Sunday 16 September 2007

AR Club's orienteering relay victory

It is with great pride that I write this blog; to boast of AR Club's orienteering success. And I cheer not only for our sweeping victory at the Gauteng Orienteering Club relay event today, but of our overall success in this sport since we became an orienteering club just over 3-years ago.

I've been involved in the sport of orienteering for some years; I attended my first orienteering event in preparation for my first adventure race. This must have been in March/April 1999. I went to Wits University and being involved with Wits Sports Council I'd met Nicholas Mulder some years earlier. At that stage he was chair of Wits Orienteering Club (WITSOC). I was sports officer for Wits Underwater Club and later chair of Sports Council. As the navigator in our team, I thought it would be useful for us all to go out to an event to get some orienteering experience.

I remember little of that first event suffice to say that it was a colour-coded event and I think we did one of the longer courses because we were out there for a VERY long time. Grassy area with lots of bluegum trees... The most useful part of the entire event was when Nicholas came to find us and took us through the last few controls; that was the single most instructional session I've ever had because Nicholas managed to snap the map, terrain and vegetation into perspective.

In the subsequent months I attended random events, usually orienteering in a paired team with my friend Tracey Sanders (ex-Team BUGS, now living in the UK). We kept this up for a few years, attending odd events and thoroughly enjoying each one. The last big run we did together was the first Rogaine at Suikerbosrand (Aug 2003; we won ladies and were 3rd overall). Was it an 8hr event? I can't remember. Tracey immigrated a week or two later and I started orienteering on my own, taking the competitive aspect more seriously.

I'd been a member of Rand Orienteering Club (ROC) and by 2004 a good many more adventure racers were taking part regularly. We decided to affiliate AR Club to the South African Orienteering Federation. What this primarily meant was that our members could stay within AR Club and not have to join ROC or RACO to take part in Provincial, Club and National events, especially as a number were featuring in the top rankings.

For some reason I also recall a festive relay at St Stithians, but this was in late-2004 and I don't think we competed officially as AR Club; rather we were in teams for other clubs

We took part in our first serious club relay in Oct 2005 and scooped Mens and Ladies categories at Alberts Farm (winning ladies team photo; Sam, Michele & Lisa). Last year, in a lovely area South of Joburg, both teams lost their trophies... just. We were hoping for good runs this year.

Today's Gauteng Orienteering Clubs relay was hosted by the students of WITSOC on the Wits Campus, which most will tell you means that you'll be running either uphill or downhill.

The format of orienteering relays is as follows: Clubs submit 3-person teams. Each team member runs one of three course; short, medium and long. The long course is just under 4km, medium is about 3km and short is about 2.5km. The first runners from each team line up for a mass start. The catch here is that the teams run the courses in different orders and the course planners specifically order the teams such that the top teams will not start on the same courses. When the runner has completed their course, they hand-touch their team-mate, who then sets off. The team's final time is the accumulated time for the three runners. We sent three teams.

AR Club's 2007 Relay Teams
Men 1: Garry Morrison, Eugene Botha & Jeremy Green
Men 2: Tim Deane, Alex Kuhnast, Kobus van Zyl
Women: Lisa de Speville, Michele Botha, Cindy van Zyl
(Incase you're wondering where Nicholas' name is... he runs for ROC, as he has done since he was a wee tot)

(L-R) Kobus, Alex, Tim, Michele, Eugene, Garry, Jeremy. Cindy & Lisa in front.
The men took a clean sweep but the women's race was where all the action was. Cindy sprinted to the finish to wrap it up for our team only 9-seconds ahead of Tania (RACO)! Our second mens team placd 5th.

Aside from the team relay thing, our orienteerers are really doing well on the short and long course Provincial logs. Looking at the Top 10 of the 2006 short course log: Garry was 3rd, Jeremy placed 5th and Eugene placed 9th. Michele was 2nd lady and Lisa was 3rd.

On the colour-coded log Garry and Jeremy were 3rd and 4th. Michele was 2nd and Kirsty Green was 10th (Lisa didn't fulfill the race quota; I ended up way down).

Looking at the current 2007 situation (SA Champs are still to go; this coming weekend)... We potentially have 4 runners in the mens short course Top 10 (Garry, Jeremy, Eugene and Kobus) and 5 runners in the women's short course Top 10 (Lisa, Michele, Cindy, Sam and Kirsty). On the colour-coded log we potentially have the same 4 guys in the Top 10 and the same 5 girls, plus Carine, looking for Top 10 ladies slots. Very exciting! (results are based on best of 5 or 6 out of the available events in a year)

I am very, very proud of all our club orienteerers. The ones I've mentioned are just the top ranked orienteers; there are a whole lot more who take part regularly. Some have not been orienteering for very long but they're really improving their orienteering skills and enjoying the challenge of more difficult courses.

To wrap up... adventure racers, orienteering is the BEST way to practise your navigation. There are about 2 events a month (I'm talking about Gauteng; alternative is PENOC in Cape Town) and they range from short course (max 4km) to colour-coded (from 3 to >9km, depending on event and terrain). Children around the age of 7 or 8 cope very well on their own. The events are fun, family-friendly and they're all local.

Good websites to visit are: and Both sites host orienteering event calendars and information on the sport of orienteering. If you're in Cape Town, go to I do hope we'll see you at an event in the very near future.
Our AR Club website is We are hosting a short course event out at Derdepoort (North of PTA) on Sunday, 7 Oct and we have assisted students from the Health and Fitness Professionals Association with the organisation of a charity O event on Sunday 14 Oct. Both of these are excellent events for beginners and many AR Club orienteerers will be around to help you.

No comments: