JWOC training camp -Portugal

On the weekend of the 11-14th March, 3 prospective JWOC athletes, Darragh Hoare, Liam Cotter and Aoife O’Sullivan (all BOC) travelled to Portugal under the leadership of Jens Waechter (BOC) to get some orienteering experience in relevant terrain in advance of Junior World Orienteering Championships in July. Over the weekend, we squeezed in 7 maps, covered approximately 45km and got about 10 hours of quality orienteering in the Portuguese forests and cobble-stoned towns.

After an early start on Friday morning, we flew from Dublin to Porto and then drove a further 2 hours to our accommodation. After checking in and having some lunch, we put on our O-kit and headed to nearby Aguiar da Beira village for some sprint training. This hilly medieval village was filled with narrow cobble-stoned streets, many stairs, some rough open areas and offered plenty of route choice. After a quick debrief, we headed back to our accommodation to make dinner and further discuss our various routes. Jens spoke to us about the importance of recovery. We winded down with some mindfulness and then headed to bed for an early night.

In order to somewhat replicate what we’ll experience on race day, we decided to leave the house early each morning, this also allowed us plenty of time to come back to the house for a longer recovery period during lunch. Each map was conveniently located within max 20 minutes driving of our accommodation. On Day 2, we focused our attention on the middle distance discipline. Now before anyone gets the impression we went to Portugal to escape the Irish weather, Day 2 tells a different story. With average temperatures of about 4-6 °C and constant rain which only got heavier as the day progressed, it was certainly not a sun holiday. However, that’s not what we were in Portugal for, we were here to train and that’s certainly what we did. 

The first area we went to was described as being very relevant for both the JWOC middle qualification and final. Runability was very good in this area however, I found I was very cautious of the bare rocks and feared slipping in the wet conditions. I thoroughly enjoyed this intricate area and was excited to see the other terrains Aguiar da Beira had to offer. Our next session of the day took us to an area just next to the middle embargo on a map made by JWOC mappers, Janne Weckman and Timo Joensuu. This area was very technical and rather slow going with rough conditions underfoot. I learned the hard way that it can be very difficult to relocate in this complex terrain. The rain had really set in at this stage so we headed back to the house to shower, refuel and take some time to recover. During this down time we uploaded our gps tracks to quickroute to discuss route choice and learn from our mistakes.

Our final session of the day brought us to another middle relevant area mapped by the JWOC mappers. Putting back on our wet kit that afternoon and facing into pouring rain was difficult and I certainly needed some extra motivation. Darragh’s wise words gave me the extra boost I needed to hop out of the car; ‘Aoife just think about it, in an hour and a half’s time you’ll be even more prepared for JWOC and you’ll be warming up in a hot shower.’ We set off on another middle distance length course and I quickly learned the rain isn’t that bad once you’re out in it. I clocked in over 17k and plenty of climb by the end of day 2 and was looking forward to getting some dinner into me and then another early night. We also had access to a pool/jacuzzi at our accommodation that served as a nice recovery tool.

On our last day in Portugal we shifted our focus to the Long Distance and the 1:15,000 scale. Thankfully the weather had dried up, although it was still cold the sun was shining so we couldn’t complain. The first area we tackled was a 6.6k course focusing on long legs planned by the JWOC long distance course setter, Diogo Miguel. One of the biggest things I took from this training was that the vegetation can be brutal and I was very grateful for the elephant tracks that had been previously bashed through the dark green areas. 

Our next session was some O-intervals. Both mental and physical fatigue was setting in at this stage and I found I was making silly mistakes so I cut this session short to save myself for our final area. We ate our lunch in the lovely village square where we had parked the car, after having first bathed our feet in the ice-cold water of the fountain.

We ended the camp on a high with a final session in a contour, green and rock only map. I felt revived after having napped during our extended lunch break. I enjoyed being able to really focus on the contour details without any excess clutter on the map. It was a small but brilliant area and although I plodded around the course very slowly, I did so with a big beaming smile on my face. 

We certainly squeezed a lot into this short weekend and got a great taste of the terrain Portugal has to offer. I left feeling hungry for more and can’t wait to get back into this luscious terrain in a few months time. 

Thanks so much to Mike Long, Dave Masterson and Jens Waechter for organising all the logistics behind the training camp and to Jens for accompanying us on the trip, serving as chauffeur, coach and mentor. Thanks also to anyone and everyone who has supported the junior squad who helped part fund this trip. 

Aoife O’Sullivan W20, UCDO/BOC

Self Training for the advanced orienteer

CNOC, in conjunction with David Healy (GEN), have organised 17 self-training markers on the Kanturk/Scarr map. This initiative is being provided as an aid to orienteers who wish to improve their navigational skills in advance of IOC 2022 and the upcoming Summer international events. Part of the map is on National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) land and we wish to acknowledge the invaluable help given by them and by Conservation Ranger Hugh Mc Lindon. 

