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Discussion: Team racing

in: Orienteering; General

Oct 2, 2016 4:29 PM # 
Hot off an exciting NorAm Champs relay in which announcer Nevin French said something like "orienteering sprint relays are so exciting that's why we only do them once a year" I wonder if there are ways to get more team races into NorAm orienteering weekends, Champs weekends or festivals (especially the latter).

Some options:

1) Mixed Sprint Relay: Adding these onto the same day as a sprint is a no brainer. The race doesn't take long to finish and all categories (junior, open, masters, super masters) can run the same course making for a large mass start.

2) Traditional forest relay: These have never caught on in North America and I'm not sure they ever will. We don't have the numbers to make for exciting relays. The points system has tried to help that but it has also taken away from the elite champs aspect of it. Several of my AR and running friends have commented that it is too much of a time commitment to be standing and waiting for team mates to finish. They would rather be racing.

3) Team competition: points for participation in an existing individual race. Also easy to do and used to be done a lot.

4) Short 2-4 hour mini-rogaine/score-O/Choose your Adventure Run races are easy to organize. With teams of 2-3 they could be added to the end of a festival or extended weekend to crown the 'team champion' and could even use some/all/many of the checkpoints already in the forest.

5) Point-to-Point adventure run: For over 15 years now my club has been hosting team point-to-point adventure runs with winning times around 3 hours. For the most part, the team members stay together but there are sections where the course splits. This are by far the most popular orienteering races in southern Ontario. Add to this that our ARK program and schools race believes strongly on team racing there are often questions why all our champs races are individual. The point to point format doesn't have as nice of post-race atmosphere of the time limit score-O approach.

6) Euro team race format: This format I know very little about but it intrigues me. If anybody knows more about this race format I'd love to learn more. Switzerland has a National Championship and it appears that it is teams of three. Is it a mass start or interval start? Do all three team members have their own map? Does anybody have link to a map? Here is a link to the promo video for the Swiss Champs later this fall.

here is the web page link:
[edit: ok it looks like the Swiss format is an interval start long distance race but the team works together to complete it taking turns going to the controls and waiting for each other along the way. see here: ]

What are the preferred formats? Other ideas?
Oct 2, 2016 4:58 PM # 
Team format:

A long time ago - in 1977 - I took part in a Norwegian Team Relay* in Vancouvers Stanley Park. The 3-person teams, where each person was given a map with 25-30 controls, could then divide them among team members anyway they wanted. Race was mass started of course.

My guess is that this is somewhat similar to the Swiss race mentioned above.

Results were calculated on total time for all team members, but I think it would be more exciting and fair to have first team back with all its members and all controls to be the winner. Whether this is something that should be made into a team championship is another question but I´m sure it could possibly be a fun event.

*never heard that name before or after that event
Oct 2, 2016 5:45 PM # 
Regarding 6: you are right about the format: regular orienteering course in a team of three and you are (almost) free how you split up. The SI-Card has to visit all controls and you can hand over the SI-Card wherever you want. Some controls have to be visited by all team members.

GPS Animation from the Hubmann Brothers (Team-SM 2015):

The tricky part is planning and communication, where do you hand over the SI-Card?

This year it will for the first time be mass start in the Elite classes, adding a tactical component.
Oct 2, 2016 7:05 PM # 
Another reason that many people have angst about forest relays is the feeling that they can more easily bring the team down (lose minutes and have teammates waiting) than gain time for the team (seconds). Many find the self induced pressure high.

A possible solution could be to change the format so that two out of three on a team are out at a time, doing short loops of three or four controls. A two minute mistake will at least not leave the entire team waiting, and teammates wouldn't be waiting around much, perhaps using the time for some element of strategy, such as studying a "visit once on any loop" control displayed after the start at the changeover area. Also, make every control doable via an easy if circuitous route, or a harder more direct route, and have easy bailouts that limit time lost (but still leave the opportunity to gain time through precision). That invites following on the more direct routes, but forking could limit that, especially nearly, but not quite, linear forks (to use a term that I recall Steve Tarry used regarding part of his WOC93 relay course, meaning that all forked controls are on a line between the starting and ending common controls of the fork, thereby keeping orienteers on all of the forks near each other). There could be a mixed elite class, a low points class and a high points class (on fewer loops).

