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Information for New Orienteers

Having found this page, you are hopefully interested in taking up orienteering, however at this stage it may seem a bit daunting: how to read a map, which course to do, what to do if you get lost, how to use a compass and so on.  SBOC is here to help: we arrange introductory sessions, training and coaching sessions and a range of events that will allow you to get to know what to do gradually - at all of these, experienced club members will be happy to help with as much advice and assistance as you need.

We run a number of introductory sessions at the start of each summer. These are the ideal opportunity to learn, and so if you are interested, come along to one (or more) of them.  If you miss these, don't worry - throughout the Summer, we have regular Wednesday evening events - the Summer League.  At each of these, there are a range of courses, including ones ideal for new orienteers.  You will find plenty of enthusiastic help from existing club members at these, so again, feel free to just turn up.  Throughout the rest of the year, there are regular coaching sessions and other events, many of which are also suitable for newcomers - if you want to know more, contact us by email or contact one of our Committee who will be happy to advise.

What happens at an orienteering event

A beginner's guide.

Step 1 - find out where and when the event is taking place (see our fixtures page for details)

Step 2 - when you turn up, there will be a range of courses available, colour-coded as follows:

Colour

Description Distance
White Very easy, all on paths, Mostly used by 6 – 10 year olds and family groups 1.0 – 1.9 km
Yellow Easy, using simple linear features 2.0 – 2.9 km
Orange Moderately easy, with some route choice and basic use of a compass.  Mostly used by under 14’s and adult beginners 2.5 – 3.5 km
Light Green More difficult than Orange or red, going into the terrain using simple contours and ‘point’ features.  Mostly used by under 16’s and adult improvers

3.0 – 4.0 km

Green As difficult as the area will allow, using contour features, ‘point’ features, etc.  Used mostly by experienced under 18s and adults wanting a short but challenging course 3.5 – 5.0 km
Blue As for Green but longer and more physically demanding, with more varied distances between controls 5.5 – 7.5 km
Brown Physically demanding and technically difficult.  For experienced adults only 8.0 – 12.0 km

Step 3 - enter your desired course.  There is a small fee (£3 - £5) for the cost of the map.  You will be given a map, a control card and a list of control descriptions, and a start time (everyone starts at different times, so you can't just follow each other!). The map shows the details of the area (normally at a scale of 1:10,000 / 1 cm = 100 m).  The control descriptions give details of the control sites that you should visit (in the correct order).  Each control site will be a feature on the map (path junction, bend in a wall, stream, hill top, gully, etc).  At each control site, there will be an orange / white marker flag, with a punch (like a stapler).   The idea here is that you punch your control card at the control site, which proves you have found it.  There will be typically 8 - 20 control sites to visit, depending on the length of the course.

Step 4 - what to wear.  Running / walking shoes are needed and clothing that covers your legs and arms (normally needed for protection from brambles etc). Those doing harder courses will normally use studded running shoes and 'bramble-bashers' (protective gaiters). Take a waterproof coat if the weather is bad.   A compass is needed for the harder courses, and it is good practice to start using one as soon as you can - the club can lend some to newcomers.

Step 5 - starting.  As you start, the first thing you will do is to copy the control site locations onto your map from a 'master-map' at the start.  You aren't given this information before you start as the ability to decide on route choices as you go, rather than in advance is a key part of the sport. A red pen is useful for this, though there are always some at the start.

Step 6 - finding controls.  Now comes the fun part - actually doing it.  You will need to navigate from the start to the first control site, and then around the rest of the course. For the easier courses, this will involve deciding which path to take, or which fence to follow, and so if you can relate the map to what's on the ground, there should be no problem.  For the harder courses, navigation may involve using compass, following the contours, vegetation features (or occasionally just hoping!).

Step 7 - help, I'm lost! Don't panic.  You will need to make your way to an obvious feature (path, stream etc - especially where they meet or cross) and then you should be able to work out where you are (relocating).  If all else fails, ask the next orienteer you see (we've all done it!).

Step 8 - finishing.  The finish is normally near the start and your time is recorded as you finish. You will need to hand in your control card so the organiser can check you have completed the course.  You can keep your map to look at later to see how you should have done it!

 

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