The area is physically and technically testing with wonderful contour and rock detail. This makes it suitable for orienteers who would normally compete at Light Green (TD4) or higher. It is not suitable ground for beginners. Whistles should be carried as mobile phone coverage is ‘patchy’. The markers are numbered bamboo canes approx. 1m tall and will remain in place under NPWS permit until April 30th. Felling is ongoing in the area around markers 110 and 111. You must stay away from any operating machinery.

 As we are in the Wicklow Mountains Nature Reserve strict conditions apply which must be observed by orienteers.

  1. Participant numbers must not exceed the permitted number. For this course that is 10 people per day. NPWS recently surveyed this area and it is being used by endangered nesting species, so it is critical that participants join NPWS in their protection by ensuring disturbance remains very low. 
  2. If, while training, you come across birds that are nesting (or displaying signs of stress) then alter course and avoid that site. 
  3. Dogs or other animals may not accompany participants (dogs effectively sterilise an area of ground-nesting birds).
  4. Litter (including biodegradable waste) must not be left.
  5. All activities must be carried out in full compliance of any Covid-19 restrictions as indicated by Government guidelines ( ); 
  6. The Duty Conservation Ranger must be contacted at 087-9803899 in the case of any notable incidents occurring eg. accidents.

Thanks to CNOC members Pat Healy, Senan O’ Boyle and Ruth Lynam for mapping and placing the markers on Kanturk. This self-training opportunity is a continuation of the initiative spearheaded by David Healy (GEN) on Brockagh in the Summer of 2021. Thanks to David for guiding us through the process, choosing potential sites and preparing the markers.

It’s a beautiful area – hope you enjoy and benefit from your training.

Map files for printing and planning can be found below:

North Kanturk 

South Kanturk

Junior Home Internationals Success

A surprisingly strong squad emerged from the enforced hibernation of lock down and a team of 21 young athletes were selected to travel to the Junior Home Internationals in Surrey. The event was excellently organised by South London Orienteers. Luxurious accommodation was provided by PGL outdoor activity centre and the Individual event at the Devil’s Punchbowl was planned to have a fiendishly steep finish up to the Centre’s woodland. It was great to have a full complement of W14s and a particularly strong performance from Great Easter Navigator’s (GEN) Fionnuala Rowe who finished in 6th place, her older sister Emily also performing well finishing 8th in the W16 race. Lagan Valley’s Meadow McCauley led the Irish field at W18 in her last performance at JHI.

The terrain was very tough, and not your typical southern forest. There was hard running through thick undergrowth and several very steep climbs so our M18s had a tough outing, but again performed well with a 6th and 8th place for Eoghan Whelan (South East Viking Orienteers) and Liam Cotter (Bishopstown Orienteering Club), and a respectable time in 11th place for Lagan Valley’s Dan Earnshaw. This is also the last JHI for all these young men.  At M16, the Irish boys finished in consecutive places with Josh Hoare (Bishopstown Orienteering Club) leading the pack and Oliver, Dan and Ben (LVO), in succession all showing how physical the terrain was.

Stephanie Pruzina (Team Manager) and Gerry Browne (M14)

Highlight of the weekend had to be Gerry Browne’s performance winning 3rd place in the M14 race. He followed this with such a blistering relay leg that his 3rd leg runner (nameless) wasn’t quite ready for the handover. There was no question about who should be awarded the shield for Best Irish Performance. Well done Gerry!

The relay on Bramshott Common provided some fast running and unfortunately a confusing control with a mis- number. Despite this all our teams finished error-free giving us a comfortable lead over a diminished Welsh team and we took home the Judith Wingham Trophy again.

Many thanks go to the parents who travelled with the team and especially to Eoin Browne who lent his O-shoes to Ben whose bag stayed in Gatwick for the weekend. Special thanks to Stephanie Pruzina for coordinating and organising the Irish team in the absence of a Junior Affairs Coordinator for the IOA. Made especially difficult under the current covid restrictions, differing North/ South Ireland and UK! Of course enormous thanks to SLOW for putting on a great event and particularly Mathias and Abi  who co-ordinated the weekend.

One final learning point…we might need to recruit some musical talent for next year. If we can’t beat the Scots at O maybe we can out-sing them!

Links to Full Results can be found at SLOW’s website here.

More thanks to Stephanie Pruzina for providing the basis of this article. 🙂

Junior Home Internationals 2021

This weekend a team of juniors and their supporters and mentors are heading for Haslemere in Surrey in the South of England for the Junior Home Internationals. South London Orienteers, affectionately known as ‘SLOW’ are hosting the event. The event is, for many, the first time they will don the Irish jersey and orienteer for an all Ireland team in the JHI.

The JHI is the ‘Home Nations’ of Junior orienteering where teams aged M/W14 to M/W18 from each of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland compete. The event consists of an individual long distance competition on Saturday, followed by mixed aged teams in a Relay on the Sunday. Results from the two days are calculated using a points based system.

