Consult the event notice a few weeks before the event. It will contain all the information you need including directions to the event, cost of entry, as well as registration and start times.
There are no clothing restrictions in South Africa. It is recommended, however, that clothing should cover the body from neck to feet. ‘Gaiters’ or ‘bramble bashers’, made of a strong nylon fabric to protect the lower legs, are often worn by more experienced orienteers. Old running shoes or sturdy walking shoes are advisable. Keep in mind that the average orienteer does not emerge from the course in pristine condition.
Although not essential for beginners on easy courses, the use of an orienteering compass is advisable. It is recommended that orienteers carry whistles for emergency use in some areas.
Novices should ask for guidance when first entering an event. Appointed officials will be on hand to assist you with the formalities, which will vary depending on the nature of the event and whether or not electronic punching is in use. You will need to select a course that suits your physical and technical orienteering abilities. Normally you will pay your entry fee and collect your control card and control description in addition to any information relevant to the event or your course.
You get your map only when you start. Check the scale of the map and the contour interval. Mark down any ‘map corrections’ notified by the organisers. Note which direction on the map is north (usually the top of the map) and try to locate yourself accordingly. Study the ‘legend’ or ‘key’. It is advisable that competitors bring plastic covers for both map and control card should these not be waterproof.
Write your name, club and membership number (if applicable) on your card as well as on the stub. It helps to write down the control code for each control in the relevant block. Finally, staple the card to your map or attach it to your wrist with an elastic band to prevent its being lost. Where electronic punching is used, you will be given an electronic ‘punch card’ instead: ask for instructions about its (simple) use.
These describe each control point, including the code on each marker. There may be more than one control in an area you have to visit. Study the sheet and make sure you fully understand the symbols and terminology. The descriptions are usually issued in both English and in international code on the easier courses.
Arrive at the start 10 to 15 minutes early so you can observe and understand the starting procedure. Hand your ‘stub’ to the starter and await starting orders.
If maps are not pre-marked you will be required to copy your course from the master map onto your own map immediately after you start. The start triangle on the map is represented by a control kite on the ground at or near the starting area. The centre of each circle is where each control has been placed. Be careful to be very accurate when copying your course onto your map, even if it takes some time to do so.
Locate all the controls on your course in the required order. Remember to verify the control codes at each point, as each control point has a unique code and punch pattern. Remember to punch your control card in the correct box, or to punch electronically if applicable, as evidence that you have been to that point, before navigating to the next control.
Once you have found your last control, navigate or follow the streamers to the finish. Your time will be taken as you cross the finish line. Hand in your control card irrespective of whether you have completed the course fully or not.
Once your card has been checked and time calculated, your result will be displayed on a ‘results line’ near the finish.
Analyse your performance, think about your mistakes and compare notes with other orienteers on your course. Try to ascertain where you can improve your orienteering.