Major Events


Registration is usually Pre-entry. Sometimes there is no “Enter-on-the –Day” (EOD). There is closing date sometime before the event which allows the organisers to order maps, compile start lists and so on. Entering late costs more and there is usually only a brief window for this.

Event information pack

This pack is usually several pages long and is usually released on the web a few days before the event along with your start times.

HINT: Read all the event information in this pack carefully.

What time to leave home?

The main thing to remember, is to make sure that you give yourself enough time for all that you need to do! Some of us have mastered the art of arriving at the last minute, running all the way to the start and just making it in time (or maybe not?) but this is not recommended for beginners….. If you are late to the start and it is not the fault of the organisers you will be penalised in that whenever you start (and that will be when the starter officials can find you a slot) you will be considered as having started at your official time. So don’t be late!! Don’t forget the sports rehydration drink. If it is going to be hot start sipping this two or more hours before the event.

To calculate what time you need to leave home you need to know

  • How long is the drive?
  • How far from the carpark is it to the assembly area?
  • Which start do you need to get to if there is more than one start?
  • How far is it from the assembly area to your start?
  • What is your start time?
  • Add one hour for warm-up, toilet, and the unexpected.

When you arrive at the Assembly area

At a big carnival even with pre-entry, you will almost certainly need to REGISTER at the Registration tent. Although much of the event information these days is put on a website for you to read beforehand, at your first event (if there are a number) you should go to the Information (or Registration) tent and collect a registration pack. This might include a nicely printed information booklet/pamphlet, a copy of start times throughout the carnival, running numbers with safety pins for all the people you registered in your entry, any hired SportIdent cards, any pre-ordered clothing or memorabilia, and possibly various other things such as tourist information, freebies etc. (You also go to the Information tent for things such as Enter on the Day, lost property, the usual things…information, even.) Often there are “shops” where you can buy orienteering equipment.

HINT: If your start times are not on your running number (sometimes they are printed on for you) then write them on yourself to remind you. If you do it upside down you can even read them when you are wearing your number!

First thing is to find out how to get to the event, and when you park your car how far you are going to have to walk to the assembly arena. If the parking and assembly areas are close you may like to leave your clobber in the car and wander back and forth whenever you need something. If the areas are quite separated, then you will probably want to get into your orienteering clothes and pack up a backpack to take with you to the assembly area. Here you can find a place to put your things and base yourself until the event is over (by your club banner is often one good place). Take a small groundsheet to cover your gear in case it gets wet whilst you are out running . If it is an appreciable walk, factor this into the time you allow between leaving home and having to turn up at the start.

Find out how many Start locations there are – there may be more than one. Be sure you know where your course starts from. Find out how far it is to your start and how long the organisers suggest this might take. They usually overestimate a bit but can sometimes surprise you by not allowing enough time!! So think how fast you like to walk to the start (do you want to run, and thereby warm up, or do you want to potter slowly absorbing the atmosphere?) and plan accordingly.

HINT: Before you set off for the start one good thing to do is to go to the finish banner area and look around. Can you see where the last control is? It can be a real confidence booster when you are finishing your course to see that last control. But sometimes the last controls are well out of sight – but just having had a bit of a look at the area to see whether it is open or there is a big boulder or a gully there may help you.

Get ready to head off to the start. Toilets are generally located at the assembly area somewhere. Allow enough time if there is a toilet queue, particularly at peak times. Have a drink well before the event so you stay hydrated.

Check you have with you all the things you need before you walk to the start:

  •   Whistle
  •   Correct clothing ( ? long pants , ? shin pads)
  •   SportIdent electronic stick
  •   Compass
  •   Control description holder of some sort
  •   Glasses (and if it is wet, people who wear glasses will appreciate a visor or peaked hat to keep their glasses dry-ish)
  •   Sweatband if you want
  •   Running number pinned on to the front of your shirt
  •   And don’t forget your smile and the sunscreen!

Now you can walk to the start – observe any out of bounds (OOB) signs on the way.

At the start

When you arrive at the start there should be a check list of start times available for you if you need to check. Check which course number you are on on the list of start times, if you don’t already know. Then you are able to go directly to your control descriptions rather than checking through them all.

There MAY be water available if it is a reasonable distance from the assembly area, check in the program information before you leave for the start whether this will happen.

Sometimes (again, check the information beforehand) there is a clothing return. This means if you want to wear a warm top or coat to the start and take it off just before you start your course, you can do so. Put your clothing at the marked place, in the bag or whatever is indicated on the signs. The clothing will be collected by the organisers and returned to the assembly area. You however cannot be certain that your clothing will be back at the finish by the time you are. Sometimes the

clothing may not be brought back till all competitors have started. (Organisers do their best but sometimes less urgent tasks get put aside…)

You will be expected to present yourself at the Prestart at a few minutes (usually 6 minutes) before your start time. There should be a clock or something else (someone calling out perhaps) to tell you the next start time. If you are not certain what time is next, ask someone near the PreStart line. Don’t forget to Clear (and Check if there’s a check outside the boxes).

