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Discussion: Qual protest & jury decision

in: Fall Foliage Festival (Oct 23–24, 2010 - Stoneham/Winchester (10 mi N of Boston) and Ashburnham, MA, US)

Oct 26, 2010 2:19 AM # 
jima:
Moving this to a separate thread as it is a materially different discussion than commentary and assessment on the meet itself.

I was one of the jury of 3 for the protest - others are active APers, can declare or remain silent at their option.

Brief summary of discussion as I recollect it, part 1:

- What are the relevant rules??

~ 17.5 When in response to a protest the Jury determines that any of the following conditions have existed for a substantial group of competitors in a class, then the class or course shall be voided.
a) A control flag is missing. (Section 29.1)
b) A control flag, the start, or the finish is not within the marked circle or triangle.
c) A control flag is on the wrong feature. (Section 29.3)
d) The code at the control is different from that on the control description sheet. (Section 29.7)

~ 17.6 When in response to a protest the jury determines that unfair conditions affected a substantial number of competitors and probably had an impact on the results then the class or course shall be voided.

~ 23.7 When setting courses the following must be observed: There shall not be two control flags within 100m of each other on similar features.

- Facts bearing on the situation:
- 2 controls in the southern part of the map approximately 50 meters apart.
- control descriptions were - #39 Boulder, 1.5m/3.0m, SW base; #77 Boulder, .5m, N side
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Oct 26, 2010 2:36 AM # 
jima:
Part 2:

- What are our possible options? a) have MP stand, b) overrule MP and validate competitor's results, c) throw out all impacted courses.

Additional facts gathered:
- Were there any other mispunches associated with either of these controls? No.

General discussion points:
- Why the heck didn't the runner just check the darn control codes? Dunno, is that really relevant?

- Do any of the provisions for 17.5 apply here? No, so there is not a mandate to void impacted courses based on this rule.

- Were the courses, as set, in compliance with all of the rules? No, there were two controls, both on boulders, well within the 100 meter distance. Could be argued that a boulder on a knoll that is .5m in height is not that similar to a boulder on the side of a hill that is 1.5m on one side and 3.0m on the other (although having gone to the boulder on the hillside during my course, those dimensions were over advertised). Consensus of the jury was that both controls were on boulders which was similar enough for the purposes of rule 23.7.

- We saw no reason/rationale to throw out all impacted courses.
- Although the runner's "should" have checked the control codes, because the markers were well within the 100m separate requirement for similar features we decided to rule in the runner's favor and validate their run.
Oct 26, 2010 2:42 AM # 
j-man:
I don't want to weigh in right now, but doesn't it seem like this very issue recurs with regular frequency? Isn't it likely that the jury wants to take what seems like the least objectionable course of action?

1`) If a control is misplaced but no one notices, is there a problem?
2) If a control is misplaced and everyone notices but no one is "affected", does it matter?
3) If the situation is like 2, but a handful of people complain, will anything happen?

Probably not (for any of these cases.) Is that bad? Jeremy Bentham and his devotees would probably think this is fine.

[Edit: I suppose "misplaced" can be placed incorrectly (wrong place) or too close to another one (violation of the proximity rule.) Maybe a different outcome is warranted in these situations?]
Oct 26, 2010 5:28 AM # 
Alexaza:
There is always a common sense besides of rules. In my opinion in this case the most adequate decision would be "a) have MP stand". Here is why:

1. It was a qualification race. And there were less than 6 people in the group the person in question run. So she would run in the A-Final ANYWAY.

2. If MP holds she would not get Ranking Points, which would be fair because other participants at the same conditions checked the code and got the right control (she did not so she deserves worse Ranking).

Also, I need to say that although the controls were on similar features the situation around was completely different: one control was on quite a steep slope in white woods and another on a flat area in green. You could confuse them only if you don't pay attention at all (and in fact there were no others who confused them). And the participant knew it. So it was not nice of the participant to file such a protest. I remember when couple of years ago Brendan was disqualified in similar situation (MP on a control which was placed too close to another). He was about to file a protest but PG told him "You were sucks. Admit it and be over it." So he did not file a protest.
Oct 26, 2010 7:52 AM # 
dness:
I agree with the jury's decision, but I *also* agree a protest should not have been filed. I think these are two separate issues. The runner should not have protested because they should have realized that they had blundered ("You were sucks"). However, the controls were unfair (I needed to use that word :-)) by a strict interpretation of the rules, and the competitor was affected, so it seems to me recompense should be made available.

As a side note: I was probably also affected, but I freely admit it was my own stupidity (I was sucks).
Oct 26, 2010 1:25 PM # 
EJBTRI:
The question presented to the jury was - what is the remedy for a violation of rule 23.7 where only one competitor in a class mispunches? Since the rule itself provides no remedy, other rules must be consulted. Rule 17.5 is irrelevant as none of the factors set forth therein are present.If the jury determines that a violation of rule 23.7 constitutes an unfair condition, then rule 17.6 is implicated and the jury must go on to determine whether the balance of the requirements of the rule were met. If they are, then the class or course must be voided. There is no other remedy. However, on the facts rule 17.6 has no application since only one competitor was affected. It also appears from the thread that results were not affected. The mp should stand. The cited rules seem to stand for the proposition that course setter error is the basis for protest where many, not one, were led into mp.
Oct 26, 2010 1:55 PM # 
Becks:
It really sounds like there needs to be a course setters checklist. If it already exists, it needs to be used. The best thing to do, is not to make these basic planning boo boos in the first place. There were plenty of features there, I'm sure the two boulders were not needed. It's not for the course setters or the jury to decide if someone sucks or not, that's rude. Yes, you should check codes, but you also expect a certain standard of course at an A meet. A quick checklist for course vetters would sort this.

(And yes, I can confirm that I did suck in the quali. But only I'm allowed to say that without being really quite rude on a public forum).
Oct 26, 2010 1:57 PM # 
jjcote:
1. It was a qualification race. And there were less than 6 people in the group the person in question run. So she would run in the A-Final ANYWAY.

Is this true? I was under the impression that it was necessary to finish the qualifier course successfully in order to be in the A-final (I could be wrong).

the situation around was completely different: one control was on quite a steep slope in white woods and another on a flat area in green

There is a recent precedent for this (though not widely known). There was a grievance filed regarding two controls that were both on depressions, within 100 m. The decision to let the DSQ stand involved in part the fact that the features surrounding the controls were so dramatically different that nobody could confuse them (one on a hilltop, one in a canyon between cliffs). However, the separation was about 90 m, and the issue was not that the competitor punched at the wrong one, but rather that both were on the course, and the competitor punched only one of them.
Oct 26, 2010 1:59 PM # 
eddie:
The MP is irrelevant here. If the jury decided that the course was unfair because of control proximity, it was unfair for everyone who went to that control, period. Whether they think they lost time or not. The only way a person can MP is if they don't check their codes. There could be two controls right next to each other and its still up to the runner to punch the one with the correct code on it.

If the jury thinks the control proximity "duped" the runner into mispunching, then they have to assume that others could have been duped as well. Perhaps they ran to the wrong control first and lost time going to the correct one. You have no way of knowing this - not even by asking all the runners who had the control.

Alexei is right, the MP has to stand no matter what the jury decision. The jury can decide to throw out the course(s) based on proximity, or they can let the course stand, but awarding a valid result to someone who didn't check their codes is not valid "recompense" for a course setting violation. Doing so does indeed affect the results. The morning qualifier was a USOF sanctioned ranking race. Giving one person a free result is not fair to everyone else in the federation. How many people on other courses lost time or MPed due to other course setting or mapping issues? Ask becks or balter why they skipped a control in the morning qual. Would they like to have their MP's nullified? you bet. dness himself just admitted above that he was affected even though he admits it was his own stupidity. So the stated assumption by the jury that no one was affected is clearly invalid. I myself made a stupid mistake in the qual, running to my #10 on the way to #2. Both were at the foot of a small cliff on the west side of similar N-S hills, one had code 56 and and one had code 57. These controls were 300m apart. I was sure of my location but the code was off by 1. I spent 2 minutes verifying my location on other features before I realized I was standing at #10 not #2. Classic parallel error. I'd love to have those 2 mins back. And now I find out that someone is given a free result because of their own carelessness simply because they complained about it to a jury.

Throw the course out or let it stand, but do not award free results to mispunching individuals. That's definitely not fair.
Oct 26, 2010 2:20 PM # 
eddie:
jj thanks for relating that. At which race did that protest take place? Another "proximity" protest (also involving a couple of MPs) took place at the US middle distance champs at Moses Lake in June. So that's 3 nearly identical protests - all based on controls too close together - within 4 months of each other. Are course setters getting the message? Apparently not. Sure would be nice to have an official recordation of all filed protests and their resolutions somewhere on the federation website so we can actually learn from these mistakes rather than continue to make them over and over and over.

Here's a note about the Moses Lake protest that I sent to Joe B back in July.
The protest was two controls on nearly identical features that were less than 30m apart. on opposite sides of a small hill. One was described as N side of spur and one was reentrant, but of course one side of that reentrant was a spur, higher than the other side of the reentrant, so both appeared to be on the N sides of spurs. The reply from the jury was "the controls are about 30m apart."

A week after the race, Andy and I stopped by the venue on our way back to the airport with a tape measure and some string. I took some photos. The verdict: 28m between the controls. Less than the rule requires. Joe's MP stood, as did the MP of at least one other person. The courses stood. i.e. nothing was done about it and now its basically forgotten. Here is my message to Joe about the measurements:


> Hey Joe, Andy,
>
> Ok, here are the photos of the measurments Andy and I made yesterday
> at Moses Lake:
>
> photos
>
> The "M" links below are to the higher res images. I also included a version
> of the maps I made by adding the blue and orange courses together. The
> control in the "reentrant" was only on the Yellow and Orange courses. All the
> advanced courses went to "north side of spur." White didn't go to either.
> The circles are 55m in diameter, and the control centers are 30.1m apart on
> the maps (2.4m/pix measured from the northlines).
>
> Hopefully you can confirm our locations of the flags from your own phone
> photos. The stick with the "23" bib number on it is the spur control, and the
> mult-branch stick with no bib (near the smooth rock) is the reentrant
> control.
>
> In photo 1309 Andy is pointing at the reentrant control and at the 30m
> distance point from the spur control (end of yellow string) as measured
> along the sloping ground. In 1310 Andy is standing at the 30m distance
> point as measured horizontally from the spur control - its about 0.5m
> farther when measured this way since its not following the
> contours. To recap, we bought a 16' tape measure at the Dollar Tree in
> Moses lake, then measured off 5m lengths on your string, putting a
> knot every 5m. Total length of your string was 22m, so we marked the
> 20m point and moved the string to get out to 30m.
>
> In the two cases we measure these stick-marked locations to be 28.5m and
> 28.0m apart respectively. Can you tell from you photos if we marked the spots
> correctly? The rest of the photos are for context. Looking up the reentrant
> you can really see that the spur south of it is higher than the spur north
> of it - especially in the photos with the car in it.
>
> Eddie
Oct 26, 2010 2:32 PM # 
BorisGr:
WOC 2006 sprint qualifier in Denmark - Troy De Haas (AUS) was DQed because he mispunched on a control less than 30m from another one on a similar feature. Protest was filed, Troy was reinstated and inserted into the WOC final (where, incidentally, he proceeded to DQ for running out of bounds).
Seems like the most similar situation to what happened at Long Pong, and certainly makes for good precedent.

