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Lost property (one head torch)
Planner Comments: Bracken – Pteridium aquilinum – is an invasive plant that thrives in the Surrey heathlands. Even in dry summers like 2018, the plant can grow to excess of 2 metres and forms dense understorey in woodland and blankets open land. And then, in late autumn, frosts (and snow) trigger die back and areas that in summer are impassable become fast and runnable.
Having an event in late November, especially a night event, meant we were always going to be on the cusp of whether the bracken was too high or had gone. Certainly, runnability improved everywhere in the fortnight before the event, more so on Puttenham than Britty Wood. Nevertheless, we were probably (!) right to keep controls away from the bracken areas as much as possible.
The event centre was ideal as a venue, but it’s central position and proximity to the only link between the two areas meant we had a minor road crossing, vehicle entry/exit and routes to start/finish and courses all in close proximity – hence the double map to try to aid legibility. The course direction was switched early in November when we realised the runnability close to the lakes wasn’t going to improve in time, and paths were becoming indistinct with leaf fall. This resulted in some sites on Britty Wood being used in the opposite direction to that originally intended, as part of the starting loop rather than in the approach to the finish. This clearly made some early controls even more challenging in the dark.
Thanks to all who gave comments, both positive and constructive, and to control hangers and collectors (Phil, Kath, Geoff, Nick and Sophie).
Tim Denton (GO)
Controller’s Comments: There are no guidelines for this event, so we used 2017 as a starting point, for both numbers and courses. Prior to the event I picked up some comments that it was a foolish idea to hold the Southern Night Championships on the same weekend as the Southern Championships, as people would save themselves for the latter. As it happened, the opposite seemed to occur, with an increase in civilian entries. When combined with an unexpected increase in the Army (Inter-Corps) entries we had to extend the range of start times, and had no spare slots for EOD on either Blue or Green. With similar numbers, an extra course or two would ease the pressure on start times.
We increased the course lengths slightly over 2017, but the winning times are still fast.
The guidelines for the British Night Championships mandate the first start time as no earlier than nautical twilight. While this might be necessary on a completely open area, it is slightly conservative for forest, so we had the first start at 10 minutes before nautical twilight, and could probably have started even earlier.
The courses were constrained by only having permission to exit/enter the estate via the lodge on the access road. Tim was keen to give everyone a mix of all the terrain available, from the mature forest near the start, through the slightly vague lower common, to the areas of open heath on the upper common. The latter can be particularly tricky at night if you lose contact with the map. It was unfortunate that the absence of cold/wet weather meant the bracken had not died down as much as we hoped, particularly in the initial block of forest.
The double-sided map was purely to avoid what (on a single-sided map) would have been potentially confusing course marking around the causeway and finish. My apologies if anyone running into the finish was hampered by runners going the opposite way mid-course. An earlier draft had the finish near the road crossing; we moved it back to avoid having ‘competitive’ runners going in both directions on the causeway, but should perhaps have moved it even further back.
Alan Wallis (SN)
Organiser Comments: I have to admit I’m rather proud of our club. Guildford Orienteers is not by any stretch of the imagination a large club, but fewer than 20 of us managed to provide over 300 of you with this championship event. It helped to have rather a good Planner in the club and to Tim Denton we are incredibly grateful for the huge effort he put into this, with lots of help from Kath Denton too. Alan Wallis as Controller was also a star, giving a lot of helpful advice to me as Organiser and keeping Tim on the straight and narrow! And James Crawford and Tom Edelsten who licked the map into shape – it needed a lot of work – thank you to them especially to Tom responding to some last minute requests for adjustments.
I’m not going to enumerate everyone’s contribution, but I must single out (double out) Jon and Angela Darley for superhuman efforts to allocate start times, taking account of all the rules and regulations about separating seeds and clubs etc. In retrospect I know I set too narrow a start time range, that didn’t help at all. A lesson for the organiser of 2019 SNC.
So congratulations to this year’s champions and especially perhaps the several people who retained their trophies from last year.
And finally thanks to the Hampton Estate, particularly Will Godwin who was so helpful, for letting us use Myrtle’s Courtyard as our base.
Jeremy Wilde (GO)