Starting Boxes (or stages)
Box 1
When your start time is called, present yourself to the starter. In a “silent start” no names will be called out aloud. Have your name, SportIdent number and running number checked off then wait for the next stage. You may be asked to insert your SportIdent into a Check unit – this is used (after all starts are completed) by the computing people to check exactly who started.
Box 2
In the next stage collect a set of control descriptions. These are organised by course. Make sure you have the description for the correct course. Put the control descriptions into a holder if you have one. You can also sticky tape them or pin them to your shirt or sticky tape them to your arm. Up to you. (Holders can be bought from O-shops – there should be O-shops operating at any big event). Check that you understand the control descriptions and if there are any symbols you don’t know check the control symbol sheet (if available) or ask someone. Wait for the next stage.
Box 3
Final stage is to find the box with the maps for your course. Check the label on each box for Course number and Class names. At a big event often the maps are arranged with even courses to one side and odd courses to the other. Find the correct box for your course. Write your name and chest number on the back of the top map. You get to keep your map at the end but not until all competitors have started. Do not turn the map over.
HINT: For maps printed on waterproof paper try to write your name close to the edge of the map. Often the colour comes through over time and if you have scrawled all over the back it is colourful but makes it hard to read your map later….

Starters instructions
When you are in Box 3 the starter will sometimes say nothing in which case read the information signs if any. But usually she says a few well rehearsed words . Listen carefully for last minute info. ead the information signs if any.

HINT: Make sure you know where the actual start is located on the ground. Are you standing at the actual start? Or is it 150 m away with a line of tapes leading to it hidden behind a knoll? Is the start marked by a flag or by a metal triangle? Usually in a big event you do NOT use your SI stick at the start. Your time starts ticking automatically. This is called a “non-punching” start. In a minor event you may need to ‘punch” the start with your SI stick even if you hear beeps. You can ask the starter if you are unsure – but please do not distract the serious competitors.

Look around you. Where was the finish? Which way is north? Think about where the start is likely to be on the map (for example, is it likely to be in the top right corner?) What can you see around you? Can you see a gully or a track? Are you standing on a saddle? These sorts of forensics will help you quickly find the start triangle on the map.

At the sound of the long beep.

Wait till the clock beeps say you can go. The usual sequence is one beep every second for the last five seconds. (Sometimes there is a warning beep at 10 seconds before the start time.) The last beep is longer than the others. When you hear this longer beep pick up your map (PLEASE ensure you pick up only one map). Turn the map over and check it is the right course. Find the triangle on the map that shows you where your course starts. From the instructions you should know whether you are at the start triangle already or whether you need to follow a taped route to it. The start triangle as marked on your map will be marked on the ground with a stand and a flag or a metal triangle usually with NO punch. You need to go to within 2 metres of the start triangle and then start your course. If you need to stand at the start triangle while you figure out the correct direction in which to head off, do so. Don’t worry about other people.

Out in the forest

At each control read the number on the stand. There will usually be a lot of control units out in the forest and the one you find may not be yours. (If you punch an incorrect control by mistake but subsequently punch the correct one still in the correct sequence, the computer will ignore the incorrect punch.)

Try not to let other people distract you and particularly don’t assume the control to which they are confidently heading is yours.

Injury ?

If you get injured on your course and cannot return to the assembly area (not recommended, but sometimes it happens) – use your whistle to call for help. Six short blasts on the whistle. Probably only works if people are nearby! If you see a control, wait there there as competitors will come past and it will be collected at the end. If you don’t return we will come looking for you eventually; conversely if you do not finish it is really important to report to the finish whether or not you finish, or we may be looking for you in vain for many hours…….

Lost ?

If you get locationally challenged on your course and realise that you are lost then:

  •  Stop;
  •  Orientate your map and then look ALL around you and see if the contours match what is on the map.
  •  If they don’t, see if you can work out where you might have gone.
  •  If you can work it out then start off again slowly in the direction you now need tog ,checking off features – a big rock, a termite mound, a knoll, a gully as you go.
  •  If they don’t match, stop again.Sometimes it may be simpler to relocate by going to a big feature on the map that you can recognise – the top of the hill, the track junction, the fence bend – but be sure it is the right track junction or the right fence bend. Or if you can remember, go back to the last control you visited and start again more slowly.And if all else fails and you admit defeat, note that there is a stated SAFETY BEARING. If you are completely bushed then use your compass and head in the direction of the bearing till you hit the main road, the assembly area, the river or whatever

Course closure time.

It is important that you make every effort to get back before courses close so that the organisers don’t have to mount a search party! And let the finish tent know that you have returned.

Relay Orienteering Events

At relays the starting sequence is a little different. There are three members in a relay team and they run consecutively. Running numbers are different from at other events in a carnival so you will get a special one just for this event.

A list of relay teams and runners in running order will be published on the website and possibly in the registration bag.