Saturdays long distance race will be in the aptly named Devil’s Punch Bowl and Hindhead Common, a tough area with plenty of gradient which will test both the mental and physical strength of these youngsters.

The Relay race will be held on a newly mapped area at Bramshott Common, the area is very runnable with a mixture of lightly wooded sections and open grassy areas interspersed with trees.

Devil’s Punchbowl Map 2018

The full list of the team can be found here, members represent a range of clubs from across the country including :

  • Ajax
  • Bishopstown Orienteering Club
  • Cork Orienteering Club
  • Curragh Naas Orienteering Club
  • Great Eastern Navigators
  • Lagan Valley Orienteers
  • North West Orienteering Club
  • South Eastern Vikings Orienteering Club
  • Three Rock Orienteering Club
  • Leicestershire Orienteering Club

We wish the young orienteers a great weekend of orienteering, making new friends and memories.

Subject to photographic restrictions, we hope to bring you pictures and news of the event as it happens via social media channels , facebook, instagram and twitter.

My Swedish Adventure- part 2

My Job

Hi again! I hope you enjoyed reading my introduction last week about my time in Sweden. This week, I thought I would let you know about my job and the great people who have taken me in and made me such a part of their family!

I run for OK Ravinen (along with UCDO and my British club, Moravian Orienteers) who are a Swedish orienteering club based in Nacka in Stockholm. I have run for them for 4 years now and have many friends from the club. Along with that, I also know the Nacka area pretty well from being over here on training camps and for competitions. Therefore, the fact that my family lived right on the edge of the Nacka nature reserve and only a 3km cycle from the Ravinen club-hut was perfect!

The family I work for are an Australian orienteering family, both parents ran for Australia in WOC. However unfortunately, they run for IFK Lidingö which is another Stockholm club, and one of OK Ravinen’s biggest rivals. So, they tried to persuade me to switch at the beginning of my visit, but I knew where to keep my loyalties! Their children are 5, 3 and 1.5 and are really cool kids! They are fun, full of adventure, have loads of imagination, and are bilingual (so trying to teach me lots of Swedish). It impresses me so much how they can switch from playing with their friends in Swedish to talking to me in English!

During the week I work about 25 hours which includes dropping them off and picking them up at pre-school, playing with them, and sometimes cooking dinner and helping with bedtime. At the weekends we then do things all together, like going on an “utflykt” (an adventure out in the woods), or just playing around the house. There is always plenty of time for me to go training as much as I like, or to go away to competitions at the weekends.

Kathryn Barr UCDO, Moravian Orienteers and OK Ravinen!

It sounds like a dream job! Check out Kathryn’s previous installment here.

My Swedish Adventure

An introduction

Hi! For those of you who don’t know me, I am Kathryn, a 21-year-old orienteer from the North of Scotland who moved to Dublin three years ago to study Veterinary Medicine at UCD. Since then I have really enjoyed running for UCDO in various orienteering events around Dublin and Ireland. However, this year has given me a different kind of adventure.

I planned to take six months off studying to travel to the Rocky Mountains in Canada to work in a veterinary practice to complete the placement required for my course. I was really looking forward to this. I planned to stay with family friends, work my days in the vet practice helping animals (it has been my dream all my life to be a vet), and run in the mountains at the weekends. It was going to be the perfect break from university, especially with all the disruption COVID was causing.

But as usual for COVID, my plans have been turned on their head! Through the summer holidays I was beginning to look at flights out to Canada and apply for a VISA, only to find that the Canadian Government had closed their borders for any unnecessary travel. I waited and waited for them to re-open, but unfortunately this never happened. Just as I started to give up hope and realise I might be sitting at home for my 6 months off unable to do anything productive, I saw a job avert on Facebook which changed all my plans!

This job advert was for an au-pair job in Stockholm for an orienteering family from Australia. Just 4 days after seeing the job advert, the job was mine! I would be spending the next 4 months living in Sweden, looking after 3 awesome children during the days, and training and racing orienteering in the evenings and weekends. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Over the next few weeks I will be writing about different parts of my adventure and how I have escaped an Irish COVID lockdown. I hope you enjoy it!

Kathryn Barr UCDO

Looking back to May 1969

I’m sure we’re all feeling nostalgic as we spend what should be our annual weekend get together and Irish Orienteering Championships in our various 2km zones. So I set about taking a look through some of the archives and found this beautiful piece of writing which follows. I hope you enjoy this piece by Aubrey Flegg.


The owls of the Devil’s Glen looked in, no doubt, on Emlyn Jones as he prepared five meticulous tracing for the new Devil’s Glen map. Winter had laid mapping by the heels and a map was urgently needed for the first of the Leinster Orienteering Championships in May. Planning went ahead on black and white and in the evenings the roding woodcock whirred over the woods. Then the map was at the printers. Leaves fell from the calendar like autumn. A week to go… days … then the maps were there. It was Friday: the event was on Sunday.