So I think people should leave the jury alone, since they made their decision based on the information they had and using their common sense and experience. If we want to rewrite the rules, sure, we can do that, but there is no point in complaining about the jury decision, since this is why we appoint a jury in the first place.
Oct 26, 2010 2:36 PM # 
mindsweeper:
What is the rationale for having a local regulation be different from the international one? It makes no sense at all to me.
Oct 26, 2010 2:37 PM # 
eddie:
The only other solution for the IOF in that situation would have been to throw out one of the sprint qual heats. Can you immagine what would have happened if they had done that?

The point being that juries are not ruling based on the evidence at hand (course setting rules violation, and in the case of the WOC sprint - a trained IOF controller dropping the ball), but rather based on how their decision will emotionally affect all parties. That's not the way a judicial system should work. Its a cop-out.
Oct 26, 2010 2:42 PM # 
eddie:
Same situation at the US middle distance champs at Moses Lake. Every course used one of those two controls. Solution would have been to throw out all the 2010 US middle distance championships results. What protest jury has the guts to do that (i.e. do the right thing)? Fault lies with the course setter in all of the above described situations.
Oct 26, 2010 3:01 PM # 
Becks:
I don't know the official job descriptions for over here, but the fault would lie with the course vetter back at home - they're supposed to be experienced, they're supposed to know the rules, and they're supposed to ensure fair play. If they did their job, these situations would never happen, which is the best outcome for everyone. This might however be a difference between the roles in UK vs USA.
Oct 26, 2010 3:35 PM # 
jjcote:
At which race did that protest take place?

Long Champs at Fishtrap (IIRC), but there wasn't actually a protest, just a grievance -- there were a whole lot of other complicating factors involved, and the situation was kind of confusing.
Oct 26, 2010 4:35 PM # 
edwarddes:
A/B final split:
Top 6 from each class went into the A final irregardless of MPs. If there were more than 6 in the class, top 6 went into the A, with the rest into the B. If you MP and there were more than 6, then were were seeded at the end of your class in the B. If you MP and there were 6 or less, you were seeded at the end of your class in the A. Adding that if you MP you will automatically be in the B would have been awkward for classes less than 6. Say a class only has 2 people in it, and one MPs, then there would only be 1 A, and 1 B for that class.
Oct 26, 2010 5:00 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
Say a class only has 2 people in it, and one MPs, then there would only be 1 A, and 1 B for that class.

This is exactly how it works at the World Masters. If you are in F95+ and DNF one day of the quals, you don't get to start in the A Final even if you are the sole competitor.
Oct 26, 2010 5:02 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
the fault would lie with the course vetter back at home - they're supposed to be experienced, they're supposed to know the rules, and they're supposed to ensure fair play.

We don't have that in the U.S. Our vetters are just club volunteers, not necessarily with training or certification (we don't have event official certification in the U.S.). We have the position of Event Consultant written into the Rules, but it is not utilized. A few weeks ago I proposed that Orienteering USA make the Consultant a fee-based option. I didn't hear anything back.
Oct 26, 2010 5:10 PM # 
bshields:
Having a course consultant is all well and good, but are there any guidelines for the course consultant? In this case there was a course consultant who was used by the course planner. I don't know the extent of that interaction, but evidently it did not include checking things like control proximity.
Oct 26, 2010 5:33 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
There could be two controls right next to each other and its still up to the runner to punch the one with the correct code on it.

So here's how I reconcile the enacted remedy, which I consider fair, and the letter of USOF Rules. Indeed, consider the limiting case in which there are two control flags with two different codes at the exact same location. Also imagine that only one code can present itself to the runner at a time. If the correct code presents itself, there is no problem. If the incorrect one does, then you have a violation of 17.5(d), but only for this particular runner(s). If the number of runners so affected is not substantial, then 17.5 does not apply. So, in this hypothetical case there seems to be no mandatory Rules directive to void the courses. A jury can enact other remedies not explicitly written into the Rules so as to ensure fairness; I disagree with this:

The jury can decide to throw out the course(s) based on proximity, or they can let the course stand, but awarding a valid result to someone who didn't check their codes is not valid "recompense" for a course setting violation.

Someone with the knowledge of USOF Rules expects controls on similar features to be no closer than 100 m. If this person navigates correctly to within 100 m of the correct location, and encounters a control that appears consistent with the provided description, the runner, in my view, is justified to assume that the control is simply not coded correctly, punch, and proceed. This situation is essentially the same as the hypothetical one I started with. Note that the person may have indeed spent time duly checking codes, s/he is not benefitting from operating sloppily to cut time nor being rewarded for carelessness.

Now, the rest of mispunches and mistakes Eddie is referring to are not rooted in explicit Rules violations by the course setter. There is no Rules-originated expectation by someone to not have three controls in one line; it's a part of good course setting not to do so, but nothing in the Rules prevents the course setter from doing so any more than something would prevent dog legs or each leg to be exactly 197 meters long.

I also think that the Troy de Haas case is a perfectly valid precedent to make a decision upon. A lot of pointy heads consulted on that one, and a reasonable course of action would be to give the pointy heads credit for thinking the issue through no matter how one may dislike said heads. Indeed qualifying the mispunch introduces unfairness, and this seems to be the least unfair course of action in these conditions. The element I would like to emphasize again that escapes the arguments by Eddie and others is prior knowledge of the Rules and expectations by well qualified athletes. They should not be penalized for their knowledge.

Now, the 100 m number itself certainly seems way too loose, and should be harmonized with the IOF Rules ASAP. It would also have been a perfectly valid course of action by the course setter to have set controls closer than that, and simply have made the minimum separation known in event notes/Bulletin. Sticking to the letter of USOF Rules would require a waiver (from Sanctioning) in this case, but there are many, many other things in the Rules that are routinely let slide without a thought for a waiver being appropriate.

For completeness of the record, the course setter, Alexei, called me from the site as soon as the protest was filed, and I mentioned the Troy de Haas case and its outcome. I was not on the Jury nor on site at the time.
Oct 26, 2010 5:35 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
Brendan—the Event Consultant is a distinct responsibility above and beyond the position of the Course Consultant. Almost all A meets sanctioned by Orienteering USA get Course Consultants, but almost none get Event Consultants (only sanctioned rogaine A meets had Event Consultants in 2010, I believe all of them).
Oct 26, 2010 5:42 PM # 
Cristina:
I was on the jury and I agree with everything that T/D wrote two posts above. It was not ideal, and yeah, it's an uncomfortable decision, but given the rules I believe it was the best one.

I especially agree that the rules should be changed ASAP, but this is part of a large problem that needs to be attacked seriously from many angles.
Oct 26, 2010 5:46 PM # 
j-man:
"[A]ttacked seriously from many angles"?

I think you'll need one of these.
Oct 26, 2010 5:54 PM # 
AZ:
re Joe's mispunch at the US Middle Champs:

* is the suggestion seriously that the course would have been fair if the control was placed where Andy is standing rather than where the stick is in the photo? This I find impossible to credit. And would it have made any difference to Joe's orienteering. I say "no" to both of those.
* I think PG's advice to Brendan applies here too - Joe made a mistake in that he was careless in punching that control when we all know he is a very good map reader and very capable of getting enough information from the map (and the control number) to know that was not the correct control.
* CONDES (course planning software) now has a feature that will check for "too close" controls.
* I agree with Eddie very much that we are not learning enough from these past mistakes, and that a summary of "recent errors" would help course planners avoid duplicating these mistakes. Is this something the OUSA could maintain? (There is something like this on the Barebones website).
* If there is one thing the course planner might feel badly about, it is that this control location inadvertently led to people being "decieved" - no course planner worth his salt is interested in having DNF's and MP's.
* As for the course consultant, I'd say I would simply avoid going to any events that he is involved with in future ;-) Jeepers, the guy is an IOF event advisor and should know better! Of course, it just made matters worse that he is Canadian and wasn't aware that the US rules are 50m for "similar features" rather than the 30m
* (BTW: have the OUSA rules been updated to allow for "really close" controls that are now allowed for by the IOF in Sprint races?)
Oct 26, 2010 6:46 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
US rules are 50m for "similar features"

100 meters. 60 meters for IOF. The IOF minimum was also apparently broken in this case, so the Rules inconsistency appears to be immaterial to this particular situation.
Oct 26, 2010 6:53 PM # 
JLaughlin:
I think the whole common sense approach needs to be brought here.

First, go with the IOF rules, 30/60m.

Second, this whole situation would have been totally different if the course designer had simply made the code hilltop or knoll instead of boulder, but since the controls were both designated as boulders within 50m it is wrong, OUSA or IOF.

Third, as a course designer simple checks need to be performed while setting. When in the course design software it is extremely obvious if two controls are too close on the master map. OCAD even tells you how far you closest controls are apart and your control descriptions for each.

I will say that I was on the jury, we looked at the rules, used some common sense, and decided that the best option to to was what we did. If you believe it is unsatisfactory, rewrite the rules or seek to participate in juries.

Simply, this whole problem could have been solved by the course designer, course setter, course vetter, or even anyone who looks at the master map.
Oct 26, 2010 7:24 PM # 
eddie:
Someone with the knowledge of USOF Rules expects controls on similar features to be no closer than 100 m. If this person navigates correctly to within 100 m of the correct location, and encounters a control that appears consistent with the provided description, the runner, in my view, is justified to assume that the control is simply not coded correctly, punch, and proceed.

Do you really believe this? If you find a cliff with a control on it within 100m of where you expect to find your control on a cliff, but it has the wrong code on it, you are justified in simply punching and moving on? Doing this without a second look takes some serious confidence. In that case are you just assuming the control is mishung (a clear rules violation which would warrant voiding the course) and you're just running the rest of the course for fun. Or given USOF juries' recent history of never voiding courses for any reason whatsoever you'd be justified in this thinking.

Regarding pointy heads and the de Haas case, I think a better solution would have been to leave his quali result a MP but insert him into the final in the "16th spot," Then at least the quali WRE points wouldn't be contaminated. You're still left not knowing if anyone else was materially affected by the same proximity problem (i.e. ran to the wrong one, spent a few seconds checking their codes, then running to the correct one). Perhaps the same could be done in this case, although as Ed said the MP would have made the A-final anyways. Note that the 2006 WOC quali in question is the same heat that Andrew Quin also protested due to a car being parked in front of one of the controls. Andrew was placed into a 16th qualifying spot as a result. That's two artificial placements into the Sprint final from a single WOC qualification heat. With de Haas out, Boris would have been 20s from qualifying. I missed all these goings-on since I was at the hospital with Eric getting his head sewn back together at the time.
Oct 26, 2010 7:25 PM # 
stevegregg:
To answer Beck's point, I have a theory about why these sorts of things are not caught by the vetter. I'm curious if people will agree with me.

At the 2009 Team Trials hosted by BAOC, an unfortunate course setting incident occured at Friday's sprint race. The GO control for the team trial sprint course was not the same as the GO control for the recreational courses, and even worse, the recreational GO control was clearly visible right at the start of the flagged finish chute, whereas the advanced GO control was quite a distance away from that, hidden off in the woods a bit. Although as far as I know, this did not break any rules, many people thought it was unfairly tricky. At least one advanced competitor mispunched, and several others lost time running back to the advanced GO control from the recreational GO control.

I was the vetter for the advanced sprint courses. Unfortunately, all I had with me while vetting were those courses only. I never saw the recreational course map at all. Had I known about the potentially confusing, multiple GO controls, I like to think that I would have said something about it, but I didn't have access to that information. I never saw the master map with all the controls present.

So perhaps the moral of the story is that vetters should always see a master map with all the controls on it as part of the vetting process, so that they can detect any possible problems with controls on different courses being too close to each other. I have vetted courses for a fair number of BAOC A meets, and I don't think I have ever done this. I've always just vetted a single course or two, but I have never taken a close look at the entire set of courses as a whole. I should make sure I do this in the future, and perhaps we should even make it club policy for course vetters.

