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Monday, 14 October 2013

Orienteering on Woodhill (a rough "how to")

The attention of the NZ orienteering world now switches to the 2013 Super Series and first up the Auckland Champs this weekend. to be held on Woodhill and somewhere "out east" for the sprint distance.

Here is a chunk of the embargoed middle distance map (I wish Wellington Orienteering Club would adopt the Auckland Orienteering Club policy of embargoing an area for two weeks before a competition).


This is typical Woodhill terrain: detailed coastal sand dunes, with a narrow open coastal strip backed by a denser pine trees with some vegetation detail, one or two soft windy motorbike tracks before Coast Rd itself. On the eastern side of coast road there are broad dune landscapes with a consistent amount of detail. The organisers have not stated how old the trees are in this block currently, so runnability and especially visibility will be determined on the day but here are some basic rules for Woodhill navigation.

Rule 1: Straight is great

There is seldom a good reason for varying far from the straight line in Woodhill (long legs in the thick dunes paralleling the coast may be a small exception). Look at the following map from Matt Ogdens DOMA


Every time you take a weak option, looking for a short cut that doesn't exist, or contouring around a hill you have to climb anyway, you are running further, and probably slower, than your opponent keeping tight to the line. Matt Ogden, and the likes of Toby Scott and Gene Beveridge, are the heirs apparent to the former masters of Woodhill, Alistair Landels and Darren Ashmore who first realised going straight was a good first golden rule for orienteering on Woodhill.

Rule 2: Exit is Everything

On Woodhill you must exit efficiently from each control on a bearing directly to the next control. Rough enough is not good enough. Here is a system:

- control spotted (or detail read so you know exactly where it is in the terrain)
- orientate your map
- check rough exit direction
- punch control
- take 3 steps in rough exit direction
- confirm direction and orientation with compass
- run straight

If you exit each control correctly Woodhill is now your oyster. The  detail that seemed murky to you before will roll out in front of you along the red line in crystal clear 3D. Starting on the right line is the equivalent of engaging auto-focus on your camera.

Rule 3: Leave the Line Deliberately

When you do need to vary from the straight line is when doing so will minimise your risk of a navigational error. The variation needs to be deliberate and planned. Consider the following snippet of map, again from Matt's DOMA


No 7. No variation from line. Tricky control but no detail left or right of the control to bounce off. Note double contoured knoll 220metres out that Matt ran straight over (200metres between the grid lines on a 1:10,000 map). The only handrail from there is your compass. Read the two depressions, run up the vague spur to the re-entrant just before the top.

No 10. Variation left through saddle to attack control from top of prominent re-entrant. Note how Matt slowed down in the re-entrant after the saddle to ensure he executed the final part of the leg properly.

No 13.High speed leg with two prominent stepping stones before Coast Rd, the big hill and the clearing, note how Matt skirts both. Attacking 13 Matt veers left to use the large open hill on his left to steer him into the control down the re-entrant.

......So get your exit direction right, and be deliberate about leaving the safety of the straight line. A small recipe for success on Woodhill...

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