Two years previously, almost to the day, Michael Lunt, stimulated by an article in the Observer, organised the first of our now familiar Orienteering events. The map was an unmodified six inch Ordnance Survey sheet. The course, with glorious disregard for wind or limb, plunged from the north of the present map down into the Devils Glen, across the river, up to the summit, down to the farm, and then like hound on hare across the road to a finish in a distance which even Mike can not remember. The event was won by Niall Rice in the first of many wins. “we had very little idea of fairness in setting courses in those days”. Mike Lunt recalls. “A control was once put hard up against a wide ditch. There were only two alternatives: total immersion or a very long run round.” Tactics too were different. Was it at the Devil’s Glen that Jim Butler, when hard pressed, was seen to hide in the grass until the opposition, missing the control, had passed?

The map prepared by Emlyn, sided by others, particularly from A.F.A.S., represents an enormous stride forward in ten short years. The development of modern maps reflects the unfolding of an almost surprised awareness of the richness and variety which the sport has to offer. Accuracy and details have become intelligible through the use of colour, and the orienteer carries with him not only fact but opinion. This is runnable, this is not. Tedious thought the modern map may be to produce, it carries with it completefreedom of choice for the orienteer. For the planner it makes it possible to set a course designed, as mike puts it, “to elminiate chance and to reward skill”.

Colin Dunlop (controller) and I poked in the gloom over our fuzzy dye-line print wondering if we were looking for a path or a drain: colour does make a difference. We enter the stage together, searching.

  • Planner: I have ribboned a control on this knoll here.
  • Controller: What knoll? ( He inspects a gentle undulation on the ridge) Well, I suppose it could be called a knoll. Where do you want to hang your control?
  • Planner: Down here. ( With enthusiasm, pointing into a cavity in a pile of brashings.
  • The controller, with a patient look, takes the control from the planner and hangs it high. The players leave the forest.)

“The important thing on that first event, “Mike Lunt recalls, ” was to find features which the organiser could recognise. We were not the least bit worried about whether they could be recognised by an orienteer on the run. The controls were H.Williams’ bags and the markers coloured felt pens. Nobody worried too much in those days: we just came out and had a great time.”

A great time? A great time? Is there something in that for us? Something perhaps we are in danger of forgetting?

The course was all but set. Worried about one last bearing, I was following, in advance, the track of many feet when a yard before me, the leaves erupted and a woodcock rose and curved down through the trees. At my feet was a nest with two or maybe three brown-smudged eggs. The course was changed, the many feet went else-where, and the woodcock sat, merged with the fallen leaves, until we too had gone and the owls of the Devil’s Glen flew again over Tiglin.

An original piece taken from the archive by Aubrey Flegg penned in May of 1979 , looking back at an earlier event held in May of 1969.

So who are these characters of early Irish orienteering?

Well I did a bit of googling and also sought the wisdom of John McCullough, (feel free to send me any corrections) if Aubrey, Emlyn, Mike or Colin’s family would like to add or subtract please do, let me know!

Aubrey Flegg was a club member of Irish Orienteers, later in Setanta. He was born in Dublin, but his early childhood was spent in County Sligo, Ireland. He was a geologist and worked with the Geological Survey of Ireland. His wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Eleanor, were also active in orienteering as well as their son Nigel. Aubrey retired from G.S.I. and took up writing children’s books; he also gave up orienteering. Unfortunately none of the family are involved now. (Source: O’Brien Press and John McCullough!)

Emlyn Jones was an instructor at the National Adventure Centre at Tiglin in Wicklow. He was Welsh and a physical oceanographer by training. He instructed in a range of adventure sports including mountaineering, canoeing and orienteering. The director of the centre at the time would have been Paddy O’Leary who was one of the founding fathers of Irish orienteering. Paddy wrote a history of Irish mountaineering called “The way that we climbed” which was published a few years ago. Many of the names from the early days of orienteering are mentioned in the book: Joss Lynam, Seán Rothery, Raymond Finlay, Paddy O’Leary.

Mike Lunt was also one of the original Irish orienteers, having previously been involved in mountaineering (Ireland, Alps etc). He was in Irish Orienteers, later in GEN. Mike was a commercial artist who designed the 1972 Roadstone calendar depicting various adventure sports like mountaineering, sailing, orienteering etc. The orienteer looks pretty dull but in those days it was against the rules to wear bright clothing, even if you could get it!

Colin Dunlop was another Irish Orienteers transferring to Setanta member. He was very competitive in his day and was a prolific controller (controlling IOC 1994 in Fermanagh a few months before he sadly died of cancer). His sons were also a very good junior orienteers. Colin had been a hockey player. His wife, Alison, used to come to all the events but didn’t ever orienteer – she used to sit in the car and read, and chat to everyone.

