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ESCAPING THE FOREST – Orienteering athletes from around the continent will compete in the Yukon navigating through forests using maps such as the one above. Race map courtesy of AFAN JONES

Mapping out courses for the orienteering championships

Athletes will be racing through the forests of the Yukon in August 2018

By Dustin Cook on October 18, 2017

Athletes will be racing through the forests of the Yukon in August 2018 for the North American Orienteering Championships, but not before organizers wander through the bush for months to plan and map out the challenging courses.

The Yukon Orienteering Association will be hosting the North American and Canadian championships for the first time, Yukon association president Afan Jones said.

The popular sport combines endurance with navigation as participants need to make their way through forested terrain using a detailed map and a compass.

“You are given a course map, proceed through a number of checkpoints marked in the bush with a flag and have to navigate from one point to the next,” Jones said.

The races are run in timed, staggered starts so athletes cannot follow one another and will be out there alone finding there way through the course, Jones explained.

A lot goes into planning and preparing the courses for the championships, Jones said, with course mapping already underway.

There are four different race categories with a longer distance race, a middle distance, a sprint and a three-person relay.

The longer the distance, the more challenging the race, Jones said, with the sprint race usually held in more urban neighbourhoods around houses.

Races will be held in different locations in the territory, opening on August 18 with the long distance race at Croucher Creek.

The middle distance race will take place around Lewes Lake and the sprint race in the urban terrain of Carcross.

The Carcross course planner is Brent Langbakk, director of Orienteering Canada’s high performance program.

He has already been scouting around Carcross wanting to get a look at the terrain before it blanketed in snow for the winter.

Specialized field mappers have been brought in to create detailed maps of each race location that the course planners will use to create the routes.

Having received the maps, Langbakk said he will now begin drafting five different courses, ranging in difficulty for different age groups and skills, for the sprint distance.

Once the snow is gone again, Langbakk said they will test run the courses to make sure the terrain is accurate to what is recorded on the map.

“Sometimes features change,” he said.

All of the detailed mapping has been completed, Jones said, and course planners are beginning to design their courses.

“We’ve done the key stage right now of finishing the mapping in the field,” he said. “They will be spending time out there, the course planners, going over their course that they designed making sure that it’s fair.”

The cross-country navigation race is a true test of the athletes’ ability to think on their feet, Langbakk said, noting there may be multiple routes to get to each checkpoint, but the athletes need to find the best one.

“The main thing being tested is quick-thinking athletes,” he said. “They are going very fast and trying to map it out.”

The event, which is also playing host to the Canadian Orienteering Championships, will run August 17-24, 2018.

Langbakk said this prestigious championships is the biggest event the Yukon club has ever held and will also be a qualification race with spots up for grabs to advance to the 2019 World Orienteering Championships in Norway.

Comments (2)

Up 7 Down 1

Gord Hunter on Oct 19, 2017 at 2:39 am

I am from Ottawa. We spend our winters in Florida but the thing I'm looking forward to most in the coming year is being in the Yukon for these Championships. This will be my third visit to Whitehorse and second to Carcross for the Canadian Championships and first time for the North Americans.
What do I like about the sport? We do have to make decisions from the map about where to go and then correctly implement those decisions.
The sport caters to all ages, not just the young and fit. After all I have been attending championships since the early 1970s.
We get to visit and explore beautiful parts of Canada every year but none with more beautiful and expansive vistas than the Yukon.
Well okay we orienteering tourists get to spend a fair bit of money on these recreational holidays but it is worth every penny. And with guys like Jones and Langbakk in charge we know it will be a quality event.
Get ready Whitehorse. There are a lot of us coming.

Up 5 Down 1

Michael McCann on Oct 18, 2017 at 7:26 pm

With people like Afan and Brent involved the event will be a huge success.

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