My guess is that this happened at the Moses Lake middle event cited by Eddie. One of the controls was on an advanced course, and the other control was on an Orange course. Surely anyone carefully looking at the master map as a whole would have quickly recognized this potential problem. But probably one person vetted the advanced courses only, another person vetted the WYO courses only, and so no one recognized the problem until it was too late to do anything about it.
Oct 26, 2010 7:31 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
Do you really believe this? If you find a cliff with a control on it within 100m of where you expect to find your control on a cliff, but it has the wrong code on it, you are justified in simply punching and moving on?

I have resolved to do exactly this, but with an IOF-compliant cutoff. I made this resolve after protesting close controls on middle-of-nowhere piles of junk on one of Cle Elum maps in 1995. The best I recall, there were only two piles of junk within a reasonable radius and I found the wrong one and couldn't believe there'd be a control on the other, and didn't look there and spent a bit of time circling. After the outcome of the protest (I asked to void the course; denied, of course), I decided that the next time I just punch whatever I find and go on. The next time hasn't happened for me, though.

Or given USOF juries' recent history of never voiding courses for any reason whatsoever you'd be justified in this thinking.

It's not recent, it's as long as I have been orienteering, which is certainly longer than Eddie has. The history was already well established by the 1995 incident, so yes, it plays into my resolve.
Oct 26, 2010 7:36 PM # 
eddie:
USOF rule 27.3 applies here, as written. The controversy is over the resolution, since there is no specific guidance in the rules for the jury to follow on this point. The words "substantial" and "affected" in the rules are highly subjective. For the record, I was in the jury pool at the US champs last weekend.
Oct 26, 2010 7:43 PM # 
eddie:
I was being facetious when I used the word "recent" there :). Although I do know of one course being tossed by a jury during my history. How could I forget, I was the course setter! It had only to do with the description of the feature, and nothing to do with its location or placement, absolute or relative. A case of being able to describe the same feature with two different, equally valid descriptions and someone not liking the one I used. And yes it does really burn me when much more egregious violations are just slipped by, over and over again like this.
Oct 26, 2010 8:25 PM # 
eddie:
Hey AZ, regarding Joe's MP at Moses, no the implication that 2m makes any difference in the control placement was not the point. The point was that Joe's assertion that the two features were nearly identical even though described differently seemed to be written off by the jury by simply saying they are "about 30m apart." The controls were in fact less than 30m apart and as such violated *both* the 30m and 100m rules, even if you claim they were on different features.

To put it another way, assuming the features were different, is 28m a violation and 32m not a violation? Both are within (my) margin of error and the tie should go to the runner, since that's the intention of the rule in the first place. Doubly so in this case since the features really were very similar.

As to what should have been done about it, well, Joe didn't check his code so he's unquestionably MP. As was the person riding his a.., er hanging on his coattails who also blindly mispunched :) The situation then was the same as this one. Two different juries, two different outcomes for the same violation, neither of which really addressed the course setting problem.
Oct 26, 2010 10:02 PM # 
Alexaza:
To Jordan.Laughlin:

Rewriting rules won't help to this situation because I (the course setter) agree that the rule was violated.
I agree this issue could be solved by course setter-vetter-etc. But apparently it was not resolved neither by myself nor by course adviser nor by other 3 people (quite experienced I need to say) who checked the courses for me. And not only because it was 16! different courses at once on the same map but simply because it's a nature law that errors happen from time to time no matter what you do.

The main issue here is the jury decision. There were 3 possible resolutions:
1. Fair-but-Unlawful solution - have MP stand
2. Unfair-but-Lawful solution - cancel the class (or even cancel all affected courses) - this Unfair for the people who paid money, check all codes and still did not get Ranking Points.
3. Unfair-and-Unlawful - what the jury did

I don't know why the jury chose the worst solution - probably because most of the people did not know about it at the time of event so they could not complain. I suspect jury did not want justice they wanted exactly what they got - calm and happy crowd of people who did not know anything to complain in time :)
Oct 26, 2010 10:26 PM # 
rockman:
"This is exactly how it works at the World Masters. If you are in F95+ and DNF one day of the quals, you don't get to start in the A Final even if you are the sole competitor."

At the World Masters in Australia last year a DNF in the qualifiers of a small class meant you ran the in A Final, starting first, but did not qualify for an official placing ( I doubt there were even B Final courses for those classes). There were cases of A Final times good enough for placings from runners in this situation.
Oct 26, 2010 11:34 PM # 
PBricker:
Second, this whole situation would have been totally different if the course designer had simply made the code hilltop or knoll instead of boulder, but since the controls were both designated as boulders within 50m it is wrong, OUSA or IOF.

Just changing the control description but keeping the flag next to the boulder would still violate the spirit (if not the letter) of the rule. "Similar feature" should refer to the appearance in the terrain. That's what makes the Moses Lake case a violation of the rule.
Oct 27, 2010 12:30 AM # 
walk:
These were hardly similar features: one was next to a rock on top of a bland hill and the other on a rock at the foot of a steep slope of a spur. The description of either could have been modified and clarified the intended correct feature for the respective courses. And yes, as part of my dismal day, I did check the incorrect control first. But numbers are placed on controls for a reason.....
Oct 27, 2010 1:00 AM # 
simmo:
IOF (and OA) rules provide a structure for a 'Complaint' to be made (27.1 - 27.5), which must then be adjudicated by the Organiser. Only then, if someone doesn 't like the Organiser's decision, can a protest be made (28.1 - 28.4). I think this came about for a number of reasons, including that too many frivolous protests were occurring, many jury decisions were inconsistent, and also perhaps to give the organising team an opportunity to reflect on whether they had actually stuffed up and do something to rectify it. A quick reading of OUSA rules indicated to me that they lack this 'complaint before protest' structure, and maybe that's something you could fix - as well as the 100m/60m similar control feature rule anomaly.

Regarding mispunching, IOF rules are a little contradictory: under Definitions 1.5 the rules state 'the controls have codes and the competitor is disqualified for mispunching'; on the other hand 3.5.5 in Appendix 2 (Principles for course planning) states 'controls on different courses placed too close to one another can mislead runners who have navigated correctly to the control site'. This wording ('mislead', 'navigated correctly') definitely implies that a runner may not be at fault if they mispunch in this situation - and therefore could be reinstated.
Oct 27, 2010 2:56 AM # 
eddie:
I don't believe "reinstated" is implied in the IOF wording. There is no implication at all other than runners can be misled, which is true. The whole issue here is whether reinstating a runner who mispunched is fair to all the other runners (who did not mispunch, despite possibly being misled).
Oct 27, 2010 3:08 AM # 
j-man:
Luckily the 2010 COC middle was in Canada, not the US. I guess I could have protested my mispunch on a control that was 50-60 meters from the one (on a similar feature) that I should have punched.
Oct 27, 2010 3:11 AM # 
fossil:
to give the organising team an opportunity to reflect on whether they had actually stuffed up and do something to rectify it.

The one time I felt inclined to protest an A-meet course, many years ago, was in a situation somewhat similar to what Vlad described, and was handled in this manner by the organizers. There was a control misplaced on the other side of a similar feature about 30 meters from the mapped feature. It could not be seen from the correct feature and I continued on rather than commencing a search. When the organizers recorded me as MP I told them either they could reinstate me or I would protest the course. After taking another look at the control location they chose to reinstate me and a jury was never convened.


Regarding course voiding, it used to be not so uncommon, probably a couple of times a year I would guess. Even once at a US 2-day Champs that I recall.
Oct 27, 2010 3:43 AM # 
randy:
If the course was fair, the results should stand. If the course was unfair, the course should be voided. If there is a "gray area" that affected one runner, the appropriate remedy may be an SPW. The remedy of reinstating a runner who did not visit all the controls while everyone else managed to makes no sense to me, assuming it was the same course and map for everyone. If the rules are such that the foregoing is impossible, the rules need to be fixed.

All decisions like this accomplish is to bail out sloppy running and bail out sloppy course planning (as the case may be, depending on whether it was a fair or unfair course). Proper penalties do actually serve a purpose if a goal is to incent improvement. As the legendary Tom Baker as Doctor Who put it -- "Death is the price we pay for progress". :)
Oct 27, 2010 2:14 PM # 
jjcote:
Top 6 from each class went into the A final irregardless of MPs

OK. Probably not the way I would have set things up, but a valid format. What this means is that for classes with six or fewer competitors, the qualifier was entirely optional. You could have just taken your map, wandered around to check out the terrain and mapping style, punched anything you happened to encounter, and gone to the finish. The only penalty would be that you'd start first in the A final. I don't know what the class was of the person who protested (maybe it's in the thread somewhere above), but I'm assuming that this was the case here, and that somebody didn't get pushed into the B final to accommodate the protester.

I'll also note here that the "contamination" effect on the rankings is vanishingly small. The affected competitor presumably ran pretty darned close to the time he would have run if the distracting control had not been there, so when thrown into the harmonic mean formula, the gnarliness value will be virtually unchanged. Then this competitor will receive a ranking very slightly higher than if s/he had been MSP (which would have sunk to the bottom and been thrown out if s/he had enough races). There are many noise factors that have a larger effect than a "bad" data point like this.
Oct 27, 2010 2:52 PM # 
Alexaza:
To jjcote:

In this case I don't understand the runner at all! What was the reason to file the protest? as she seems to get nothing but put the whole event in jeopardy to be voided (if jury decide so)?

The only thing which is clear for this format of event we should not allow MP people to run in the A-Final. Let's say if there only 2 people in a group and both of them MP than there should be no A-Final (and prizes) for this group at all.
Oct 27, 2010 2:59 PM # 
jjcote:
In this case I don't understand the runner at all!

I'm not saying that I do.
Oct 27, 2010 4:37 PM # 
eddie:
Yes, averaging is good. However:

The affected competitor presumably ran pretty darned close to the time he would have run if the distracting control had not been there

This is an assumption. How do you know he wouldn't have gotten lost and dropped 5-10 mins?
Oct 27, 2010 4:40 PM # 
JanetT:
Whether the protest was useful for the runner's ranking or not, the fact remains that the course setter violated current OUSA rules as to separation of similar controls.
Oct 27, 2010 5:06 PM # 
jjcote:
How do you know he wouldn't have gotten lost and dropped 5-10 mins?

I will assert that that is far less likely, particularly given the sort of map that we were on. If there were no control on the incorrect feature, the likelihood that the competitor would have then checked the correct one, after only a short delay, is quite high.
Oct 27, 2010 6:00 PM # 
eddie:
Perhaps, but you have no way of knowing for sure. It was highly unlikely that I would go to 10 on my way to 2, but I did it.

Also as we have seen in this thread there were at least 2 other competitors who were affected by the proximate controls and lost time, but did not mispunch or protest. These also have small effects on the results. It starts to add up, and its not random - its all bias towards longer times. Everyone has to run the same course or its apples to oranges.
Oct 27, 2010 6:31 PM # 
AZ:
Whether the protest was useful for the runner's ranking or not, the fact remains that the course setter violated current OUSA rules as to separation of similar controls.

Okay, but still, what was the protest useful for then. If we assume it didn't affect the runner that mp'ed, then it hasn't changed anything, so what was the point? .
Oct 27, 2010 6:46 PM # 
jjcote:
so what was the point?

1) It affected their start position.
2) It presumably means that they got a valid run for ranking purposes.

Perhaps it would have been beneficial overall to void all courses that had either of those controls. It would certainly lead to purer data, and that's what it's all about, really.
Oct 27, 2010 8:26 PM # 
Hammer:
good grief is this all about rankings? Perhaps I will regret writing this but isn't rankings what drives a lot of decisions (and arguments) in the US pertaining to race quality and race formats? The love of the mighty ranking system!