Colin is remembered each year at the Irish Championships where the Colin Dunlop Trophy is awarded to the leading M or W 50, men and women on alternate years. It is a silver plate which was in his family and has the inscription “It’s a good day – go with it!”, which was Colin’s attitude to life. He was on the Irish Orienteering Association committee back in the ’80’s and was involved in the Federation of Irish Orienteering which brought together the Irish Orienteering Association and Northern Irish Orienteering Associations to agree rules, team selection, Irish Championship titles etc. Colin also managed the Irish team at World Orienteering Championships of 1985 in Hungary.

I would like to thank Aubrey for this beautiful piece of writing, I hope he comes across this post and reflects on his time spent orienteering. (we’d love to hear more if you would like to chat!) Also thanks to John McCullough, font of all knowledge Irish orienteering for his help with information on these Irish Orienteers.

Whatever you are doing and wherever you find yourself this would-be-Irish Champs weekend, in the words of Mike Lunt remember to “just” get “out and have a great time”

Debbie Whelan

We’d love to hear your orienteering story, you can contact me on

Lockdown Orienteering-online

Events all cancelled: nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
This is the first Easter since 2005, that we haven’t packed our CNOC tops, compasses and trail shoes to head overseas for ‘a festival of orienteering’. What to do on this ‘Not so Good Friday’?

My attention was drawn to “Lockdown Orienteering” and without much thought or due recognition of the fact that I’m not a ‘Gamer’, I signed up!

What follows is a description of my experiences.

Day 1 -Friday.

The organiser, Chris Smithard, had 3 ‘events’ lined up:

  1. Route Choice Game.   (

The aim of the stage is to choose the shortest route as fast as possible.

You are shown one leg and have to decide if left or right is shortest. We were presented with 20 map segments, such as the one shown above.

Really interesting. Would be useful to do coming up to a sprint event.

  1. Sprint Course Route Choice (

The aim of this stage is to choose the shortest legal route (not the fastest) as fast as possible.

A close up of a map

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Sprint Map Day 1

You draw the route which you would take between controls. A ‘pace maker’ is moving either ahead of, or behind you, depending on your speed.  You’re very conscious of this ‘competitor’, which makes you speed up – just like in a real sprint race. If you’re slow, a penalty time appears at the top of the screen. This stage was planned by Jon Cross, who is the planner for 2022 World Champs! Again, very worthwhile and interesting,

  1. Catching Features Sprint Race

This is where the ‘gaming’ skills, (or lack of), come into play.

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This was an eye opener for me into the world of gaming. I discovered hitherto unknown dangerously addictive traits in my personality. I didn’t realise (this was learning on the hoof), that I had a compass at my disposal – my avatar ran amuck on this sprint map; game reflecting reality as I ran around in circles looking for control number 2. However, I would not abandon until the course was finished. Must bring energy gel next time! An ignominious end to Day 1!

Day 2. Saturday

Chris had 4 ‘events’ on offer today.

  1. Control Description Game (

The aim of this stage was to recognise control descriptions as fast as possible.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Also presented as ‘Match the Pairs’, as fast as possible.

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A great way to teach & reinforce control descriptions – particularly the less usual ones.

  1. Photo Memory Orienteering


This stage was designed by Graham Gristwood, a world relay champion.

The aim of the stage is to remember a portion of a map and pick the photograph that shows the control, again as fast as possible. There were 12 map portions in all.

A portion of map is shown, you examine it and it is then taken away.

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Quite tricky!!

  1. This stage was a multiple choice orienteering quiz. It was designed by the very hard working Chris Smithard.
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  1. Catching FeaturesMiddle Distance
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Another attempt to unlock the secrets of Catching Features! It was mid-way through this game, that I discovered the compass, which you can clearly see in the bottom left hand corner. This revolutionised my gaming prowess, but unfortunately came too late to give me a credible time.

In a complete reversal of normal operating procedures in my household, my adult ‘children’ were popping their heads around the door and asking “ Are you still on that computer Mum?”  Empathy is a wonderful trait! I felt my weekend drifting away from me – beautiful weather outside, the birds in full voice. I decided to abandon and go for a 2km radius circular run – reality now reflecting game.

Day 3. Sunday

3 stages today.

  1. Spot the Difference. (

The aim of this stage is to find the differences between the two map segments. There were 12 questions each relating to a pair of maps – an original and an altered version.

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Some of the 12 map segments were very technical and took  a lot of time to interrogate. Demanded quite an amount of concentration. Would make a good exercise for a Junior training evening. Work in pairs and create an air of friendly competition.

  1. Streetview Orienteering (

Aim of Stage: You are given a sprint map with marked controls. You are then directed to Google Streetview. You must navigate down the street to the control and answer a question. The city used was Chester.

The planner was Graham Gristwood.

A close up of a map

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  1.  Catching FeaturesLong Distance.

