Control card string
One way of not losing your Control Card is to attach it with a piece of string to your arm. Make sure the string is long enough for you to get the Card into the punch at any Control
A Control Description Sheet will be given to you before your start containing all the necessary information about the control sites you will need to visit on your chosen course. On beginners’ courses words are used, but internationally accepted symbols are used in the advanced courses.
A useful tip is to write the identifying codes of the markers, placed at each control site on your course, in the relevant blocks on your Control Card to provide an easy reference before punching. The relevant control description or its symbol may also be recorded there in case you lose your control description sheet.
Study the map as much as possible before the start, paying attention to the legend, the scale and the interval between contour lines. When pre-marked maps are not provided (i.e. the course is not already recorded on your map) you will need to copy your course from a master map placed near the start onto your own map. Do this as accurately as possible. Then take time to make sure you know exactly where you are: the start will be marked on your map with a triangle at the beginning of your course. Plan your route to the first control, considering the alternatives, e.g. using paths or going more directly across country, identifying features on the map or in the terrain which will assist you, etc.
Some more tips & techniques
Organise yourself with the things you need to carry – map, compass, control description sheet, Emit unit or control card – so you can operate efficiently. Find a way that suits you best, but do not do things that will slow you down or confuse you. For example, it is not a good idea to staple your control description sheet to the back, or even the front, of your map. You will probably want to fold your map so as to concentrate on the area you are moving through, keeping it properly set, or orientated, and keeping your thumb on your current position. You will not want to spoil all of that having to open your map and turn it around just to refer to your control description sheet – and perhaps confuse yourself when you have to reset the map and find again where you are on it.
From start to first control
At the start, check that you know where north is, look around and try to see obvious features which you should easily be able to identify on the map. When you receive your map as you start off, set it to north, find the start triangle and try to see on the map any of those obvious features which will help you quickly get the ‘feel’ of the map, and where you are on it, as you plan your route to the first control.
Do not be afraid to go slowly to your first control. Navigate carefully and proceed with caution, as you are not yet used to the map and are probably in unfamiliar terrain. You can speed up as you get the feel of the map in relation to the area.
Planning and choosing your route
To plan your route to the next control, you need to know the direction, the distance and possible attack points. Except in the easier events, you will often need to identify and choose between a variety of alternate possible routes. Choose the one that seems best to suit your own combination of speed, strength, stamina, cross country running technique and navigational skills. Be sure to check the contours, for example you may want to avoid too much exhausting climbing. Make your route choice decision quickly and then carry it out without wasting time and without unnecessary changes.
What do the contours say?
Always check the contours. If you are roaring off down hill and the contours suggest you should be keeping the same height, then something is surely wrong!
Remember too that it is not only line features, such as roads, paths, fences and rivers, which can be used as handrails to guide you in the right direction. You can also use contouring, the angles at which you may be crossing the contour lines, and also the land form features, such as re-entrants (valleys) and extended spurs, which are shown by the contours on the map.
Leaving a control
After punching, move away from the control site as quickly as possible, as you will not want to help your competitors by showing them exactly where the control is.
Set your map to north as you leave each control. Not only will you then see the terrain around you as it relates to the map, but you will avoid any confusion arising from the fact that you might have entered and/or left the control site from a direction different from the direct line from the last, or to the next, control.
Some coaches recommend that, after moving away from the control, the athlete should pause (only for a second or two) to set the map, confirm the route to the next control and apply concentration to follow it directly.
Plan ahead, especially when you have ‘dead’ periods in a leg, when you know what you are doing and where you are going and you do not need to exercise your mind much for that leg for a few seconds. You can utilise that spare mental capacity to plan the next leg, and beyond. Ideally, you should have planned your next leg before you punch at the end of the current one, so you will be able to punch and move fluently into the new leg with no waste of time.
When you are lost – relocating
All orienteers get lost from time to time, but the best are able to relocate quickly. As soon as you think you are lost, stop, set your map and look around. Try to find large or distinct features which you can identify on the map and which will help to tell you where you are. Try to remember where you were when you were last certain of your position, and how far you have come and what you have seen since then. You may need to navigate to an obvious feature, return to your last certainly known position, or even return to the previous control site. Be pro-active. Do not simply wander around hoping to stumble upon the next control.