But I mean come on...this wasn't a major championship event. It seems from reading many people's logs it was a fun weekend. The terrain looked interesting and challenging.

OK, a mistake was made but in the grand scheme of all the efforts of putting on that many courses in 2 days in my books can be summarized as 'unfortunate'. I personally think that some people need to a take a serious dose of 'chill pills'.

Why is that AP discussions need to focus so much of the faults and/ or perceived faults of race organizers? How about a constructive discussion of where 'officials certification programs' succeed? Or what to do better next time? It seems like some certain people are just waiting to jump on errors made and then to blow them up to something much bigger than they are.

I really enjoy organizing races but I very much FEAR the comments and generally not constructive criticisms made here on AP. There have been some really nasty things said about race organizers here (some made on personal logs). Nasty comments made about organizers that generally do excellent work. Last I noticed orienteering race organizers weren't making any money off of their volunteer time. Heck organizing races costs me $$ but it is something I enjoy.

Shit happens in organizing a race. It is technically very very difficult and time consuming. I was very lucky to have two excellent controllers at GLOF. Vlad noticed 2 or 3 errors I had made in the elite sprint courses and my father (with the assistance of Ilona Dobos who is being trained as a level 2 or 3 official through the COF program) caught another half dozen errors including two controls close together on the same feature.

I've been a level-4 official in Canada for over 15 years and I still missed a few important aspects of the race. Fortunately it was caught and fortunately our club has decided to only organizer this race once every 4-5 years because again it is a lot of work and some of us (myself especially) really can't stand the constant complaining that takes place.

Again.... good grief.
Oct 27, 2010 10:11 PM # 
eddie:
Mike, I am trying desperately to uphold some sort of quality standards at US sanctioned A-meets. I realize problems occur all the time despite best intentions. But I also see that they are constantly brushed aside or covered up. Every meet gives the appearance that it was perfect. We only hear about protests through the grapevine. I was hoping to establish through this thread that there have been 2-3 meets in the past 6 months that have all had VALID protests filed due to the 30/100m proximity rule. Do people realize this? Can't you see that it will continue to happen if we just hide the fact and ignore it? There is no motivation for course setters to stop doing this because, as we can see here, there are no consequences for making this mistake. The courses stand. MPs are re-instated. And if not for a comment by Vlad in an AP thread no one would have been the wiser about it.

Why bother sanctioning meets if they are not going to be held up to the rules as written? That's the only thing that sanctioning means: This race meets certain rules and standards set forth by the US Orienteering Federation. If no one wants to observe or enforce the rules, then why bother? All meets should just be B-meets.
Oct 27, 2010 10:44 PM # 
Cristina:
I think this is an issue that begs for awareness, not threats. Something as simple as all course consultants and course setters being informed (through the sanctioning process?) that this is a 'hot topic' or 'special interest item' and to look out for it. No one is putting controls close together on purpose to deceive runners, as far as I can tell. Just making it a priority item to look out for should be enough.

For the record, I do agree with Eddie that we (in the US) seem to be afraid to throw out classes or courses. I can think of cases where that would have been entirely appropriate. I just don't believe this is one of them.
Oct 27, 2010 10:50 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
Having Event Consultants should help. I think there is ample proof that the current Course Consultant model has a track record of missing this issue, and others.
Oct 28, 2010 12:17 AM # 
Alexaza:
As I've already mentioned the courses were checked by 5 people: myself, Course Consultant and 3 course vetters. And despite of that this error happened.

If you emphasize Course Setters/Consultants on this particular issue than the other issues would be missed. It is inevitable. Believe it or not but I bet I can protest ANY MEET if I need to. Because there are so many rules that you can't satisfy all of them. I mean everything can be carry to the point of absurdity. I may argue that rule 23.7 does not define "similar features" and for me 0.5m boulder is not similar to 1.5m/3.0m boulder.

My point is here we're talking about ethics from both sides from athletes and from event organizers.

The only thing I found useful from this discussion that it's probably a time when USOF rules should be revised.
Oct 28, 2010 12:18 AM # 
Pink Socks:
Re: US Middle Champs at Moses Lake.

[Course setter enters the room, embarrassed that his dirty laundry is coming up again, and I'd prefer not to talk about it, but I feel like I need to clear things up, because some things written here are either incorrect or assumed. I guess this also serves as a cautionary tale to future course setters.]

Fault lies with the course setter in all of the above described situations.
I'll take the heat. Sure, I had a really experienced vetter and a really experienced consultant (I'd work with both again), so criticisms of the courses should come to us, and ultimately to me. Criticisms of the jury's decision should go the jury, as I had absolutely nothing to do with that (heck, I know only the identity of one of the jury members).

There are two issues at fault in this instance:

One is the 30m rule on dissimilar features.
We measured these stick-marked locations to be 28.5m and 28.0m apart respectively.
The control centers are 30.1m apart on the maps.
CONDES (course planning software) now has a feature that will check for "too close" controls.

I knew the rule going in, and according to my course planning software, the circles on the map were 32m apart. I had a few other instances of < 50m proximities, but 32m was closest proximity I had. I set the pre-flags and the vetter approved them all, and it turns out that they were 28-28.5m apart. That mistake is on me, I accept it.

The second issue is with similar/dissimilar features.
A case of being able to describe the same feature with two different, equally valid descriptions and someone not liking the one I used.

And this is really what it boils down to. Whether it's 28.5m or 30m or 32m, it's not the biggest issue. We (setter, vetter, consultant) all knew about the 32m proximity, but we didn't consider the description of the feature. I didn't think that they (north side of spur & reentrant) were similar, so I didn't even consider otherwise. The jury determined that they were dissimilar enough, but that's another argument that I'm not going to debate. I'm just stating facts here.

Probably one person vetted the advanced courses only, another person vetted the WYO courses only, and so no one recognized the problem until it was too late to do anything about it.

Nope. One setter, one vetter, one course consultant. Again, it was the feature description that tripped up all of us.

Every course used one of those two controls.
Incorrect. Two courses (yellow, orange) used the "reentrant", three courses (brown, red, blue) used the "spur", and three courses used neither (white, greenX, greenY).

If there is one thing the course planner might feel badly about, it is that this control location inadvertently led to people being "deceived"
AZ nailed this one, this is what's haunted me. This thread includes "deceived" and "duped". At Moses Lake, I was accused of being "intentionally deceiving".

You can tell me that I'm a bad orienteer, bad course setter, bad logo designer, or bad Attackpoint citizen. But don't tell me what my intent was. I was not trying to trick anyone. I was not trying to be devious. I just made one stupid mistake.

For the record, my intent was:

Due to high water levels, I had to redesign all of the courses such that they had to swing through the arena on the east side of the pond (instead of the west) after the spectator leg. For the advanced courses, I didn't want the string of controls to be too easy between the first spectator control and the water control (essentially a third spectator control). The only thing I had to work with was that hill, so I put an advanced control on the spur behind the hill. The green courses didn't go back there because I felt that would overload the control.

For the yellow and orange courses, I wanted to keep the purple line from going through the middle of the lake, so I added the reentrant control, so that it would be visable from the road and arena, but not visible from the side of approach. The white course had an even easier control on a road junction.

What I should have done? I should have kept all of the courses exactly the same, except for yellow and orange. I should have given the yellow course the white control on the road junction, instead of the reentrant. I should have removed the reentrant from the orange course altogether. But hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

There is no motivation for course setters to stop doing this because, as we can see here, there are no consequences for making this mistake.
There are certainly consequences, that's for sure, just not written ones. As the course setter who made the mistake, I'm embarrassed. I've lost a lot of sleep over it (over the summer, and again this week), and the episode pretty much ruined my NAOF experience. I've had CSI: Moses Lake post photos and exact measurements on a public forum (which, while embarrassing, I actually appreciate, since it saves me the trouble of doing it myself when I do the enviromental assessment next month).

I'm a volunteer who spent a helluva lot of time trying to win over the O' community with my first attempt course setting on the big stage. I failed, and as someone who takes a lot of pride in my work, that's the biggest consequence I can think of. What other possible consequences are there? Since I'm a volunteer, you'd have a hard time imposing a fine. I don't have any accreditation, so you can't revoke that. I suppose you could prohibit me from setting courses in the future, but maybe I'll impose that penalty on myself.

Are course setters getting the message?
I certainly did, and as a future event director, this discussion is something I can learn from.
Oct 28, 2010 1:15 AM # 
eddie:
Its been 10 years since a jury threw out one of my courses and it still hurts to think about it, so yeah, I know the feeling. Worse still, the control in question was used as the image on the meet T-shirts. I have a box of them in my basement and occasionally see people wearing them. The reminders are everywhere. I haven't set an A-meet course since and probably won't ever again.

Regarding the control at Moses, I think just sending all courses to the reentrant would have been a good solution too. A control on the spur behind the hill that close to the road isn't much more difficult. Just make it a common spectator control. Add more punches if necessary.
Oct 28, 2010 2:03 AM # 
Alexaza:
Yeah, Eddie, I feel the same now. I can't forgive to myself that I made such a stupid mistake and ruined this beautiful event and nullified efforts of so many other people who did a great job to prepare and run this event...
Oct 28, 2010 2:12 AM # 
j-man:
OK, everyone, get over your big bad selves. This is ridiculous. Just use some common sense.

I think I'm going to start my Trail-O career, where protests are the whole point.
Oct 28, 2010 2:14 AM # 
piutepro:
I agree with Hammer. I have gone through the agony of triple checking every detail, reviewing the maps, hanging controls in slow motion to make sure that the description, code and control match. And sometimes one has to wing something last minute and it's less than perfect.

Relax, it's a game. People organizing events work like crazy for nothing than a smile on your face when you come out of the woods. As I say to a friend (to remain unnamed) who a few times has mishung a control at a local event: It challenged my control finding intuition.
Oct 28, 2010 2:19 AM # 
Cristina:
j-man, I was just going to suggest Trail-O, where it is perfectly okay - and even expected! - for controls to be thrown out and the rest of the course left intact.
Oct 28, 2010 2:31 AM # 
EricW:
One hopefully constructive point made above, which I think deserves amplification is that I believe we (course setters) can send heavier loads (more people/courses) to a given control site than we tend to. Pick the best sites and let more people go there.

I think e punching is a significant and helpful change here, allowing more people to punch per minute, without getting in each other's way, or unduly giving away the control by standing there. I'm guessing that most Euro meets have significantly higher control loads than we practice in NA.
Oct 28, 2010 2:43 AM # 
mindsweeper:
Since we are discussing how unfortunate course setting can happen, maybe it's a good time to explain the tricky finish at the team trials sprint last year that Steve mentioned. Like in the Moses Lake situation, there were comments alluding to the course setter wanting to "trick" the competitors.

What happened in that case was that during the last review by the course consultant, he was concerned about the distance between the last Sprint 1 control and the finish. Yes, there was a different finish control for Sprint 1 from the very beginning, but it was originally behind the Sprint 2/3 go control, in a location that would probably not have been confusing to the Sprint 2/3 runners. (See Control 9 of Sprint 1 in RouteGadget for reference.)

The consultant was worried that inexperienced Sprint 1 runners might follow the paved road from that control and end up on the wrong side of the dark green. Hence the consultant suggested we add a control to Sprint 1 that was closer to the finish. This was brought up three weeks before the event, after Sprint 2/3 had been vetted.

I think we made the following mistakes:
* Neither I nor the consultant thought very carefully about the implications for Sprint 2/3 of adding another Sprint 1 control that was visible from far away.
* We only asked the vetter to vet Sprint 2 and 3.
* We made a change to one of the courses without asking the vetter how it would impact Sprint 2 and 3.
* We never sent the updated Sprint 1 course to the vetter for review.