If anyone wants submit a course design on the Lake George map for any of Mike's suggested formats (at least the forest ones), or bubo's format, for feedback or to demonstrate and discuss what one of these might look like, feel free to do so as part of the forest relay course setting non competition. See another thread for details on that and for a link to the map. Ignore the bit about setting a relay if you prefer to set a team event. Indicate succinctly the rules for the event. Or of course simply post something here.
Oct 2, 2016 7:15 PM # 
Another problem with forest relays (that may spill over into other sorts of relays) is that there are simultaneously competing sentiments of "I'm afraid of letting my tean down" and "I want my entire time to count toward my team's result". I don't mean that there are two factions, each with one of these attitudes. I mean that there are individuals who hold both of these attitudes simultaneously. They're worried about letting their team down, but opposed to any format that would limit the amount of time they could lose.
Oct 2, 2016 7:50 PM # 
The format that I'm suggesting above would count every team member's full time (though two would be running in parallel on different legs of the relay at any one time), but limit the time that any teammate might be waiting (since the waiting teammate tags off from whoever finishes a leg next). If I recall correctly, 25-manna has an element of this, in which four of the 25 team members are orienteering (on separate relay legs) at any given time during much of the race (though the starting and finishing few legs are solo, or such). Maybe teams from big clubs and, for smaller clubs, from regions might want to compete in a 25-manna format race in North America. The waiting is more interesting with so many people around...sort of the social aspect of having a time limit event, but during the event.
Oct 2, 2016 7:58 PM # 
I love the idea of doing more team-based orienteering, and also generating more spirited competition between the clubs throughout the country, as well as colleges and universities, schools, etc.

Relays are a great way to do that, and in my experience in the few relays I've participated in, both for SMOC and the Armed Forces team, it built comradery and enthusiasm within the club/team, and interest from the spectators in some ways that the routine individual races don't. Personally I am a lot more motivated and tend to work at something harder when I know I'm part of team contributing to it and having people around me that help me push a little more than if I'm just doing something for myself or on my own.

The main challenge I've faced is since the clubs I've typically been involved with don't have many people who travel to national meets it has always been hard to get a team assembled. In fact the only time it's worked was at a national meet that was close to one of my clubs since a handful of members were able to easily travel down to the meet.

So that makes me wonder if perhaps doing regional relay races closer to the surrounding clubs (possibly in conjunction with nationals already schedule within the regions) as entry points to a national run-off might be a good way to do it? Winners of the regional relays get invites to a national relay champ. My thought is the regional winner teams and their respective clubs might be more involved and excited about the process after their win, and even before the race it could develop a sense of competition and rivalry between the clubs leading up to the regionals. I know some of those scholastic leagues have done some of this. There was an Army-Navy academy race that happenned previously. I think there is good potential in all this. Wouldn't be surprised if this kind of idea has already been hacked though.

As far as format for team/club races and/or relays, I'm not sure I'm decided. I like all those ideas but I wouldn't want to see it be only sprint as forest and technicality are core elements of the sport. The euro team system intrigues me too.

But even if relays don't happen, at a minimum I thnk it would be nice to have some kind of club scoring mechanism that helps clubs shoot for something and develop a competitive atmosphere between them that can make it even more fun to be a part of an O-club.
Oct 2, 2016 8:02 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
The additional pressure of a relay is a big part of why people like them:

You _have_ to think differently when you're running a relay vs individual because, as a previous poster said: "You can easily lose minutes and only gain seconds".

I.e. for a relay you change route selection slightly, you check your map even more frequently, and you always, always, always check every single control code.

(I managed to forget that last part just two weeks ago, on the Oslo/Akershus/Østfold county championship relay, this cost my two team mates a silver medal. :-()
Oct 3, 2016 12:33 AM # 
Just for motivation, here's a photo from our school relay last week. (Mass start, forked)

Oct 3, 2016 2:02 AM # 
And it appears the 4th & final race in the NE Challenge will feature a mass start, forked affair.

Btw, are the current challenge standings posted anywhere?
Oct 11, 2016 12:00 AM # 
Quick question on mass start events. Anyone know on average the number of relays or mass start races top European racers would compete in compared to a NA based runner?

I believe that a Canadian team member ran one relay a couple of years ago: at WOC. How many mass start events are others doing?
Oct 11, 2016 12:25 AM # 
For a Sweden based runner, my guess is Jukola, 10mila, national champs relay, 25manna, EOC relay, WOC relay plus perhaps one (two the most) more club team relay.

Mass start - maybe the Ultra champs but a lot of national team members don't participate; schedule is too busy.
Oct 11, 2016 12:33 AM # 
Just a suggestion - and for club based events which may be more of a social nature. We found club members were hesitant to become involved in relays, not wanting to let others down. We'd tried having a tiered ranking system - self nominating - A or B grade. Teams of 3 were formed with Leg 1 being "kids" - our Easy course level, then Leg 2 and 3 be 1 person from A grade and 1 from B grade. Started to run out of kids so tried another way.
Did a Draw for Partners - luck dip - BUT with a twist. We did it after the event was completed. So no pressure that you are letting team member down while you are running. Starts were as per usual event organisation - 2 min so lots of people out and no waiting. Afterwards it provided a great centre of attention as we had a BBQ while the teams were formed and results "emerged".
Oct 11, 2016 12:45 AM # 
We ran the "Boomer" (Billygoat) a few times in the past but only about half of the participants on the day got involved in the mass start with the remainder opting for an interval start. Orienteering really is a solo sport!