The map used was from JK 2016 – Kilnsey Moor. Having been warned that the Catching Features Pro took 119 minutes to complete this, and under increasing pressure from my youngest daughter to move away from the screens, I balked and abandoned.

Day 4. Easter Monday

2 stages were on offer today.

  1. Trail Orienteering (

The aim is to match a photo of a control on the ground to the one on the map. The photo is timed to disappear after a countdown.

  1.  Catching FeaturesShort Race.

The Grand Final

At 18:00 on Easter Monday, the Lockdown series concluded with a live streamed Catching Features race based on a 50 year old JK Relay map. The top 12 competitors faced off against each other to find the 2020 Lockdown Orienteering Champion.

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Great fun, some great learning sites and resources. Organisers Chris Smithard and his team are to be commended – huge effort. Would I do it again? Just signed up for the next ‘Lockdown Orienteering 24th to 26th April”. Compass is at the ready!

Bernie O’ Boyle

Curragh Naas Orienteering Club

Many thanks to Bernie for her take on lockdown orienteering and best of luck at the weekend! If you have anything O-related you would like to tell us about, please email

Take a look at some of the Irish younger competitors take on the Lockdown Orienteering via Instagram TV.

French National Long Distance Championships 2019

In which our hero makes a fool of himself for the benefit of others, through the medium of quickroute and strava….

Earlier this year, we booked our family summer holidays. I’m into mountain climbing and canyoning, so I finally convinced Anne-Marie to bring the whole family to the Alps this year – eurocamping courtesy of a black-friday deal on the shores of Lake Annecy. A few weeks after we had booked it, I got an email from Mike Long mentioning that the French Champs were taking place the same weekend as we arrived, and only 50 mins drive from our campsite. I’d been having a reasonably good season, so I entered myself and the two kids in the knowledge that we didn’t need to care where we finished – it was just an event during our holidays. In hindsight, I probably should have cared a little more…

Fast forward a few months, the IOCs are just finished and I’m crippled. Proper hobbling-around-the-house, where’s-my-walking-stick crippled – my right knee was suffering badly from the combination of LOC/JK/IOC in the space of 5 weeks. Went to a physio, and she gave me some exercises and stretches to ease it back into life. “Should I be running on it, you know, to help it recover?” I ask optimistically. “Well, it’s basically an overuse injury, so maybe some gentle running – just listen to your body”. I decided not to mention that I was planning to run up a ski slope in a week or two. So basically, in the 2.5 week run up to the event, I ran a total of maybe 15k, and virtually no climb. This would prove to be problematic.

We got to France anyways, and had a day to spare before the event. Went for a short jog around some similar mountain terrain on the Saturday, but cut it short when I ended up thigh deep in deceptively deep snow drifts – I really didn’t want to hurt myself this close to the event. Had an early start on the Sunday – we had to be on the road by 06:30, to get to the arena by 07:30, for an 08:23 start time. We met some of our Irish compatriots there – Ruth, Don, Philip, Dave, Mary and Clodagh – who had run in the previous three days events, including the Relay event on part of the same map the previous day. Got lots of warnings about the terrain – steep, very detailed, low visibility in the forest, and complex rock and contour details. I got a chance to have a small peek at it, as they gave us a small map and 6-7 controls to find on the way to the start.

The actual start was at the bottom of a recently thawed out ski slope, with a cruel slog from the map pickup to the start triangle half way up the piste. In hindsight, it was probably the least cruelest climb of the day. Got into the boxes, cleared my SI card, picked up my descriptions (7.9k, 360m climb, 15 controls – sounds steep, but ok) and eventually stood beside my map box, waiting for the beep. Clock beeps, turned over my map, and saw the full horror of what lay ahead of me.

Ooookay. That’s a long first leg… Jesus…. Really long…. I kinda want to get a ruler and see just how long it is. But instead I’m jogging up a ski slope trying to plan the next 1.5 km of my life. I decide to try and go high quickly at the fork in the pistes, and stay above the treeline as much as possible for as long as possible. Get to the top of the current piste, cross the first path, and realise the second path isn’t a path, but a very long, large crag (first arrow, in pic below). In true kamikaze style, I launch myself down a small vertical gap and keep going. Cross the path, through the forest, picking off the lone trees (second arrow), and trying to maintain my current elevation by entering some young scattered trees just after a chairlift (third arrow). I trundle along at this height, trying in vain to match map to ground. I hit a nice big doline with a path running behind it (fourth arrow), and I’m happy that I’m still on target, though I thought I had traveled further. Pass another doline, and then a big taped off hole in the ground (fifth arrow?) and I’m aiming for the next bit of open ground, which I’m planning to use the corner of as my attack point. This is where it all goes to hell.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that it isn’t actually open ground – its this funny thing that appears all over the map with green dots on open ground. In reality, to my un-french eye, this looked an awful lot like the white forest, which also looked an awful lot like the white dots on open ground sections. On the map, they seemed distinct, but in reality, they all blended into one (to me). I must have gone through the “open” section I had wanted to use, and instead found a different “open” section further on, higher and to the south-west of the actual control. I proceeded to spend approx the next 30-40 mins fecking around in the forest here looking in vain for my first control, sanity slowing drifting away. I wasn’t alone – there was a group of about 13 of us by the end, all similarly perplexed, but mostly talking to each other in french. I tried multiple times to relocate into the control, but since I was relocating of an incorrect premise, I was getting nowhere. We eventually decided to wander downhill with the train of lost french people, and we eventually (collectively) found it. My watch read 53 mins. Le sigh.