I hope others can learn from these mistakes.

Interestingly enough, nobody protested the courses, even though there was a glaring fairness issue: The go control of Sprint 2/3 was visible from the spectator area, and at least one of the F21+ runners was able to observe M21+ finishers overrunning it. (As far as I know, that runner proceeded to mess it up when it was her turn to race.)
Oct 28, 2010 9:05 AM # 
cwalker:
I found this problem to be the hardest thing about course setting. You get a set of pretty good courses but then you have to move one control or something. Then that makes another course worse. So you add another control somewhere else, which affects another course. It's a vicious cycle!
Oct 28, 2010 12:56 PM # 
Becks:
Control loading is probably something you don't need to worry about at all! My Dad's course alone at the biggest GB events (he's the baby boom year group) can have more people on it than were present at the whole A meet last weekend. They all have to go the the same controls, and it's not an issue. And he knows who's in his class and will be going there - if you get your control descriptions on the line you still have no real idea who else on other courses might visit your control.

If it's the actual punching being overloaded than I have one word for you: Jukola.
Oct 28, 2010 1:20 PM # 
eddie:
Maybe Patrick is talking about enviro impact from loading single controls rather than too many people for punching reasons. This would vary with terrain type and the tolerance of particular land managers. Moses was interesting in that one side of a road was the nice dune terrain we ran in, and the other side of the road was a Mad Max style wasteland of sand and motorcycles - not a twig of vegetation for miles.
Oct 28, 2010 1:21 PM # 
Becks:
I think we generally have somewhat easier landowners, but there are a couple of British studies that show large events having pretty much no lasting impact, even if small trails etc appear by the site of some controls.
Oct 28, 2010 1:52 PM # 
mindsweeper:
Some terrains are much more fragile that others. For example, in the tundra of the Rocky Mountains, it takes years for damaged plants to regrow. And in the Bay Area, steep redwood forests can be extremely prone to erosion. I don't think the results of a study from one particular area or forest type can be generalized.
Oct 28, 2010 2:13 PM # 
expresso:
I may regret this but I have thought this since Moses Lake Middle and, after Patrick's above post, think it's time to communicate my opinion. Note that I stipulate to all of the above efforts hold courses to the standards defined by the rules but I don't think this protest should have happened.
Joe B was sloppy. Prior to the start, all of the competitors saw runners punching the control Joe (incorrectly) did and likely thought that it was a common spectator control. As with sprints, this is legitimate information to take in from legal areas (the parking lot, in this case). However, it's the competitors' responsibility to use this information correctly.
I believe that Joe just ran for it when he saw the circle near where he remembered the control. I believe this because of the respect I have for Joe's orienteering abilities. He's always at the top of his division, nationally & internationally. Fundamentally...
If this exact configuration of controls were out on the edge of the course where nobody had advance knowledge, I am nearly certain the Joe would not have mispunched.
I was there, ran the same course, and talked to him right after downloading his MSP. He was mad and I believe this overly influenced his decision to file the protest. I believe he was really most angry with himself.
Flame if you like. I don't care. I just had to say this for the sake of the organizers.
Oct 28, 2010 2:31 PM # 
eddie:
That's immaterial. The controls were less than 30m apart. Rules violation. If the jury had decided the controls were too close, would they have just reinstated the MPs, thrown the courses out or done nothing?

I understand that the intent of the course setter was not to deceive anyone, but this situation - controls 30m apart, on very similar looking features, one of which was easily visible from the spectator area (edit: there was no refreshment table next to it) - is just begging someone to MP. Even more so than the situation at the Fells this weekend. Yet at the fells an MP was reinstated but at Moses they were not.

The whole point of the 30/100 rule is (supposedly) to prevent unfairly deceiving runners. Was Joe deceived by the control proximity? Was the fells runner?
Oct 28, 2010 4:09 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I feel like I have to keep reading just to fact check...

One of which was easily visible from the spectator area and had a refreshment table next to it

Incorrect. Neither of the controls in question had refreshments. It was the following control (for all courses using disputed controls) that was the refreshment control just outside the arena.

The only thing "begging" about the reentrant control is that it was a beginner-ish control viewable from the road. It's just unfortunate that there happened to be an advanced control near it, and on a feature that could possibly be construed as similar.
Oct 28, 2010 4:51 PM # 
eddie:
Sorry, my mistake. I thought I remembered seeing a table in that reentrant in the morning.
Oct 28, 2010 6:36 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Just so I can say something positive, I had a lot of fun staffing the water table, which involved pouring and handing out water to thirsty runners as they came through the transition between the yellow zone (seasonally Mad Max) and the red zone (pristine vegetated sand dunes).

Re: control load, since some people have asked.

It wasn't necessarily because of environmental impact, as we didn't have any restrictions from the land managers. It was a mix of my desire to minimize the impact in certain areas (the red zone) and to decrease the chances where other people would give away the location of the control, since the area wasn't that large and it's generally wide open and flat.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but aside from the 4 spectator controls that everyone went through, I don't think I had a control with more than 230 people through it. Over a start window of about 150 minutes, that should be about one punch per 40 seconds. I don't think the consideration of control load affected the quality of the courses, and the control proximity issue here isn't related to control loading.

Environmentally, I'm going back within the month to assess the impact. I'm really curious to see what it looks like in the red zone. I know we churned up a lot of sand, down to the Mt. St. Helen's ash level, and we even churned up a lot of that, too.

When I went out to pick up flags, there were orienteer-made trails everywhere, all bright white from the ash. In the red zone, we probably contributed 2-3 years worth of foot traffic in 1 day. Hopefully the wind has covered up a lot of that in the past 4 months.
Oct 28, 2010 9:53 PM # 
coach:
Hammer has the same ideas I do about all this.
After 30 years of O', I can't see how one misplaced or unfound control makes a difference in my life.
And if I punched the wrong one, then I think I deserve most of the fault for not checking the code number.

I would actually urge USOF and Rules to change the rule, maybe to a suggestion, but take it out of the infraction category.

Runners should be checking their codes, and not just running to a control in what they interpret, is the center of the circle.
Oct 28, 2010 10:27 PM # 
ndobbs:
This past weekend was a great weekend of orienteering. Had the results had been thrown out it would still have been great orienteering.

For the case in question, I don't see why voiding the course would have been a big deal. A few people don't get ranking points and the organisers say sorry and we all still love the organisers for the great orienteering we got to do.
Oct 28, 2010 10:48 PM # 
eddie:
I agree completely. I think the MP at fells should remain an MP, just like Joe's MP at Moses should stay an MP and de Haas' MP at WOC should have stayed an MP.

Urges on AP don't become rules changes unless someone writes a proposal for the change and gets it to the Board for a vote.

I see a few possibilities for this. First, and probably the easiest change to make is:

- Change the "100m on similar features" to "60m on similar features."

This would bring us in-line with the IOF wording. This doesn't get us out of the mess though.

Next, do we want to move the control separation thing into course setter guidelines and out of the rules altogether? (its not clear to me there is a separation between rules and guidelines as it stands now) This implies that controls can be placed on any feature at any distance from each other with impunity, although the course setting guidelines would suggest 30/60 is a "good idea."

I'm for both of these things. Taking it out of the rules category will be a hard sell. I think competitors in general feel it is a protection they'd be losing. Definitely will make life easier for course setters and juries (and thread watchers).

Other suggestions? Anyone want to take on the task? Any Board members watching now want to do it?
Oct 28, 2010 10:53 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
I agree that voiding a race is not such a big deal—outside of MF-21+ and -20. For each person counted in the rankings, voiding the whole race alters the rankings (which are used for WOC/JWOC selection) a lot more than the reinstatement/undeserved result of a single person (who didn't quite go to the same place as everyone else) would contaminate them (this statement is probably untrue for the MP herself).
Oct 28, 2010 10:56 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
- Change the "100m on similar features" to "60m on similar features."

... and add the 30 m different-feature minimum, there is no explicit minimum currently in USOF Rules for different features although IOF Rules would seem to apply, with their 30 m minimum.
Oct 28, 2010 10:59 PM # 
eddie:
I haven't looked, but is there an obvious place where course setter guidelines would go in the USOF Rules of Competition, and is it explicitly stated that things in that section are suggestions not rules?

And does anyone have an opinion on the wording in the other rules stated in this thread - the ones about "substantially affected" competitors? Should we try to quantify this (unmeasurable quantity) even a little bit or not bother? That is, rules 17.5 and 17.6.
Oct 28, 2010 11:13 PM # 
Joe:
sorry Joe, not quite the way it was. I was only half angry at myself ; )

"...but I don't think this protest should have happened." Why not? Two controls fitting the same description less than 30 meters apart. somebody remind me of what the OUSA rules say - 100 m, 60 meter? but not 30.

Yes, I was sloppy, running to the center of the circle, not checking the code and a bit angry after the race. all true, but when I looked at where the circle was, remembered the flag I had seen from the parking lot and matched its location (north side of spur) to the description of the feature I was looking for (north side of spur) it fit. put map away and run. and I doubt every one of you checks every control you visit every race you run.

ultimately the jury voted against and I have a MP. so be it. done. I am fine with that. But who on the jury knew the rules?? what information did they make there judgement on?? why are we now talking about 100 meters and 60 meters on similiar features? change the distances to match IOF.
Oct 29, 2010 12:25 AM # 
eddie:
I'd like to throw out a strawman for the 17.5 and 17.6 wording. I think we should remove any reference to "substantial number of competitors" and "substantial group of competitors" in these rules. I propose that these are indeterminate quantities - especially by a jury immediately following a race - and as such should not be used to make decisions about whether or not to void a result. Instead, some easily quantifiable, agreed-upon criterion should be established so that the jury can simply focus on whether the infraction has taken place without having to guess at its actual impact on the competition. Here are the rules as they stand now:


17.5 When in response to a protest the Jury determines that any of the following conditions have existed for a substantial group of competitors in a class, then the class or course shall be voided.
a) A control flag is missing. (Section 29.1)
b) A control flag, the start, or the finish is not within the marked circle or triangle.
c) A control flag is on the wrong feature. (Section 29.3)
d) The code at the control is different from that on the control description sheet. (Section 29.7)

17.6 When in response to a protest the jury determines that unfair conditions affected a substantial number of competitors and probably had an impact on the results then the class or course shall be voided.


Here is my strawman suggestion. Added text in green, removed text in red:


17.5 When in response to a protest the Jury determines that any of the following conditions have existed for a substantial group of competitors in a class, then the class or course shall be voided.
a) A control flag is missing. (Section 29.1)
b) A control flag, the start, or the finish is not within the marked circle or triangle.
c) A control flag is on the wrong feature. (Section 29.3)
d) The code at the control is different from that on the control description sheet. (Section 29.7)
e) Violation of any of the rules set forth in in the TECHNICAL REGULATIONS (Section B), as modified by any waivers with prior approval of the Sanctioning Committee.

17.6 When in response to a protest the jury determines that unfair conditions existed (Section 17.5), affected a substantial number of competitors and probably had an impact on the results then the class or course shall be voided.



If we feel any other specific conditions need to be added to 17.5, then now is a good time to do so. Others can be added later if they arise.

Now, regarding the separation between controls. This sits in section B TECHNICAL REGULATIONS of the rules of competition, which is different from section A GENERAL PROVISIONS, where the above 17.5 and 17.6 rules sit. It seems to me that as a minimum, 17.5 should have at least a line pointing to section B as "the rules," and violations of these constitute a "violation of the rules." I've added such a a line in green above. Here is the rule regarding control separation as it currently appears in section B:


d) 23.7 When setting courses the following must be observed: There shall not be two control flags within 100m of each other on similar features.


