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Discussion: Course design - forest relay

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 8, 2016 11:14 PM # 
My next course design non-competition will be a forest relay, starting soon, submissions by early next year.

I'm still finalizing permissions for the map, mostly obtained, but "dotting my i's". (I'm pursuing Lake George, available on the RMOC web site, direct link.)

I'm considering the following format, broadly inspired by 25-manna and Jukola (each of which I've only done once, a decade ago), and Tjoget (never).

7 legs, with the following lengths and difficulties, not necessarily in this order (I'll let the choice of order be part of the design):

7 km, difficult
5 km, difficult
4.5 km, intermediate
2.5 km, easy advanced beginner
4.5 km, intermediate
10 km, difficult
15 km, difficult

Start an hour before sunrise, finish in daylight, presumably catch-up mass starts for the slower teams for later legs or some such mechanism. Each team must include two orienteers age 16 or under, or 60 or older (so set the courses with that in mind). One might also require a minimum number of female orienteers on such a relay, but that doesn't affect course design. Spectator or radio controls are fine things, especially on the last leg.

A few of the difficult legs can (optionally) include a few km in common with the intermediate leg(s), for forking purposes, so long as at least one reasonable and obvious route is intermediate and ideally the fastest route is technical. It should look like intermediate orienteering to an intermediate orienteer (the intermediate navigation route(s) and attack point(s) are immediately obvious), and an advanced orienteer should be drawn to a technical route as the fastest option (it need't be a big time savings, several seconds might do).

I'll leave the non-competition open to relays with other numbers and difficulties of legs, though. Simply state the leg number (first leg, second leg, etc.), intended difficulty, length range (e.g., 5.2-5.4km) and climb range (e.g., 110-115m) on the map for each leg.

Submitters should provide a map showing all legs and forks, and a map for each leg showing all forks of that leg, with controls labelled by control codes, and each fork labelled with a letter and a digit (e.g., A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, etc.) as an aid to discussions. The map for each leg should be labelled with the leg number (order), difficulty, length range and climb range. Also a single control description sheet for all controls, identified by control code. Or some presentation that's obvious to AttackPointers reviewing the courses, if your software does something different or you have a habit for presenting relay courses that you're used to or prefer and which presents well, but keep the number of map images similar to the number of legs, though, please...not fifty map images for a seven leg relay...I don't want to overwhelm reviewers.

Submission deadline 2017-01-15. (It'll take a while to design seven legs with forking.) This is the last course design non-competition that I'll organize in 2016. (It's conceivable that someone else may decide to organize another one this year, though.)

Any comments or suggested tweaks to the task before I start the non-competition? Is this of interest?
Jul 8, 2016 11:33 PM # 
I now have permission from all for use of the Lake George map for the non-competition.
Jul 10, 2016 5:41 PM # 
Procedure for submitting a course design:

1) Obtain a two word pseudonym by going to a random word generation site like this one. This is your pseudonym for the course design non-competition. Feel free to use your pseudonym from a previous non-competition, or obtain a new one, as you like.

2) Download the map: lower res or higher res. The lower res appears to be 1:15,000 at 100 dpi, judging by the scale bar. The higher res is 300 dpi at 1:10,000.

3) Design a relay. Choose an assembly area appropriate to a few hundred participants, with suitable exchange logistics between legs, including a way for people to know when the previous leg teammate is on their way (radio control(s), spectator control or leg, or so forth).

4) Draft the courses, either using software, or by hand using pen, purple ink, straight edge and circle guide. Create one map image for each leg of the relay, showing all forks for that leg as well as the leg number (1st leg, 2nd leg, etc.), difficulty (easy, intermediate, difficult), range of lengths (depending on the forks taken), and range of climbs. Also create a map image showing all legs and all forks.

Purple Pen does not seem to support relay courses, so you may prefer to draft using Open Orienteering Mapper or some paid software.

If hand drafting, scan the map with the drafted course, or take a highly legible photo. Make sure to write your pseudonym and leg number on the map image.

I'd suggest labelling controls with control code rather than sequence, and producing a single control description with all controls for all legs and all forks. On the map images, label each fork uniquely to aid discussion. For a four-way fork, you could label each fork A1, A2, A3 and A4. For another three way fork, B1, B2 and B3.

Remember that it's useful for forks, especially the first fork, to be "equal", so that a top orienteer would spend the same time regardless of which fork. If forks are unequal when there are many orienteers from many teams near each other, the orienteers with the shortest fork quickly get caught up by the others. Their later teammates then have longer forks when the field is likely more spread out, and the effect of packs is on average less pronounced. Note the effect not just of length but climb, runnability, visibility.

