event the Start and Finish are usually governed by where the Car Park is and how to get the competitors to the start and back from the finish safely. You also have to consider not one but all the courses for the event and especially the short junior courses which require linear features for the juniors to follow. The Event Organiser is responsible for the safety of the competitors and consultation between the Organiser and Planner on positioning the Start and finish is an important part of their interaction so that both parties are happy. Controllers are interested in the fairness of the courses and the safety of the competitors.

David has already pointed to the useful websites e.t.c that cover the rules for event planning and the sites that offer great advice. He also suggested looking at courses previously planned on the map area as a useful exercise.

So how do you go about planning good courses?

  1. Read up on the rules for the level of event you are planning.
  2. Get to know how to use the software. Play around with Condes.
  3. Understand the different technical levels required for the courses you are planning and what is acceptable and not acceptable. The beginners' courses are often the most difficult to plan.
  4. Try to set the competitors a fair but challenging course within the guidelines.

For the first three above you can look up all the information you need. The Club also puts on courses to help with all of these aspects. SOC has many experienced planners who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. SOC also offers mentors for anyone taking on the planners role for the first time.

Number 4 is where the fun really starts. This is where you get to use your flair and creativity. When setting a course it is good to remember that it is all about setting a good leg between controls to challenge the competitor. We do not aim to hide the control at the end of a leg. The control or the feature should be visible if the competitor is in the right place.

When it comes to the TD4 & TD5 courses what does the planner have at his disposal? Keep the competitor thinking by planing a mixture of leg lengths with changes of direction and if possible changes in the type of terrain travelled through. Give the competitor choices, 'run around or over', take the risky direct route or choose a longer but safer approach. Use the terrain to set the challenge and try to vary the techniques that the competitor may need to apply.

When planning the 2019 November Classic There were several false starts and problems that left me with a relatively short period of time to complete the final planning. We ended up having to bus to the competition area after two possible parking sites were ruled out quite late on. This coupled with problems relating to permission for the event resulted in a difficult final few weeks leading up to the event.

The Start/Finish area was the best option with the logistics involved in Bussing. So after having planned with two totally different Start and Finish sites I had to start again for the third time. The main problem was planning workable junior courses and this took a great deal of thought.

The one thing that made it all possible was that we knew we had a great area with varied terrain and some really good technical sections mixed in with some typically vague New Forest areas that would give participants an interesting challenge.

My job was to try and get the best out of the terrain and challenge the competitors!

I used the vague runnable areas to plan some long legs where it was easy for runners to drift off line if they did not concentrate. Then after a long leg, they would arrive at a technically difficult area where there were several short legs that required different orienteering techniques. I also took most technical courses over the west to east south-east ridge and back so there was a physical challenge as well as a technical challenge.

With the amount of rain we had leading up to the event I had to rely on some simple control descriptions on wet features. Marshes could grow depending on the amount of rain so instead of placing a control on the end of a linear marsh or edge of a small marsh I had to place the control along or in the marsh. I also had to plan legs where routes could cross the water courses safely.

Hope you found this interesting and enlightening. Planning can be challenging but is very rewarding, great fun and can benefit your own navigation skills. If you have not taken on the planning of an event or activity yet, why not give it a go! The club will support you and give you as much help as you need.