Here is my strawman suggestion. I'd also be perfectly happy if this was completely removed as a rule and made only a suggestion. As it stands now, its a rule. Old text in red completely replaced here in green:



d) 23.7 When setting courses the following must be observed: There shall not be two control flags within 100m of each other on similar features.

d) 23.7 When setting courses the following must be observed: There shall not be two control flags within 60.0m of each other on similar features, or within 30.0m of each other on dis-similar features. If a question arises, precise measurement of control separation shall be made in the terrain and any ruling shall be based on the precise measurement.



Yes, its silly to think of 60.0 and 30.0 meters in this situation. The separation numbers themselves are completely subjective, but we have to establish a precise threshold so there can be no question. Everyone agrees ahead of time that this is what it is (insert better numbers if you'd like...+- 0.5m? I don't care.)
Oct 29, 2010 12:32 AM # 
Tundra/Desert:
It's the other way round. 60 on similar, 30 on dissimilar.
Oct 29, 2010 12:34 AM # 
eddie:
Whoops. Fixed.
Oct 29, 2010 12:35 AM # 
Cristina:
So, the suggestion is to automatically void a class or course if even only one person is affected?

Not judging (yet), just asking.
Oct 29, 2010 12:37 AM # 
stevegregg:
I really didn't want to get into this, but I was on that jury. To the best of my recollection, here's what happened:

(1) USOF rules consulted. Confirmed that, as Vlad stated, "there is no explicit minimum currently in USOF Rules for different features although IOF Rules would seem to apply, with their 30 m minimum"

(2) Visited site. No, we didn't go to the Dollar Tree in Moses Lake before that to buy a tape measure, so we just paced off the distance between the two controls. Decided it was 30 m, and so not in violation of IOF rules for distance between controls on different features.

(3) So the crux of the matter was, were the controls on different features or not? Not according to the control descriptions, since one control feature was "reentrant", and the other one was "north side of spur". The jury did have significant sympathy for Joe's position that a control in a reentrant going uphill to the east could just as well be described as being on the north side of a spur, but ultimately, the decision was made that the controls were, in fact, on different features. So the MP stood.

There is no question that this was an unfortunate situation with multiple gray areas coming into play. The controls were very close to being exactly 30 m apart (Eddie says closer, but only after taking very careful measurements), and you could argue endlessly about whether or not they were on similar features. But I will stand by my belief that our decision can be justified by the rulebook and the facts of the case.
Oct 29, 2010 12:44 AM # 
eddie:
Cristina, yes. I propose that if one person is affected all the results are therefore affected (since one person can change the results). I'm also proposing that the jury has no way of knowing if only 1 person was affected. They might assume, but can't prove it.
Oct 29, 2010 12:59 AM # 
Cristina:
It's easy to think of a case where only one person is affected - the first runner gets to a control and it is not there/misplaced/misnumbered and it is fixed before anyone else gets there. This happens, as it did at last year's PNWOF. Still void the whole course?

If someone helps out an injured runner and takes a SPW, that affects the results just as much as keeping a course when one runner is affected. But we don't consider throwing out the results in that case. Should we?
Oct 29, 2010 1:12 AM # 
eddie:
Absolutely in your first case. The first runner was obviously affected. What if it was Ross at the US champs a week ago? He showed up to run and for reasons beyond his control was not able to finish the same course as everyone else. Even if you award him a SPW, is it fair that he is no longer eligible to be US champ but everyone else is?

SPW to provide aid is, and has always been, a necessary accommodation for safety. It would be as if the runner taking the SPW had never started - like any of the hundreds of other competitors who didn't even sign up for the meet. I believe its even a rule that you *have* to stop to give aid. Will we DQ people who don't stop?
Oct 29, 2010 1:22 AM # 
jjcote:
Even if you award him a SPW, is it fair that he is no longer eligible to be US champ but everyone else is?

Clearly better that there be no champion at all (supposing one of the S, M, L champs which has only one race).
Oct 29, 2010 1:26 AM # 
Cristina:
Situation 1: Ross is the first starter at the US Champs. There's a missing control, he runs back to the start and they fix it before anyone else goes there, but his run is over. This really sucks.

Situation 2: Ross stops to help an injured runner at the US Champs. His run is over. This also sucks, but at least the injured runner is okay.

Situation 3: Ross gets a branch stuck in his leg and can't finish his run. This probably sucks the worst.

The results list at the US Champs is affected the same by all of these situations, yet in the first one we should void the entire course and not the other two? Does voiding the course make the day any more fair? Would the threat of instant voiding make organizers more careful, or just more reluctant to take up the work?
Oct 29, 2010 1:33 AM # 
j-man:
I am going to go stick a branch in my eye. I'll check back with you all later.
Oct 29, 2010 1:41 AM # 
ndobbs:
Situation 1 it is the organisers who made the race unfair. The runner would be within is his rights to ask for (and have) the results to be voided. It need not be automatic - a runner might prefer not to protest.

I think the part of the rules Eddie is proposing deleting would remove the organisers' discretion in the case only an uncompetitive runner was affected.

Situations 2 and 3 - the organisers put on a fair race and s**t happened. Life goes on.
Oct 29, 2010 1:41 AM # 
Hammer:
>What if it was Ross at the US champs a week ago?

He was late for his start.
Oct 29, 2010 1:48 AM # 
mindsweeper:
I support the notion of voiding a course if at least one competitor is affected by an unfair condition. I think this would improve the quality of meets because the course setter / consultant / vetter would take their duties more seriously.

I think it is pretty clear that in Situation 3, there is no unfair condition, just poor luck.

Situation 2 is a bit more unclear, but I would have to argue also there that it is not an unfair situation. If you encounter anyone who is injured, you are obliged to stop to help. This negatively impacts you, but it is not unfair - the rule is the same for everyone. Again a case of poor luck I think.

So overall I agree with ndobbs.
Oct 29, 2010 2:14 AM # 
eddie:
I guess another way of putting it is a misplaced first control is a rules violation, but a SPW to help an injured runner is not.
Oct 29, 2010 2:23 AM # 
Cristina:
Right, so the argument that the results are affected is not enough by itself to void a course. Results can be affected in many ways. I'm just questioning whether or not a rules violation should be automatic grounds for voiding a course. It just seems like we would hardly ever have any valid results.
Oct 29, 2010 2:23 AM # 
EricW:
A minor point, but when there is a marked route to the finish, there is no need to have the finish line located within its circle(s). Intentionally displacing the finish circle(s) often helps the course printing involving a tight arena.
Oct 29, 2010 2:35 AM # 
jjcote:
Next situation to consider is, instead of Ross Smith being the one competitor adversely affected by an error on the part of the organizers, suppose it's Eric Smith. Or me. Or Patrick Goeres. Should those cases mean that the course is voided and there is no US champion?

(I've seen exactly such a situation, by the way, except it was an ordinary A-meet, and not a championship. I was the last starter, and an overeager control pickup crew removed some of my controls before I got to them.)
Oct 29, 2010 4:04 AM # 
bill_l:
This thread has stirred a mix of thoughts, in no particular order:

How timely. I'm going to be setting my first sanctioned a-meet course this coming year. And it might be a US Champs course. So it might be my dirty laundry being aired this time next year. But I'll be damned sure that there are no controls with in 30m of another on similar features!

I agree with Hammer. (Thanks again for a great weekend at GLOF.) If there were large sums of money involved, then maybe I might think differently. Although, if you've trained for years to be the best and miss your one and only chance at representing your country. Is that the case in any of these situations?

@Kupackman: a mistake perhaps but not a fail. Not checking the control number is a fail in my book. I started towards the wrong control but caught the mistake by reading the map (and then checking the control number just in case). My son and I had a great weekend. Hopefully that won't be your last course setting effort for an A-meet.

@eddie: I agree that your proposed rule changes improve the rules in question. But if juries, in general, not saying anything about specific cases here, tend not to throw out courses then what?

I've been a co-organizer for one A-meet. It truly is an amazing amount of work, even for the relatively small crowd we had in attendance. Hopefully, the people who take this stuff so seriously have 'walked a mile' in the shoes of an A-meet director and course setter.

I'll go find a jagged branch now.

BTW, does anyone have any theories on how a mouse trap could just disappear?
Oct 29, 2010 4:11 AM # 
Rosstopher:
One possibility is that a mouse trap is not always good at killing the mouse. A mouse may have triggered the mechanism and then dragged it off when fleeing the scene. I've seen some motion sensing video set ups of mice around traps... you could try to catch the rodent's evasion on tape.
Oct 29, 2010 4:16 AM # 
ndobbs:
A mouse trap that is not Ross is almost certainly not as good as a mouse trap that is Ross. You could try setting Ross up in the vicinity of the mouse. Catching the rodent's failed attempt at evasion on tape would be invaluable.
Oct 29, 2010 4:35 AM # 
eddie:
Juries tend not to throw out courses as it is. The way things are now we hardly ever have any invalid results, but I don't think that's due to perfect execution.

A protest is still required to initiate any of this. People can choose not to protest violations if they don't want to.

jj, everybody should get an equal shot at being champ, don't you think? Why would you, Eric, Patrick or anyone else be less entitled to the same opportunity? I think your early pick-up scenario is more likely than the first starter scenario. Since the next runner is just 2 or 3 mins behind the first, the odds of the problem being resolved by the organizers before 2, 3 or several runners have gone by is pretty small. Unless the first runner moves the control himself. That's usually frowned upon.
Oct 29, 2010 4:58 AM # 
AZ:
In my sense of what is "right", it is not the exact wording of the rule that matters (eg: 28.5m versus 30.0m is not so important), but rather the sense of "reasonable fairness". I accept that any "sport" will entail some element of luck. And I also accept officials as human and bound to make mistakes.

I look at other sports that have no such "throw out the results" remedy - soccer matches, for example, are often decided by horrendous mistakes on the part of officials. But it is accepted as part of the game. I think we should be a bit more like soccer!

Rules violations, as Alexaza points our, are easy enough to find in any O event. So at any race if anyone is disgruntled they could find some violation to protest. A little "rule thought experiment": I was really upset that the USA beat Canada at the JK cup this year at the Kimberly NAOCs. I considered protesting since I happen to know that the numbers on the SI units that were used for the event are too small - they are in violation of the IOF rule 19.6. I thought better of making this protest, but maybe I should have talked to Joe instead "why not?" he might have said ;-) Clear rule violation - throw out all the courses - no results - Canada hangs on to the JK trophy for another four years!!
(Absurd, obviously)

I'd like to see the rules somehow incorporate the notion of "reasonable fairness". This after all seems to be what the juries are tending towards.

And for those who say the "throw out the course" attitude is necessary to get course planners to take their duty more seriously - that is absolutely false. And quite insulting too. I've never worked with a course planner that didn't sweat blood over their job. The last thing this small sport needs is to heap more pressure onto these volunteers.
Oct 29, 2010 5:02 AM # 
mindsweeper:
Safeway mouse traps are ridiculously overpriced, and I couldn't buy just one. Then again, considering they caught me three mice since I came back, it's probably good that I have four of them. Mice seem to love cliff bars, by the way.
Oct 29, 2010 5:06 AM # 
mindsweeper:
And for those who say the "throw out the course" attitude is necessary to get course planners to take their duty more seriously - that is absolutely false. And quite insulting too.

AZ - I made this comment in the context of having been a course planner, and having made mistakes that made the courses unfair. It doesn't matter how hard people work if they don't work smart. It's like running fast in the wrong direction...
Oct 29, 2010 5:08 AM # 
AZ:
BTW: I totally agree with what Eddie is trying to do (assuming I understand it right). For sure our sport will get better by studying the things we have done in the past. So cataloging "issues" is helpful in order to develop: better course planners, better juries, and better orienteers.