Make sure that easy and intermediate legs are the expected difficulty. In the stress of a relay, someone might not see an obscure easy route to the control and panic. Catching features and obvious relocation points may be useful for the easy and intermediate courses, even more so than usual. Keep a sensible balance between challenge and fun.

Letting participants see the progress of their team (and others) can make the event much more fun. Radio controls are nice; so are spectator legs, even if they are seen from a distance. (Participants or organizers could use binoculars to identify distant orienteers passing a visible control.)

Consider the locations marked "private" as out of bounds. I doubt that the courses will be used for an event, but people do sometimes do training.

7) Send the image files or PDFs to me at jimbakerwp at gmail dot com, with your pseudonym and "forest relay" as the subject of the email (so that I can easily keep track of them). Or, upload the image files or PDFs to a free hosting site and send me the link(s), same subject line. Don't bother sending the map file.

8) Soft submission deadline January 15, 2017. I'll start posting submissions in mid January, one every week or so, with a hiatus from mid May through early June if I happen to get that many. I'll keep posting submissions as long as I receive them though, within some limits of fatigue.

I'll suggest the relay format above, but leave it open to whatever forest relay you're interested in setting and submitting. If some people would prefer to take it as a challenge to set a beginner, advanced beginner or intermediate course in partly forested terrain, that's fine too. Label your submission accordingly.
Jul 10, 2016 6:24 PM # 
Wow. Very exciting. As a design problem.

It sounds like you're choosing to not restrict the design to the "normal" things we see in relays of this type. For example, you're not calling out a Long Night leg and not specifying whether it can be forked or not. You're not adding the issues of TV and GPS tracking, such as the need to hide parts of the maps during initial forkings and reveal them later, such as whether you want: 1. Two sets of three forks so legs 1-3 can be revealed in leg 3, prior to the long night, and then legs 5-7 can be revealed in leg 7, or 2. Three sets of two forks so legs 1-3 can be hidden as first forkings, and revealed in all three of the legs 5-7. Or some other forking scheme.

Or no forking at all. Especially for relays with limited numbers of people in the woods at once, like any North American relay, for example, I have come to favor a very gently forked design. Say you've got three leaders and they come to a fork. Two go to A and one goes to B. The two just got an advantage on a typical advanced leg. My current thinking is to either not fork or to fork only in fast sprint-type or control-picking areas, not on typical advanced route choice legs. Since it's less likely for a "follower" to get dropped on a sprint or control-picking fork, it begs the question: "Is it even worth it" (specifically for low-attendance relays).

I'd consider doing each leg as a mass-start when the leading team finishes each leg. I think this can be done in existing OS2010 software by putting in the mass start times when they become known. This would help a lot to keep the stragglers wrangled.

If the idea is to practice for Jukola / Tiomila type relays, maybe emphasize running with other people. The mass start idea above maintains the overnight aspect. If you can dispense with all night, and settle for maybe a midnight finish, you can try for a true mass start of all legs as once, with loops and forking to try to get slower shorter leg runners on the same course sections as longer faster runners. If you did the staggering of leg winning times right, you might even achieve suspense at the event center. I would start by calling leg 1 the shortest winning time, and leg 7 the longest, with lots of margin at the tail, so leg 4 and 5 are maybe ten minutes apart, 5-6 are twenty, and 6-7 is like 30 minutes---maybe more. I'd pick the desired "long night" time and work backwards.

My biggest comment would be to reconsider directly copying a European relay. With a limited number of teams, it is going to be boring, both at the event center and in the woods. You just don't have the number of people in the woods you need to make it fun. The number of people in the woods is the number of teams: total competitors divided by legs. 196 competitors / 7 legs = 28 people in the woods at any one time. It's hard to make that interesting except for the first leg runners.
Jul 10, 2016 6:59 PM # 
Yes, there are a lot of interesting factors in designing a relay for the intended audience, event, and so forth. This is part of why I left the task a bit open. Previous course design non-competitions have fielded entries and comments from around the world, so the local circumstances will vary. I'm not as concerned about whether North America has enough potential entrants (because I doubt that the submitted courses will be used for an actual event) as in creating a global AttackPoint opportunity to explore and discuss relay course design. People can tailor the concepts locally when designing an actual event, in order to make the most exciting relay for the specific situation.
Jul 11, 2016 8:29 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Please get a better copy of the map!

150 DPI at 1:10K is pretty much the minimum in order to visually being able to grok the map, with 67 DPI (100 DPI 1:15K) most small detail will tend to float together.

With the linked jpeg image I really can't tell if a small black dot is a boulder, a boulder cluster or a cliff!