From 1, I found my way to 2 ok, but again, the white dotted forest seemed pretty damn indistinguishable from the regular white forest. Was very wary to 3 – I tried to pick up the path going north, but never saw it, and was stuck in this forest with crags and dips everywhere. Compass kept me heading in the right direction, and I saw the big re-entrant with a large crag on the south side maybe 100m south of the control, on my left hand side as I approached. However, got distracted by crowds here and veered to the left of the actual control, looking instead in a set of depressions slightly to the west. Saw the path running left-right ahead of me, relocated and got the control. OK, time to get the hell out of dodge. Glanced at my watch. 4.3km covered already. This was going to be a long day.

Joined a train of people leaving the forest via the path that headed directly up the hill to the open pistes to the west – It was the obvious way out of the forest. Branched off to the right when the path veered left, and headed out of the last bits of trees. From here, the next few controls were much more like home. I had good visibility across the slopes to where 4 must be, and from where I was, It was only slightly uphill. However, getting there was energy sapping, with loads of ups and downs with the many small dips and depressions along the way. The sun was also high at this point, with the temperature already in the high twenties. Drank about half my 500ml of water on this bit, and had a gel – pineapple, yum. There was an unmarked water station directly between 4 and 5, so took a cup. Never thought to refill my bottle. 5 was on open karst, very pretty rocky landscape. Got to 6 and I was finally at the top of the hill (for me, I’m sure the elites went higher). Could actually run a bit going across and down to 7, and then tried to go fast downhill to the path leading my back into the forest to 8. 4/5/6/7 had all been clean, but I was just slow, due to my energy already been sapped, and the heat turning the screws on me. I really wished I had had more hill kms in the last few weeks…Went down the path into the forest, and turned off to the right down a nice defined re-entrant. Veered slightly to the right in the forest here (once again, the green dots on open ground proved elusive), and only corrected myself when I arrived at the top of a big crag running north-south overlooking a big doline.

If I’m honest, the only thing I remember about my fumbling route from 8 to 9 was running into Don going the opposite direction. At least he was able to confirm the location of a control he had just come from, so I was able to course-correct and get to 9 relatively unscathed. At this stage, the forest had me over a barrel. I was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain any form of meaningful contact with the map, even at walking pace. Veered off to the left on the way to 10, but realised I must have done so with distance travelled, and self-corrected to find my way back to it.

I’m not really sure how I made my next mistake, as it’s probably the most elementary of the lot. I blame my delusional state of exhaustion at this stage of the race. I had given up looking at my watch, but I had to be over two hours at that point. Had another gel in futile attempt to refuel. I decided to head north-west, to pick up the path, and follow it all the way to the big road at the edge of the map. However, I followed a small path (possibly imaginary?) and arrived out at a big path (which was actually mapped as a huge ride), and somehow made the logical leap that this was the path I was looking for… Set off along the “path”, came to a junction which I mistook for the parking area, and continued along it to look for 11, eventually entering the forest to the left of the path (twice) and scratching my head a lot.

I suddenly noticed the sound of a small child crying. Really crying, like I-just-had-my-favourite-toy-smashed-by-a-hammer crying. I ceased my aimless wandering and headed back to the path to calm him down. He spoke a little english (thankfully), and was waaay off course (worse than me even). Between looking at where he had come from, and where he needed to go, I both realised my own mistake, copped where we were, and was able to point him in the correct direction, after eventually getting him to stop crying (screaming). It’s a beautiful story. Headed back down to the real road, and popped in to get 11. Phew. Good thing no-ones ever going to hear about that howler…

At this point, I pick up another train of people – I guess a lot of the longer courses are finishing on these controls. We essentially sweep across the forest to 12, and then 13 – my only high point of this was leading the train to 13, having eventually started to get to grips with the map. Bit late really. 14 seemed like a cruel control – the only good route I could see was to just slog straight up the hill to the pistes – part of it was super steep, hands-and-knees stuff. Eventually crawled out onto the grassy slopes, and staggered to 14.

Last control had no surprises, just round the corner from 14 and run down a piste in full view of the waiting crowds, punch 15, and straight into the finish chute. Done. A kid hands me some water and a headband. I want to collapse, but keep going to to download tents. The kids and Anne-Marie are waiting for me and provide much needed water. I ran out hours ago.