Day Before: If any team wants to change the order of the runners in the team (or SportIdent number changes or changes to runner names) they must notify the changes to the organisers by a specified deadline, usually about the middle of the day prior to the relay event. No changes are accepted after this deadline. It is particularly important that the SportIdent numbers are used by Runners 1, 2 and 3 in the order specified to the organisers.

Day of the Event: Running numbers will be given to one member of the team by the Relay coordinator for your state. Hopefully you and your team members will be able to identify the other team members and arrange for each member to get the correct running number. This running number identifies the team number and which runner (1, 2 or 3).


A short time before the first runners start, about fifteen minutes usually, the relay course setter/organiser will brief all runners on the procedures to be followed. Usually they will get a couple of people to demonstrate where a runner will come into the finish, where they punch the finish control and how they continue on to tag the next runner in the team. Don’t miss this briefing, even if you are not a first leg runner. Make sure you can see the actual metal start triangle or flag (with NO punch on it)

First leg runners all start at the same time. Great fun to watch!! Maps are arranged often in what is described as a “graveyard’ – a square grid of poles each numbered with team numbers and three maps neatly rolled up and on the pole with the map for the third runner on the bottom, map for the second runner in the middle and the map for the first runner on top. Alternatively a “clothesline” approach may be used on a fence. A “surfboard” start is when runners stand in a line with one foot on the map.

When the organiser invites first leg runners to do so, they all assemble in the graveyard or specific area standing next to the pole numbered with their team number, or behind their map which is numbered and face down on the ground.

HINT: Don’t enter this area without remembering to clear and check first.

The course setter/organiser will count down to the start time and when the signal to start is given (whistle, beep, verbal, whatever….), you may take your map off the pole/pick it up and look at it. Then when you have worked out where to go, start your course.

HINT: The graveyard or mass start area is normally at the start triangle. Be sure to find the start triangle on your map before you move off.

At the starting gun people will be running in all directions. Just ignore them and take your time. Be calm and make sure you know where you are before you move off slowly in the correct direction.

Usually relay courses are set so that spectators have a good view of the action. Sometimes this means that it is up to team members to recognise their returning runner at a “spectator control” and for the subsequent runner to be ready to run when the previous runner returns. However in some relay events the organisers will call the number of runners approaching the finish so that the next runner in the team can get to the tag area and prepare to go out on their course.

When the first leg runner returns, she punches the finish control, runs to tag the next runner in the team and then downloads her splits. The second runner once she is tagged, runs to the graveyard or washing line , collects her map and commences her course.

HINT: Second runner remember to clear and check.
The same sequence occurs with the second leg runner who punches the finish control and then tags

the third leg runner. The third runner collects her map and commences her course.

HINT: Third runner remember to clear and check.

IMPORTANT: When collecting maps from the poles in the graveyard or from the line please check that you have the map for the correct team number and the correct runner. If you take the wrong map, ie belonging to another team, your team will be disqualified.

ANOTHER NOTE: Be aware that the courses for each of the runners in a team will be slightly different. Also there are multiple sequences of courses for runners in a particular age class so that you cannot assume someone in your class will be going to the same control as you in a particular area of the course. This affects first leg runners most because they are starting off at the same time – read your map and run your own course! Ignore other runners!
Always check your control numbers at each control. There will be lots of controls out there. Most will not be yours. For your team’s sake try not to mis-punch.


Running at Overseas Orienteering Events

If you get the itch to try orienteering overseas, do! It is a great experience to sample the hugely varied terrains in other parts of the world. Your map-reading skills will definitely improve.

Vehicles: Often it may not be possible to take your own vehicle to an event, or there may be restrictions on when you can arrive or leave the event. A parking fee may be charged. You may be required to go by public transport or a specially arranged bus. Read the information carefully!

Control descriptions: Many countries do not have control descriptions at the start, you will need to collect them at the assembly area before you go to the start. This is important if the start is a long way from the assembly area as it will be a long way back to get them. And by long way, they mean it – you may need to walk several kilometres. If it is a long walk, check also whether water is provided at the start – if not, take your own.

E- Mits: Some countries (Norway, South Africa, Latvia, Lithuania….) use a different electronic timing system known as E-mit instead of SportIdent. In those countries you will need to hire the E-mit tag.

Compass: If you are competing in the northern hempisphere you will need a northern hemisphere compass. Beg, borrow or hire if you can, otherwise you will need to buy one. The sun: : Looking in the direction of the sun, it will move left to right naturally but this always stumps some of us.

Safety Pins: Not all countries include safety pins with running numbers. You will have to purchase tehm. So it is worth keeping some spares in your O box.

Clothing: In some coutries torn clothing is not acceptable and you will be asked to tape up any holes. Sometimes long pants are compulsory to keep out ticks

Tick Borne Encephalitis TBE: This is a disease transmitted by European ticks. A vaccine is commonly available in Europe (in Austria 99% of children are vaccinated). You can obtain it from your GP here in Australia but your GP has to get special “SAS” permission to order it for you. This takes time. Allow 3 months if you can.

Be polite: Remember even if you are not official you will be seen as a representative of your country. If you are officially representing your country you can apply through your local MP for a free Australian Flag.