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Discussion: Course design - Ruby Smoke Long F21

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 18, 2016 8:00 PM # 
Here is Ruby Smoke's design of a Long F21 course at Otter Creek, for your review.

Apr 19, 2016 5:29 AM # 
When I critique a course I try to understand a little the process that the course setter used to create the course and the thinking behind the creation of each leg and the choice of control sites. I this case I suspect there is a fairly inexperienced course planner who is perhaps struggling a little with how to create good legs and a nice course. The most striking things to me are the lack of route choice on this course and the lack of technical challenge on many legs. I think that I'd suggest this course planner tries an exercise of just making good legs - not tying them together in a course, but just making a bunch of nice legs with lots of route choice and suitable technical challenge.

Here are some specific leg by leg comments:

Leg 1 - the control site is incredibly simple, probably visible from at least 100m away. This is way too visible for this level of course. There is also a power line going almost directly to the control (though I think I'd take the track SW then the roads since that is almost entirely flat and would give me a good chance to read ahead on the course.

Leg 2 - has some nice route choice, but the technical challenge is very low with a high amount of track running.

Leg 3 - a bit of route choice, but the feature & navigation are too easy.

Leg 4 -You'd just run to the road then follow it around. The alternative of trying to take the control from above is not realistic on such a steep slope

Leg 5 - again, too much running on trails. To make technical challenge you really need to run "across the terrain" rather than "in parallel" to it. Here the tracks lead to the control, no matter which you take.

Leg 6 - the control site is more appropriate for this level of competition, and this is one of the better legs on the course. But there is still a big portion of the leg with a big hand-rail at the start of the leg

Leg 10 - this is a nice attempt at a spectator control but i think it is unrealistic to have a marked route that long through the forest (except under exceptional circumstances such as the Whistler Canadian Chanps Long Distance that I worked on ;-)

Leg 11/12/13/14 - the best section of the course, with running in the forest "across the terrain". Some of the control sites are a little easy, and some more route choice is possible. Still, this is a fun section and a nice change of pace.

Leg 15 - a too simple control, so close to an obvious attackp point.

Arena - I think this would be pretty good run-in, so a good arena atmosphere. One issue with the spectator control is that it is on the opposite side of the field from the run-in so it will not be easy for spectators to keep an eye on both.

I hope this was helpful critique
Apr 19, 2016 1:30 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I agree with pretty much everything AZ writes here.

When I design courses I always try to create something that I would enjoy running myself, this means "moving across the terrain" so as to avoid all the obvious handrails. In steep terrain the best is often to design legs that cross the hillsides diagonally, this will often give route choices for climbing early/middle/late.

I'm afraid that this particular course is the worst I've seen when considered against the specified F21 elite/championship target.

At least the length is probably correct. :-)
Apr 19, 2016 5:46 PM # 
I think that 7 to 8, 10 to 11 and 13 to 14 are quite good legs, with technical navigation and some route choice. 5 to 6 and 8 to 9 are interesting technical legs too, despite the linear features, as I think that I might go straight to 6, and one needs some attention to know where one is along the trail and stream before 9 (those features help, but one needs to read topographic features as well to make full use of them). I would tend to more legs like -8, -11 and -14, some like -6 and -9, and fewer like -2, -4 and -5. If the start were at the crossing of the powerline and the main road, then one control like 1 would be fine I think, as a change of pace, as rapidly changing orienteering speed can be a good form of challenge for the competitor.

I'm not averse to a bit of urban orienteering in a Long, but would limit how much.

Control 2's feature is likely to be fairly vague in the terrain. Although the contour looks sharp, in context it looks as though the feature on the ground is a long ridge without any obvious distinct characteristic along it. It's good to be able to navigate precisely to a quite specific location, rather than run along a ridge to find the marker, as places in F21 and M21 can be separated by several seconds.

Control 12's feature might turn out to continue through the pit into the gully beyond, as a single feature in the terrain with variations in depth that lead to mapping with three symbols. If that turned out to be the case, then it would be better to choose the pit as a more distinct feature than end of ditch (which might not in fact end but merely change depth), or perhaps even another feature entirely if the pit turned out not to be sufficiently distinct.

I like the idea of the spectator leg, and that it doesn't interfere with the finish chute. It's a lot of streamering, but makes for a good control 9 (although the marked route will tend to give the control away a bit as participants approach the's hard to avoid that with a marked route, and the ridge just before the control does a good job of limiting the distance at which the marked route will be seen by orienteers approaching alternative is to have a short leg from 9 to a ditch junction to the west, and start the marked route there...I'd suggest that), and sets up a good leg 10 to 11. Make sure that you have enough volunteer effort available to do a proper job of marking it, as it can be quite frustrating (and unfair) if the markings are too far between or too hard to see at competition speed (which can be ferociously fast for F21s or M21s on a marked route).

12 and 16 should be centered better on the feature (i.e., the end of the ditch, where the marker will be, not the middle of the ditch).
Apr 19, 2016 5:47 PM # 
I disagree on 4. Leave the road just right of the red line.
Apr 21, 2016 11:33 PM # 
Any last comments for Ruby Smoke or the others before the course design threads scroll off people's main pages?
Apr 21, 2016 11:42 PM # 
I just have a comment for ndobbs - I kick your ass on leg 4 ;-)
Apr 22, 2016 7:48 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I'm with AZ: As long as the old railroad is in-bounds there is absolutely no way you can contour across the entire hill and hit the control (west end of cliff? neither above nor below?) faster than a downhill road run to the railroad, then a few contours climb at the end.

Put #4 above the middle jiggle of the cliff and the issue becomes interesting... :-)
Apr 22, 2016 10:32 AM # 
I was thinking over the top, but yeah.

This discussion thread is closed.