If I'm going to spend several days designing a big relay event I want to at the very least start with a good map image.
Jul 11, 2016 10:33 AM # 
I have that map in 0CAD, if you want it, Jim.
Jul 11, 2016 2:09 PM # 
Yes, please JJ. I was looking for what I had, and about to email around for who had it.
Jul 11, 2016 5:29 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Please make either the original OCAD file or at least a georef'ed export, i.e. GIF + GFW files for minimal size. I suggest 1 m/pixel as a good working resolution for such an export, that is the format I've used for the Jukola test maps the last 3-4 years.
Jul 11, 2016 6:02 PM # 
JJ Please send me the OCAD also.
Jul 11, 2016 7:22 PM # 
I don't know whether that OCAD file is georeferenced; back in 1991 georeferencing wasn't as commonin North America. (I don't recall whether OCAD supported it at the time, but I don't recall my club or association doing it for any of their maps, nor hearing about it from other clubs, back then. I believe my current club is currently doing it for all maps.) I could probably bring it into OOM and georeference it by hand using some obvious road intersection and Google Maps, but I don't see the export option for georeference info offhand. I see I can do export GFW (as part of exporting GIF) from OCAD 11, so maybe i'll do that.

Is 300dpi better for printing than 225dpi, in case anyone prints the map to work with it?
Jul 12, 2016 2:12 AM # 
0CAD supporting georeferencing in 1991? Pffft! 0CAD didn't even support color inkjet printers back then, and might have still been on version 2!. But Lake George wasn't originally in 0CAD anyway, it was drafted by Pat, which means it was Microstation/Freehand, and I don't remember for sure what happened after that, but it might have been that Pat was able to export the contours and rock via DXF and it got imported into 0CAD from there. Other stuff got redrafted by hand, it's possible that I did some of it (the middle 30%) and that Mikell did the rest later. The latest version I have is in 0CAD 8, but it looks like the first 0CAD edition was 0CAD 6 from 2000. In any case, it's definitely not georeferenced.

(On its way to Jim and Mike. If you don't receive it, let me know the right address.)
Jul 12, 2016 6:48 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I would be very happy to georef the map and then export image files with corresponding world file for course planners without OCAD available.

I can host it on my personal ( server.

My email is still terje.mathisen (at)
Jul 13, 2016 8:46 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I got the old OCAD8 map from Jim and used OSM data to georef it, I have uploaded a 300 DPI GIF+GFW pair using spot color blending to my server:

Along with a change to 1:10K scale I also fixed the contour line widths and the color table. I considered importing the entire map into a new project in order to update all the symbols and color definitions, but realized that the map uses several non-standard symbols which would have messed up that process.
Jul 14, 2016 7:05 AM # 
@Terje Mathisen, try OpenOrienteering Mapper for course design using this template
Jul 25, 2016 3:26 AM # 
I'm bumping this thread in case anyone who might be interested missed the announcement (due to a trip or whatever). See the first three postings of the thread if interested in designing a forest relay as part of this non competition. I'll bump the thread again in a few weeks, and as the deadline approaches, depending on my memory and state of distraction organizing the Wild Goat, or preparing for Christmas.
Jul 30, 2016 5:02 PM # 
Auto generated map was already once used for course design excersise here and I know such maps are less interesting , but if there is lack of maps I can easily make one or a already made one can be used. Like this from colorado.

And I believe Terje might have intresting generated maps too.
Jul 31, 2016 3:21 AM # 
Yes, that looks like a lovely area, especially for Long. (Maybe my club should map it ;-)

Auto-generated maps sound like a useful option. Up to now, I've been able to get permission to use regular O maps, except in the case of WOC 2016 for which the real map won't be available for a bit...:-) I'm always interested to know what maps participants (submitters, reviewers, lurkers) in the non competitions prefer.
Jul 31, 2016 1:51 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
My map of the Asmaløy island in the Hvaler archipelago has always been open access, the raw ocad file is available for free (orienteering) use in

This is 10+ sq km according to iSSOM (sprint) mapping standards, 1:5000 with 2 m contours.

Particularly the area around Hvalerhallen and the Hvaler High School in the center/north part of the map is very interesting orienteering terrain: Highly detailed contours with open slabs near the coast, some paths and lots of boulders and cliffs. Vegetation cover is mostly low-growth pine with some undergrowth in areas with older/taller pines, and evergreen bushes which are mapped with green stripes both in white and yellow areas.
Aug 9, 2016 5:00 PM # 
Last bump on this thread until the submission deadline approaches. If interested in submitting a set of relay courses for this course design non-competition, or just pondering what you might do to set a relay on the Lake George map, read the first three postings on this thread.
Dec 3, 2016 10:30 PM # 
If you're thinking of submitting courses for this, you have about six weeks. See the first few posts of the thread for more info.
Jan 10, 2017 7:14 AM # 
If you're thinking of submitting an entry, the soft submission deadline is January 15. See the third entry for procedures, and a later entry by Terje Mathisen for a high resolution map.

This discussion thread is closed.