Our summer series scatter starts are quite popular, on the other hand. Club relays not so much.
Oct 11, 2016 1:21 AM # 
We just hosted a two loop farsta a week ago, not a bad format -- one bonus is that you can set a time limit on giving out the second map, say two hours for the first loop, so you can start pickup pretty early.

You do have to force people into mass start though, we only had a beginner's course as an alternative (but two different mass start courses). Ocad does all the forking variants for you, so planning was not too complicated.
Oct 11, 2016 2:42 AM # 
Suncoast Orienteering hosts one of these team events about once a year.
I like them. The kids like them but sometimes the leaders don't like that in a relay if one miss-punches the whole team is out of the awards and the ranking points.
However even in the regular point-to-point events one of the strongest features in the Florida JROTC program is that the cadets may be one of 50 to 80 participants on a course and not in the top three but they can still be contributing to their team results.
Oct 11, 2016 6:00 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Locally here in Oslo we have several relays, the most common ones being the county relay championship in the fall and Kvistkvaset (Ås) in the spring, with the most important one probably being 15-stafetten. The latter is the Norwegian smaller version of 25-Manna, with a few single runners to start and end the relay and a bunch of parallel runners in the middle.

We also have a few mass start events every year, as well as a chasing start this coming Friday: This is the final of the Harry Lagert Night O series, since most competitors have been more than 3-4 minutes after the winner on each of the three qualifying races something like 70 people will go out in the first mass start.
Oct 11, 2016 9:05 AM # 
How about designing a spectacular format that works for you and your circumstances and limitations?

Example: 7 leg night relay. Teams consisting min 3 and max 7 runners.

- 3 first legs are night legs. Evening mass start of 3 runners simultaneously, forked together.

(then night break/barbecue)

- next morning, 3 legs, chase start as relay. Day beings with mass start of those over one hour behind. then chase start in opposite order, the leading team after night legs will start last, one hour after the mass start

(Day break before last leg. Summing up six first leg times).

- last leg, goat race with skip(s or whatever) as a chase start, overall leader starts first. Teams over 1 hour behind will start together as a mass start. Fist in finish wins. Maybe use Swiss Team-SM format or at least allow team members go to forest to guide the last leg runner to make it more interesting and fun for the rest of the team.


So, if you have only 3 runners in your everyone would have to run at least twice and one also third run (last leg). Should provide enough racing to make long trip worth it. Less fit folks could have teams of 7 and run only once. Forked night mass start should make first 3 legs interesting enough. Inverted chase start orders should make people not spread out too much to keep it interesting for legs 4-6 legs.

Challenging format for result service for the need to get result right and published in time. Especially if there is plenty of teams. But too much teams is just a positive problem.
Oct 11, 2016 10:00 AM # 
But too much teams is just a positive problem.

We won't ever have that problem. It's even less of a problem if we ran it at night because no-one would come.
Oct 11, 2016 11:08 AM # 
Around here, same. Except when the word "orienteering" is replaced by "rogaine".
Oct 11, 2016 11:45 AM # 
What are you talking about? I went to a rogaine in NZ once, proving beyond doubt how popular they are.
Oct 11, 2016 2:25 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@tRicky: "no-one would come"? Why?

What Jagge described is basically Smålandskavlen or Night Hawk, with a few tweaks. The main part is the mass start of all (forked) night legs, then a restart the next day.