My concern with the approach here is that it is all based on studying past protests. This is bad for two reasons. The first is that it is so negative ;-) But more importantly it doesn't capture all the issues that need to be improved on - not every mistake results in a protest.

Besides some rules updates, I would think it would be good to create a catalog of "experiences" from past event officials. A great project manager I once worked with did this by reviewing past projects in brain storming sessions where the group would create a list of "Plus / Deltas" - capturing briefly the things that were done well along with the things that could be improved next time. This way of dealing with mistakes (er, deltas) was much less horrible.
Oct 29, 2010 5:17 AM # 
eddie:
Over the past 10-15 years there have been virtually no (as in almost zero) courses thrown out. In my mind this is statistically impossible. Its not possible that the results of all those meets were up to sanctioning standards. Humans were involved.

Was it reasonably fair to reinstate a MP at the fells when its obvious that at least 2 others on the course lost time because of the same problem control but didn't MP?

I'm getting the vibe that its ok to sacrifice one poor schmuck per race to the cause (I just hope its not me). So how about 2 affected competitors. Is that ok? Can you quantify what a "substantial number of competitors" is? Is it half the field? 30%? Is it per-class or per-course? If you don't like my proposal that one is too many, then how many? My next question will be how do you figure out who was affected when its not one of these unusual proposed cases but is more like the situation this weekend when the problem isn't discovered or corrected before everyone has finished.
Oct 29, 2010 5:48 AM # 
jjcote:
jj, everybody should get an equal shot at being champ, don't you think? Why would you, Eric, Patrick or anyone else be less entitled to the same opportunity?

Yes, Eric and I should get a chance to try. But nobody is seriously going to suggest that either of os has any chance of being in the top half on a Blue course at a US Champs event, much less a medal threat. So if one of us got screwed, why would that mean that the people who did well shouldn't get their medals.

Patrick is a separate case. He's likely to turn in the best time on the course. But no, he doesn't get a shot at being champ at all, because he's not an American. So if something were to happen just to him (say a bad map), why should that void the US Champs results?
Oct 29, 2010 6:48 AM # 
bshields:
I don't like MPing, and I don't, as a course setter, like having MPs on my courses. Call me empathetic if you will, but I feel bad for people who MP. So I generally try to keep my controls well clear of each other. In my mind, 30m is not well clear.

Feel free to make the rule 30m, but for cryin' out loud, don't get near it if you don't have to.
Oct 29, 2010 12:26 PM # 
j-man:
Seriously. Just think about what could potentially cause problems--and there are a lot of things--and try not to do it. Close controls, (uncrossable features--remember those?), out of bounds, etc., are all things that come into play. Just recognize that and do what you can to mitigate the impact. I think these things are easier to avoid than all the hand-wringing suggests.
Oct 29, 2010 12:40 PM # 
eddie:
Yes, trying to avoid the situations in the first place is the best thing to do, but rule 17 is designed to cover the situation when it does happen (and it will happen again). So this needs to be looked at.

Regarding jj and Eric or any other american at a US champs event, I still say you are just as important as any other runner who has signed up to run. If you don't respect that right the race has no credibility. Either its a legit race or its just a fun-run. This is what the sanctioning stamp (and your sanctioning fee) buys you.

Regarding Patrick, or any other non-American running at a US champs, the meet is still a sanctioned A-meet meet and in particular Patrick as a Canadian does earn USOF ranking points irregardless of his US champs eligibility. Perhaps you could award the US champ separately if you ignored a protest by a non-eligible runner, but I say that's a double-standard and should not be allowed under sanctioning rules. The course is good for all-comers or it isn't. Sanctioning is nothing more than a stamp of quality assurance. Either it measures up or it doesn't. If it doesn't, as Neil said it was a run in the woods anyways (a B-meet). Its still orienteering, just not at the sanctioned standard.
Oct 29, 2010 12:57 PM # 
eddie:
I'll note that championship status is awarded by the Board independently of sanctioning. Sanctioning is required in order to receive championship status. This very situation came up at the meeting in NY this month, when a bid for NAOC came up. It had received sanctioning approval just that morning but since the Board members hadn't had a chance to review the bid they deferred a vote on it to a later date.

So if sanctioning is revoked on the day of the meet, is the championship status also revoked automatically? If we're genuinely worried about US champs events being ruined by one unfortunate foreigner who suffers from a meet problem we could change the champs requirement to allow a non-sanctioned result to stand for the champs. Man, this really seems like a stretch...
Oct 29, 2010 1:13 PM # 
Hammer:
Does the USOF have an officials certification program?
Oct 29, 2010 1:32 PM # 
JanetT:
None that I know of.

Coaching certification and navigator certification, yes. (See the 'certification' link under 'youth leaders' on the OUSA website.)

Would you be interested/willing to share Canada's system with our Board?
Oct 29, 2010 1:46 PM # 
Hammer:
I will preface this post by stating that I'm a level 4 official in Canada and have also mispunched at a World Orienteering Champs short distance qual in Norway (prior to last year the only other MP I had was when I was 13 years old at a Ramapo race in the pre HVO years). In the WOC race there were two controls very close together. One in a narrow re-entrant and the other on a cliff in a re-entrant. I had made a small error early. I was flustered. I was trying to make back time (which you can never do) and I was sloppy. I had plenty of extra time to have qualified for the final in the short but I didn't check my codes. But I also couldn't believe it had happened. The control on the cliff was in a narrow re-entrant and 'appeared' as a reentrant. I just had to run a few 10's of meters farther but came across this other 'similar' control first. The time I saved was lost on the next control because my exit was wrong because I was at the wrong control. Very disappointing on my part and at times I have felt it was a bit 'unfair' but AZ is completely right with his comments about 'reasonable fairness'.

Prior to AZ's posts last night I thought about sports that are much bigger than O than have huge 'fairness' issues like soccer and football and hockey. AZ pointed to the obvious aspects of soccer but even in the NHL you will hear fans or announcers say 'well the referee has decided to put away the whistle and let them play'. What that means is that a PAID and highly qualified and certified official has decided that in many cases rules violations will be tolerated for the better of the sport. That will usually result in half the people watching agreeing (the fans of the team that won) and another half claiming 'unfair'. Millions of dollars of consequences are linked to that decision. Back to soccer. If England had tied up against Germany this summer with the 'non goal' would that have changed the direction of the game? A whole range of 'what ifs' occur. Officials are not going to be perfect ALL of the time. But there are evaluations and assessments on the quality of officiating in all sports and there are constructive ways to improve the quality of the race. This is why I am a big fan of officials certification programs (as long as there is a mechanism to 'grandparent' people that come with a history of similar experience).

Race quality will improve if:
1) there is an officials certification process in place
2) there is a mentoring program in place (in Canada 1 is linked to 2)
3) there is a constructive evaluation of all aspects of the race good and bad

to study past protests IMHO opinion is not the approach to take because as AZ states protests don't necessarily capture all of the 'issues'.

Example. If I set an elite men's course that has 4km of straight trail running with no route choice late in the course but everything else is technically perfect is that a 'quality race'? Is the true Champion going to win? Should I, as an organizer, and my team of controller and event director be mentored to improve that the next time?

I guess for me this seems obvious because this is what is done in Canada. You set courses as you enter into the level 1 portion of the certification program. You get lots of mentoring and feedback and you get better and then you are only allowed to be an official at a National Champs or higher if you are (I believe) a level 3 or higher official.

Mistakes will still happen but the idea of the system is that mistakes are more likely to happen at 'less important' races. Having said that the 'rules' change. The race hosting technology changes and so it is necessary to have constant dialogue. Both COF and USOF have an annual conference where these things are discussed which is good (although I have not attended any out of available time).

Back to fairness. Like I said earlier shit happens and what can and can't be protested adds unfairness. There are a lot of situations that can add uncertainty to the results list (map quality). The sport has gone to extreme lengths to reduce that unfairness but it will always be there so two thumbs up to AZ and capturing what I think I was trying to get at earlier - 'reasonable fairness'.
Oct 29, 2010 2:13 PM # 
jjcote:
So, that race where the controls got picked up before I got there... it was a chase start, and the part of the race that involved winning had already occurred. In fact, prizes had probably already been given out. It seems ridiculous that what happened to me could then render the race invalid. I did the appropriate thing in the situation, which was to head back to the finish and "request" a SPW (actually, I think I was kind of pissed and just announced that a SPW was what was going to happen).

The thing is, unusual circumstances require jury discretion and common sense. Are juries screwing up? Could be. In that case, maybe the remedy is to do something to ensure that there are wiser people serving on juries. My perception is that people are generally resistant to the idea of being on a meet jury. If the best people really are serving on juries, and they're coming up with decisions that are different than what you'd want, then changing the rules to give them less discretion seems like you're trying to fight the tide.

I have seen juries come up with decisions that were pretty alarming. In one case, I saw a Long-O Champs (mass start) that had a couple of controls that were just flatly misplaced. The jury wound up letting the results stand, maybe in part because they didn't want to hurt the setter's feelings, maybe in part because they didn't want there to be no champion, maybe in part because it seemed that, for the most part, the result of the misplaced controls was to bunch the field up as everyone searched for it, and then there was effectively a new mass start when somebody located it and everybody else converged on it. The typically best orienteers still won, but it was a pretty dubious decision. That has been a rare exception in my mind, though.

One thing that I seem to be reading here, though, is that as humans we must be making mistakes, and if there are any mistakes, then there should be courses getting thrown out so that we'll have accurate data. I'm going to disagree that any deviation from perfection should be cause for things to get tossed. As I've repeatedly said, this is entertainment, not research. And yes, that goes all the way up to the very top. Even the world champs is very important to many of us, but it's still entertainment. This is what we do on the weekends to make ourselves smile. It's not collecting precise information to build bridges or dams or drill oil wells or launch rockets into space. We all want things to be as good as they can be, but we have to be tolerant of a certain amount of imperfection.

Things have not always been the way they are now, or at least, not the way that some people perceive them to be. I was orienteering back in 1991, the Year Of The Voided Courses. I had never had a voided course up until then, but for who knows what reason, courses got voided left and right that year, for various causes (at both meets that I attended and ones that I didn't). Although some were clear cases where major screwups had occurred (such as the infamous case of runners being stopped by police and armed landowners), others were not (a subtle deviation from the specified method of generating a chase start list). Were people standing around smiling that year, happy that the lists of finishing times were unblemished by any imperfections? No. It totally sucked.
Oct 29, 2010 3:01 PM # 
cmpbllv:
When Jon and I arrived at West Point in 2006, one of the things that we wanted to do was improve the A Meet course planning and vetting process. Courses tended to be too long, steep, and lacking in satisfyingly challenging legs to navigate. A course had been thrown out a few years before, and we felt USMAOC's reputation had suffered as a result.

However, USMAOC is above all a cadet-run organization. The officers advise, but the cadets make most of the decisions and carry them out. We couldn't just waltz in and start giving orders, even at a military academy. We had to convince cadets to change the way they looked at course planning and vetting, plus get them tied in with the greater orienteering community to get an outside look (course consulting in particular). We received a lot of support in this, and we appreciate it.

I haven't stopped to ponder them, but we probably learned some lessons while at USMA worth sharing. Within this thread, it looks like others have learned some valuable lessons, too. I'd be happy to work on putting together an ONA article and a course setter's checklist if you will share your thoughts with me. I won't claim to be an expert course setter, but I like to write and this seems a worthy project to expand beyond an AP thread. I would prefer not to get into the rules debate, it looks like Eddie has that part well in hand.

