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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: You should send this to Nick

in: ba-ba; ba-ba > 2016-03-29

Mar 29, 2016 5:14 PM # 
Or to Focus?
Mar 29, 2016 6:01 PM # 
I think I maybe need to come up with a few potential solutions first!
I'm also not fully aware of what happened on Sunday, just hearing things 2nd/3rd hand. It'd be interesting to hear from the organiser/safety officer.
I'm not risk averse, but I've definitely become more aware of the need of self risk assessment in work and play - I've managed to get it to a level where I'm safe without taking away the enjoyment or worrying about it too much. Of course this develops with age, but working in industrial labs (and having had my eyesight saved by following a RA - pressurised 25% ammonia to the face could have been nasty!) makes you realise how normal, day-to-day scenarios can take a turn.

I'm not sure how many of the younger elites read CS/Focus tbh - I flick through both before they hit the recycling bin at most!
Mar 29, 2016 7:05 PM # 
Or to the Events and Comps Committee?
Mar 29, 2016 10:57 PM # 
Completely agree there should be more safety. I count myself quite lucky that I wasn't out in the worst weather, I made a last minute decision to wear a thermal, had I not I definitely would of been cold just from the wind. I also carried a jacket in a bumbag that is well past being waterproof so would of got very cold had the rain carried on when I was out. The guy at the whistle check didn't stop me jogging to check my whistle and I could've been carrying anything in my bumbag.
Mar 30, 2016 11:21 PM # 
For standard fell races it's relatively easy: everyone is starting at the same time and running through the same check points in the same order. Many of the checkpoints tend to be on open ridges with good lines of sight, making phone or radio comms back to the arena relatively straightforward. If you've got a checkpoint marshal reading back bib numbers over the phone/radio it should fairly quickly become obvious when someone has gone missing and (roughly) where you should start looking for them. And if the organiser decides to abandon the race mid-way, they can use the marshals to communicate this to competitors.

For orienteering it's trickier, particularly at big races where you've got a huge number of different courses with no common controls - and there aren't many (UK) fell races comparable to the JK, with 3000+ competitors or with significant numbers of competitors aged under 12 or over 80... Plus your checkpoints are often in terrible terrain for getting communications out: negative features under trees or similar.

The thing that always concerns me with orienteering is that an injured/hypothermic competitor could easily be missing for a substantial period of time before anyone notices. The download team will generally start to run through the list of outstanding competitors as course closing time approaches, but an early starter could easily have been gone for six hours or more by that point.

And then, once you've figured out that someone is missing, you can't start a meaningful search on a large and complex area until someone goes out, manually retrieves the SI boxes and brings them back to be downloaded - another hour at least. (Good luck finding the missing runner at all if you're using EMIT.)

Only 21E had the spectator run through at Kilnsey, so those marshals would only have seen a small fraction of the competitors, and not the fraction that I'd be most worried about. The water marshals on the crossing points over Mastiles Lane could have served a similar function, although the shorter courses didn't cross it, and there's more scope for things to go wrong when you're trying to tally which of several different checkpoints someone could have passed through.

I reckon the long-term solution is going to be some form of live tracking - probably a combo of making every control a "radio" control, using some wireless mesh networking protocol to get data back to the arena, and making every competitor carry a live GPS tracking unit, which might as well form part of the same data mesh. But that's probably a good decade away from being reality.

That said, some MMs have already started giving everyone GPS trackers for safety reasons, even through their effectiveness is currently dependent on phone signal. Another short-term fix could be to have more (and more reliable) radio controls, with every course going through several radio controls at reasonably frequent intervals. You could then do some clever processing to alert the safety officer in real time when someone is "overdue" compared to a manually set benchmark time for that control on that class.

The downside is that your planning will be constrained by the need to have several controls on each course from which you can somehow get a signal back to the arena. I also have no idea whether enough radio-control hardware currently exists in the UK to even consider trying this.