The format is very popular, and allows anywhere from N/2 to N runners in each team.
Oct 11, 2016 2:35 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
"No one" could include hyperbolic rounding. Our night events attract a small number of daytime regulars.
Oct 11, 2016 4:09 PM # 
Night in Australia is pitch black - it's proper dark unlike the Northern European semi-dark summer twilight, but more relevantly, most of our members are 60yrs+ and have trouble walking in the forest in the day, let alone at night!
Oct 11, 2016 7:54 PM # 
One way to cut down on the waiting aspect of relays would be to have a mass start of all participants, then just add up the times of team members at the finish. It would give the excitement of the mass start, would provide the possibility of forking which is missing from a Billygoat-style event, and though it wouldn't perhaps have quite the excitement of the head-to-head competition coming in to the finish, but a lot of that excitement has already gone by after the first eight or ten teams have finished in a normal relay format. It is a format that would likely give a lot more of the sense of head-to-head competition, probably much more so for runners in later legs of the race than in a conventional relay in countries with smaller orienteering populations. If one of the legs is a little longer than the others, with electronic punching and good announcing, generally by the time the runners on that leg were arriving in the arena it would already be clear where the current placing for the team was, and how the prospects were looking for any other teams with potential winning total times. It might even keep up the excitement about who was going to be the overall winner for a while even after the first two or three runners have completed their races, if some of the teammates of the early finishers had some less successful legs.
Oct 11, 2016 8:51 PM # 
If one is trying to increase relay participation, it's not that useful to come up with ideas that sound appealing to the people who would show up anyway. You need to appeal to the people who dislike something about relays.

At the same time, you need to figure out what it is about a relay that is considered good, and not lose that. If you set up a trim course that people can run at any time during a month, and you later group people in some arbitrary way and add up their times, that probably defeats the purpose. So how far in that direction is a proposal getting to be?
Oct 11, 2016 10:30 PM # 
Perceptive as always JJ. I commend the swiss (?) team thing. We know there are lots of people who like an expedition with their mates. We know that if you require them to stay together some will cheat (take a rest while the fittest person gets the control up the hill). Making that allowable would fix it; and I suggest allowing 1-person teams too. Oh and getting controls in a specified order, surely an un-necessary restriction. Finally put a time limit on it for convenience/social buzz.
Oct 12, 2016 9:58 AM # 
What Jagge described is basically Smålandskavlen or Night Hawk, with a few tweaks. The main part is the mass start of all (forked) night legs, then a restart the next day.

What Tooms said. Australia and in particular Western Australia is not Europe with its seemingly infinite number of dedicated/elite/conscripted participants. Even when we hold 24hr rogaines with 100+ teams, it's not uncommon for just one or two of those teams to stay out all night - many come back before it even gets dark!
Oct 12, 2016 12:18 PM # 
NSW has had the double whammy of extinction: about 15 years ago one of our weekends was Saturday night our Night Champs and Sunday was the State Relay Champs. It was a race to extinction - "dumbing down" of Nights and they went to almost Park terrain and Relays got fewer and fewer entries and people weren't bothering to travel. Whoosh they were gone!
Oct 12, 2016 12:43 PM # 
We're currently deciding whether to run our once-a-year interclub relays for next year. It may go on, possibly in a different format (i.e. not interclub) or it may disappear altogether.
Oct 12, 2016 1:06 PM # 
Oct 20, 2016 6:46 AM # 
the german version of team competition (in alternative to the swiss version, point 6 in the first input) is:
3 members start with 3 equal maps,
on the maps are a obligation course (f.e. Control A to G) and additional choice controls (f.e. control 31 - 59).
The runners divide the choice controls to the 3 members and each have to run the obligation course and the team have to find all choice controls.
In my opinion is the swiss version very good for balanced teams, but the german version good for different powerful runners in one team.
In the swiss version will than a good runner take all controls and the 2 others have only 2 ore 3 obligation controls and only a very small contribution to the team performance and in the german version all 3 runners have the contribution to the team performance according to their capability.
results 2016:
Start can be intervall or mass start.
Oct 20, 2016 12:05 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Tooms: We run night races here year round, I can guarantee that there is nothing darker than a rainy late Oct/Nov evening in Scandinavia. :-)

Are you saying that basically nobody runs at night because nobody wants to run at night so nobody will put up a race?
Oct 20, 2016 12:26 PM # 
You could make night legs not obligatory to make it not restrict participation. Like making those 3 parallel night legs I suggested optional. Those who did not run night legs at all would start first and being that maximum of 1h behind after the night. So night legs would be just kind of a way to earning some advantage over those who don't run night.
Oct 20, 2016 7:01 PM # 
We once did a surprisingly fun relay with just a dozen people. This probably only works with few people... and without forking (that's important)

Everyone was ranked - self-ranking was in effect.
Then the "worst" six runners did a mass start.

The first runner from Leg 1 tagged the worst runner in the 'pen'.
The next incoming runner always tagged the worst runner left in the pen.

The slowest leg 1 runner thus tagged the best ranked runner in the race. It was amazing - where the intensity was high for everyone, and the fun was great. And there was no worry about letting your team down.

It also built a strangely cool group social experience
Oct 21, 2016 1:45 AM # 
What a great concept, Adrian. I'll see if my club wants to do it someday.
Oct 26, 2016 8:02 AM # 
We only have one best runner and everyone else is the worst.

This discussion thread is closed.