Please send any course setting / vetting recommendations to vjhcampbell at gmail dot com. If you have thoughts on the following questions, that would help. If you're willing to review and comment on a draft (no promises on timeline, though!), please include that as well. Thanks!

Questions:
1. What course setting / vetting best practices would you recommend, and why?
2. What "checks" should be on a course setter's checklist, and why?
3. What additional checks should be a a vetter's checklist, and why?
Oct 29, 2010 3:09 PM # 
Cristina:
Great idea!
Oct 29, 2010 3:22 PM # 
j-man:
agree.
Oct 29, 2010 4:16 PM # 
Tundra/Desert:
This is bad for two reasons. The first is that it is so negative ;-)

Hey, it's negative feedback that makes systems stable.

Q: Why do airpanes take off from Warsaw half-empty?

A: Because you sure wouldn't want poles in the right half-plane.
Oct 29, 2010 4:42 PM # 
GHOSLO:
Wow! A feedback joke.
Oct 29, 2010 4:43 PM # 
hughmac⁴:
@cmpbllv: there's already a good bit of stuff on OUSA at:
http://orienteeringusa.org/event-organizers/standa...

Would the goal of this be to update that material?
Oct 29, 2010 6:38 PM # 
dness:
In particular http://orienteeringusa.org/sites/default/files/des..., which I think is an excellent starting point.
Oct 29, 2010 6:41 PM # 
AZ:
As I've repeatedly said, this is entertainment, not research. And yes, that goes all the way up to the very top.

My favorite non-protest of 2010 comes from Norway, in the WOC Sprint final. Here's a guy who might just have lost a WOC Gold medal due to a completely unfair situation caused by "sloppy organizers". He ended seven seconds from the Gold if I remember right, but didn't complain. I don't know his thinking, but I was impressed with his style. What good would a protest have accomplished? (I'll bet the course planners are still having nightmares about those screws.)
Oct 29, 2010 6:42 PM # 
JLaughlin:
As a course designer I think those documents are a good starting point but leave much to be discovered either by those with previous knowledge or by screwing up and learning from it. I would support an update or a more concrete list of check-offs for course designing.
Oct 29, 2010 6:58 PM # 
cmpbllv:
My goal is format: a clear, concise, useful article on course setting/vetting best practices. It should be long enough to have substance, but short enough that people will actually read it. It will include a checklist to use as a starting point - clubs (or USOF) may choose to adopt / add to it as necessary. And it looks like a list of other references for those who want more to read will be appropriate, as well.

Thanks for the links - I'll be sure to read through them, too.
Oct 29, 2010 10:54 PM # 
bmay:
Wow ... what a thread! A few random comments.

First, I'm amazed that such a seemingly inconsequential event has spawned such debate. It was a non-championship event, in a qualifier, in a non-elite class, in a category that didn't even have 6 people. Other than the few people in the category, why the fuss?

I'm with hammer, coach, AZ, et al. The focus needs to be on providing participants a good experience, not on generating data for the mighty ranking list. The whole idea of the ranking list is that it's a statistical analysis that should average over the humps and bumps anyway. It shouldn't be sensitive to this sort of minor issue.

Alexei, I really hope that this has not tarnished the sense of accomplishment you should feel after putting on these events. Our volunteer course-setters should not be forever traumatized when they make mistakes. Please, don't be put off by this!

The USOF rules call for a course consultant and event consultant, who (among other things) are supposed to ensure that the USOF rules are being followed. The fact that this mistake fell through the cracks may indicate that the course/event consultant need more clear guidance (e.g., a checklist) of the things that they are each responsible for.

The existence of the course/event consultants is based on the fact that event organizers/course setters are bound to make mistakes from time to time. The idea is that these mistakes should be caught before the competitors hit the course. I volunteered at the Olympics this past February. There was a small army of FIS technical delegates (at least 6) double-checking everything done by the local organizers to ensure the rules were followed. Controllers and consultants exist for a reason - it is a damn hard task for the organizers to get everything right on their own.

Eddie, I am amazed at your seeming quest for voiding courses. Who goes home happy when an entire course is thrown out? Surely, that must be viewed as a last-case scenario!

I agree with AZ's concept of "reasonable fairness" in situations like these. When the organizers make a mistake, absolute fairness no longer exists. The jury is tasked with coming up with reasonable compromise given the circumstances. In this specific case, the competitor made a mistake (didn't go to the right control and didn't check the code when there) and the organizers made a mistake (put two controls too close to each other). The jury has to be left to make the judgement call on which is the more compelling issue. If I were on the jury, I might have opted to leave the MP. I don't really think the organizer's minor mistake in control placement necessarily gives the competitor the right to shirk his/her responsibility for navigating the course presented. That said, I don't have any objection with the decision the jury actually made ... as it is fairly sensible too.

If anything should come out of this, it isn't the re-working of the rules that Eddie has embarked upon in the thread above. If anything is done to the rules, it should simply be to make them the same as those put forth by IOF. Better or different rules won't solve the problem ... following them will.

If improving event quality is the goal, then the focus should be on doing better preparation for events. This can include (among other things): an Officials Certification program, better use of controllers/consultants before and during events, better education of event officials on what the rules are, creation of checklists and guidelines so that event officials know what their responsibilities are, etc.

Ultimately, we all have to accept the fact that "shit happens". That is why protests and juries exist. It is also something that makes sport interesting: Hubman in the 2010 sprint, Tero and the bee in 2008, the Martin Johansson injury in 2009, Ben Johnson, Rosie Ruiz!, the England "non-goal" in soccer, the "hand of God", etc., etc. "Fairness" does not exist - we must accept that "reasonably fair" is good enough.
Oct 30, 2010 3:17 AM # 
upnorthguy:
Interesting discussion and I can appreciate many sides to the issues and sub-issues. I ran the same category/course as Joe at Moses lake, but fortunately had no problems, did not even see the control he punched at; perhaps because I was not paying attention before the race and so had no pre-conceived ideas. (on the other hand, about 50 metres out from the next (water) control I realized I had drunk but not punched so went back!)

I think that all things considered, if one is contemplating rule changes, then perhaps the best solution is to simply eliminate completely any 'minimum distance between similar controls' requirement. This would eliminate issues around what the various minimum distances are under different rules, eliminate any discussion about what is meant by "similar"; eliminate any need for organizers to be aware of a minimum distance etc. Taken to the extreme, this could mean that both sides of the very same boulder could have controls but so what? It would 'force' the repsonsibility back on to the shoulders of the runner: Cardinal rule which we are supposed to follow anyway - ALWAYS check your code, no if, ands or buts. People would soon learn and there would soon be no issue. You were not at the right one, even though they were only 10 metres apart, too bad, so sad, you are DSQ. There is a certain logic. I think any "heat of competition, not thinking straight" argument is a cop-out. Aren't elite athletes supposed to face stress and deal with it as part of the sport?
Oct 30, 2010 3:22 PM # 
jjcote:
There is an underlying problem that "similar features" has never, as far as I know, been defined.

I have seen two controls on the same feature (in Scotland). I think it was a one-contour knoll, and the one I was looking for was at the foot on some side, but before I found it, I found another control either on top or on a different side or something. I saw that the code was wrong, and initially went to check some other nearby knoll because I didn't expect that there would be two controls on the same knoll.

[Having said that, I just went and looked through the maps from that event to see whather I could find the control, and it wasn't obvious. Seems like the most likely candidate is a case where my control was not in fact at the foot of the knoll, but in the reentrant immediately adjacent to it, so close that it looked to me like the circle was centered on the knoll, which had a control on top.]
Oct 30, 2010 4:27 PM # 
dness:
Has anyone besides j-j set 3 controls on the same feature?
Oct 30, 2010 4:30 PM # 
dness:
I'm referring of course to controls 159,160,161 in:http://www.petergagarin.org/team/megaeast.jpg
Nov 1, 2010 3:41 AM # 
ndobbs:
Somebody in WCOC has a sense of humour - there were two different controls hanging from the same tree today :)
Nov 1, 2010 4:16 PM # 
jjcote:
Has anyone besides j-j set 3 controls on the same feature?

Well, it happens all the time in Trail-O...
Nov 2, 2010 12:34 AM # 
mindsweeper:
I think the most important way to improve the quality of the meets in North America is to grow the sport so that there are more volunteers, and the course setting duties are shared across a larger pool of contributors.
Nov 3, 2010 3:05 AM # 
bill_l:
Here's a real scenario where 2 controls could have ended up closer than 30m:

Two events, two course setters, same venue. One event sanctioned, one not. All the controls never end up on one map so nobody has a chance to raise the "too close" alert.

Checklist item: Control locations for all events at a given venue should be drawn on a single map and submitted to the course vetter and course consultant.
Nov 3, 2010 3:24 AM # 
AZ:
Then there was the legendary Danish example - a long brick wall with a bend in it. One control on the "inside of corner", one on the "outside". The controls were only 1m apart, but the course planner argued that it took more than 15m running to get from one to the other, so they were placed according to the rules.

Of course many people cried foul!

I don't know what came of this example (which happened in a fairly significant race I believe). But I want to be clearly on the side of "this is NOT okay".
Nov 3, 2010 4:51 AM # 
Pink Socks:
What about the top of a 30m cliff vs the bottom? ;-)
Nov 3, 2010 12:31 PM # 
jjcote:
The only time when I've ever crossed the finish line with an incorrect punch was when I was in a long mass-start, single course race (Blue Hills Traverse), where it wasn't necessary to really check punches because there were no other controls out there. Except at the very end, where there were some recreational course controls, and the setter for those courses had not coordinated with the Traverse setter. At the next-to-last control, there was a flag just a few meters away, one on a reentrant, one on a stone wall corner. When I was drawing my route that night, I noticed that the circle for that control appeared to be misaligned a bit, and when I looked at the control descriptions, I saw that the feature was not what I had punched at.

There might be a valid argument that the separation on the ground is actually not as important as the separation on the paper. What you don't want is a case where the wrong control could appear to be in the center of the circle. In this case, the allowable separation would change with the scale, and it would be clear that the wall and cliff cases are not okay.
Nov 3, 2010 4:29 PM # 
bmay:
In this case, the allowable separation would change with the scale, and ...

which is why the IOF rules have different separation distances for Middle/Long vs. Sprint.
Nov 3, 2010 10:36 PM # 
graeme:
@dness Bizarrely, I set three controls on the same feature that very day!
http://www2.ph.ed.ac.uk/~gja/halloween_slimegreen....
(I wouldn't do it on a serious race though)

On the issue at hand, I don't think anyone should get DQed for something which is, ultimately, cause by the setter's. No doubt at Moses Lake the features were similar, I'd rather have see Joe luck out for a few seconds on a setter error than have his whole run axed. Sometimes shit happens, but there's no need to rub it in.

(Not meaning to pick on kupackman, mistakes happen all the time despite various systems round the world. It was a fantastic course!)
Nov 4, 2010 5:08 PM # 
coach:
"And for those who say the "throw out the course" attitude is necessary to get course planners to take their duty more seriously - that is absolutely false".

Yes, beating people over the head with a stick is no where near as useful as educating them to do what is right, or in reality, what YOU think is right. Either way, tossing courses will not fix things for the future.
We are human beings, and do not take kindly to negative feedback.
It works great in control systems, but not in people.

Oh, and JJ, both those controls were set by me at that (my first) Traverse. It never occurred to me someone would mistake a stone wall corner (the easy Traverse control) for the orange control in the re-entrant.

I vowed to remember not to have any mispunches on my Traverses, by reminding myself how brain dead we all are on the course, some of the time, but especially at the end.
Nov 5, 2010 3:03 AM # 
jjcote:
I could have sworn that you told me at the time that somebody else had set the rec courses, but I'll trust what you're saying now more than my shaky memory.

This discussion thread is closed.