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Understanding Orienteering ACT’s Age/Gender Handicap Competitions

2020 is the 30th anniversary of Orienteering ACT having an Orienteering of the Year competition, with the winner being presented with the Wehner Cup, named in honour of Claire and Hermann Wehner, for their contribution to the establishment of orienteering in the ACT. This article explains how the system of determining the ACT Orienteering of the Year was developed and the expansion of the system to other competitions.

Version One: 1990-96
During the late 1980s, Bob Allison and Bob Mouatt considered Orienteering ACT should have a ranking system similar to that they had experienced when each of them had lived in Britain during the early 1980s. However, they wanted it to be better than the British system, which ranked competitors within their age classes. They wanted a system which identified a single, best orienteer across all comparable age classes during a calendar year.

Bob Allison began the process by gathering data on the kilometre rates of the winners of all age classes competing on Hard courses in the Australian 3-Days, Australian Long Distance Championships and State Long Distance Championships associated with a major carnival for the 12 years 1978-1989. This data was used to establish a nominal kilometre rate for every year of birth for both genders competing on Hard courses, ie from age 16 through to around age 70, which was the age of the oldest competitors at the time. The nominal km rates were loaded into a database to create a smoothed curve, with men in the age range 21 to 34 being assigned a factor of 1.0, women aged 21 to 34 assigned a factor of 0.8 and all other ages assigned an ascending or descending factor, based on the nominal km rate for their year of birth.

Having developed the age/gender factors for all comparable ages, the next step was to develop a system which enabled comparison of performances across selected events throughout the year. This would be achieved through setting a par time for each event, which would be the nominal km rate for men in the age range 21 to 34. And to ensure that the competition was of a high standard, when Sunday events were classified as major and minor events, only the major events were classified as ACT League events.

125 was set as equal to the par time and points were awarded above or below 125, based on a competitor’s adjusted km rate relative to the par time. This was to ensure relativity across events, as the par time removed reliance of the quality of competitors at an event. In 1990, the only Championships were Long Distance and the Sunday program included two badge [qualifying] events per year. These events were assigned a 10 per cent loading.

Bob Allison took on the role of determining the par time for each event and Bob Mouatt undertook to calculate the scores using a computer system, known as Open Access. As many competitors would not be able to attend all events, the decision was taken that the aggregate scores would be based on the best scores from half plus one of the total number of ACT League events. This system was used to determine the ACT Orienteer of the Year from 1990 through to 1996. The competition was and still is restricted to current members of Orienteering ACT.

Version Two: 1996-2016
In 1996, Andrew Blakers approached Bob Allison about using his handicap table for an off-season (October to March) Twilight Series which would be sponsored by the Runners Shop. The Runners Shop Twilight Series would be based on the Moderate courses and points would be awarded simply in consecutive order from 125 down to 25, which would be the minimum points awarded if more than 100 competitors finished the Moderate courses. Also, unlike the ACT League, the Twilight Series would be open to all comers; no membership of a club is required. In 1997, Andrew Blakers took over responsibility for determining the par times and calculating the scores for the ACT League, using an Excel-based system. In the early 2000s, the range of ages was extended from 10 to the mid-eighties, and data collected since 1990 was used to refine the handicap factors.

In 2008, the Red Roos created an additional handicapped-based competition to honour club stalwart, Jim Sawkins. The competition would be based on an ACT League event staged on the closest Sunday to the passing of Jim Sawkins and would be known as the Jim Sawkins Classic. It would have two divisions and the ACT League points program would be used to determine the divisional winners, which would be determined as follows:

  • Division 1. The fastest competitor of any age and gender, on corrected time on the Hard 1 course.
  • Division 2. The fastest competitor, excluding men aged 21-34, on corrected time on the other Hard courses.

Version Three: 2016 to now
In 2016, David Shepherd created a Java-based program which anybody could use and convinced the Orienteering ACT Board to replace the Andrew Blakers Excel-based system, with his Java-based program for the 2016-17 Runners Shop Twilight Series and the 2017 ACT League, and both thereafter. The Java-based system uses the same age/gender handicap table and uses the same process for both the Twilight Series and ACT League with the same loading for major League events, but with no par times and points awarded simply in consecutive order from 125 down to 25, using the Eventor Series processes.

The corrected handicap kilometre rate is calculated and points are awarded as follows:

  • The results of ACT League Hard course classes and of Runners Shop Twilight Series Moderate course classes are exported by course and imported into the Java-based system.
  • The course distances are converted to metres (rounded to 100 metres) and race time is converted to seconds.
  • A competitor’s corrected time (in seconds) is determined by dividing their course distance by their race time and multiplying the result by their handicap factor.
  • Competitors’ handicapped times are ranked in descending order and saved in a file for importing into an appropriately established Eventor Series.
  • When the handicapped times are imported into Eventor, except for when a 10 per cent loading is applicable, points are awarded from 125 downwards.
  • The overall Series places are based on each competitor’s best floor(N/2)+1 scores from N events, where N equals the number of events staged and floor(x) is the largest integer less than or equal to x.

The 2020 age/gender table is here.

The table of competition winners since 1990 is here.