Anne-Marie is looking at my splits, I haven’t seen them yet. “I reckon I was over two hours” I say. Anne-Marie looks like she has some bad news to break to me. “More like three” she says. Gah. I’m pretty annoyed at myself. Annoyed at not being able to read the map. Annoyed at the heat. Annoyed at my stupid knee (which gave me no trouble on the day, but messed up my training). Annoyed at not drinking enough. But then I ask how the kids did. “Yeah, both pleased with their runs, no big problems” she reports. And I realise that there’s no point being annoyed. It’s a holiday run. I’m here as a tourist, having never run on this terrain before. Nobody has a good run everytime – we all have bad days. I tell the kids this every week – no good if I don’t believe it, and I do. I take it as a lesson learned, and tell the kids that they did great. “You did good too, Daddy” Aoife says in an attempt to cheer me up.

We head back to the car, change into dry clothes, drink several litres of water and by the time we are sitting relaxing beside a lake an hour later, I am no longer annoyed. I’ll be back over here again some time, and I’ll be better prepared. 🙂

Strava link for the run:

Dave M (CNOC)

Many thanks to Dave for his confession! We hope he manages to get some therapy and is out again very soon! 😉

Anyone with an orienteering story to tell, news or views orienteering related. Feel free to contact

Irish Orienteering Championships 2019

From a Swedes perspective…

 As the Irish Senior Squad Trainer, an ambitious Nordic skier and adventurous runner, I decided to run IOC 2019 very early. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any orienteering in preparation, but I predicted that Nordic ski training, in combination with mental preparations and a strong psychological mind-set would make me powerful enough.

When I studied the maps before the races, the terrain didn’t seem to be very interesting really. A lot of open areas, not very detailed terrain and relatively easy orienteering. But I was so wrong. The sprint forced me to rethink my orienteering expectations. I was taken by surprise. How could they even made a sprint course that hard in such simple area? After I finished the sprint which were ran in a beautiful area and held both  technical difficulties and amazing views, I immediately started to prepare for the middle distance. I prepared in a different way than I had done before. I gave the map more respect, the terrain more deference and expected the course setter to fool me again. That might have been what caused me to run one of my best races for many years. When running the middle had I a great feeling. I wasn’t afraid of the course but I didn’t either disrespect it either. I ran with it. I was open minded about route choices on every leg, I ran fast where the map told me to and I went slowly in all other places. I didn’t make any mistakes. A clean race with high speed. A lovely course which held all the difficulties you may ( or may not) expect. Running into the finish with a majestic view and sharing public. Amazing!

Regarding the classic distance the next day, it was expected to be won in around 100min, but since my shape was good I didn’t mind the distance. I ran it harder than both the sprint and the middle. Enjoyable at its maximum, slow tricky forest combined with superfast running grass areas. How could you not love such a course? Demanding with a lot of good route choices. I didn’t make the 100min, but no shame on the course setter, without mistakes sub 100min would have been possible.

Last day was a relay, once again the terrain changed and this time the race was held in a smaller area which invited to high speed through the whole course. Lots of tracks ant paths, fast forest and deadly green areas.

Four days of running, four days with amazing organisation and demanding courses. After a weekend like this, you have a great possibility to evaluate your own results, your strengths and maybe more interesting also your weaknesses. When the races were so different from each other, both in length and technical level. I am sure you can evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. Where you performing best on the relay and sprint? In the end of the long distance? In the forest in the middle? This is only possible when the variation is as high as it was on this weekend. Keep that up, I love it!

Overall and summarized a weekend including a short sprint, a fun middle, a long classic and a fast relay. Four days of fun. Exhausting of course, but that’s why I loved it. Since I came home have I been talking a lot to others about it. Not just because it was an amazing event, but that I can see a change. It was seven years since I first stepped off the plane at Dublin Airport, and I have been running a lot of training sessions and competitions in Ireland since that day. During these seven years I have seen the progress in Irish orienteering moving forward a lot. Today the standard of an event is high, professional and highly serious. Just as it should me in a championship.

I look forward to going over again soon, but when I fly over for the eighth time? I haven’t decided yet, but it´s probably going to be sooner or later. I can’t be without you guys more than a few months. I am deeply and honestly thankful for the IOC 2019 organisation. It was a pleasure to be a part of it and I have been telling everyone at home that you NEED to come visit Ireland. An Island having the absolutely best atmosphere for having a great time and always making you feeling heart-warming welcome. Thank you!

Anton Hallor

  • 7th Place Sprint M21E
  • 2nd Place Middle M21E
  • 1st Place Long Distance M21E

Many thanks to Anton for giving us an insight into his IOC 2019 , we look forward to next years IOC2020 to be held in Kerry and West Cork. More information coming soon….

Orienteering in Ireland
Orienteering Ireland, Irish Sport HQ, Blanchardstown
D15 DY62, Ireland