(No argument with your points about people not carrying the right kit for the conditions. I think a big part of that problem is that a lot of orienteers haven't have experienced truly awful conditions in exposed terrain, and so won't know what is and isn't suitable.)
Mar 31, 2016 7:54 AM # 
A simpler/shorter term solution would be to have one or two common controls for all courses on an exposed area that could (if the weather dictates) be marshalled and bibs counted through. Could be marked as a first aid point too, as in Scandinavian events, and would be a point that the course could be closed if necessary mid-race because of the conditions.
Mar 31, 2016 8:46 AM # 
I think you've put into words what I was aiming at perfectly Ifor, and a few ideas that I may have struggled some way towards but not quite got there fully.

Speaking to Pete Bray, I've learnt that the procedure for missing runners (as you say, courses close, then area swept by control collectors could result in someone being out there for hours) is somewhat inadequate. A couple of common radio/marshalled controls in the area gives you the instant feedback you get from marshalled points in Fell Races/MMs.

Whilst personal responsibility is the main safety net and all you'd require in an ideal world, a lot of orienteers don't have the experience of mountains/poor weather to base sound decisions on regarding kit or whether to retire. Whilst I often tell ShUOC that a proper waterproof is required and what can go wrong, they'll still head out in a glorified binbag. Hopefully stories from events this weekend will make people think a bit more that it can happen to them.
Mar 31, 2016 10:33 AM # 
The shorter courses on Sunday were deliberately set up in a well-defined area bounded by high walls and a barbed wire fence. The one exception to that was orange, whose course had to start at north start for technical reasons, but whose course kept low level within sight of walls at all times before entering the southern section. When a boy on M14 went overdue part of the way through the event, we sent searchers out to do a systematic top down search initially, which the area allowed for, to be backed up by others going in from key points around the area. Fortunately he turned up before the searching started.
The only other courses to go 'high' north of Mastiles Lane were the M18/20E and M21-55L. South of Mastiles Lane, the only course to go high outside the main southern section was W21E. All others stayed lower, only going higher if distance was needed when in the enclosed southern section. That was deliberate, as was planning to allow cut offs in case of bad weather
On the technical stuff that lost was talking about, what would be good would be some way of addressing a box whilst in terrain, enabling a team to search along a route whilst still in situ. Don't know how feasible that would be, but surely more practical than wireless networking which would be so dependent on terrain and very technical to set up.
Where I did miss a trick was along the lines of what Oli says above: crossing points on Mastiles Lane should have had controls on, all same number to continue to allow route choices.
Apr 1, 2016 8:10 PM # 
I don't see the wireless networking as something you'll have to set up - it'll just be a standard feature of the integrated punching/competitor tracking system. As I said, I reckon it's at least a decade away from reality: the commercial tech isn't quite there yet, but there's enough money being thrown at tracking individuals in rough and remote terrain by military and disaster relief that it'll trickle down to orienteering eventually.

There's probably not a whole lot of commercial incentive for SI to develop portable control readers, but there's nothing to stop a club from buying a waterproof Windows tablet with a USB port and installing SIConfig.
Apr 2, 2016 8:42 AM # 
There's a new low power long range protocol gathering pace - manchester has a very active scene, and leeds has just got its first 'node'

I haven't dug too much about it but my first thoughts were that this could be useful to orienteering.

As for the rest of it. Cags were compulsory. Mine was checked. I needed to wear it. Looking at my splits, when the hail came down I went from consistently a bit slower than the leaders on M40L to a crawl. Very obvious on the splitsbrowser. In the space of a 400m run, it changed from dull and breezy to bitterly cold and a biting hail which settled to a couple of inches deep on the ground. I had trouble putting my cag on as my hands were numb (should have put it on earlier)

It was brutal in the hail, and anyone without the right kit would have been in trouble. But with the kit, it was still possible to continue.
It's sad that the organisers would get blamed if someone did get into trouble who had ignored the kit requirements, or skimped on them. Carrying a cag is not going to make much difference to your performance.

This discussion thread is closed.