THE ORIGINS OF ORIENTEERING

The sport of orienteering is known worldwide, participants use a detailed,accurate map and a compass to find checkpoints located around the orienteering course. Orienteering can be enjoyed as a stimulating walk in the bush or in a competition, where your race against time or others.

The sport was first introduced introduced in Sweden in 1918, the sport involves traveling through woods and over hills or rough plains as competitors plot courses between isolated control points that must usually be visited in a set sequence. Selecting their routes according to terrain, participants must choose between more direct courses with obstacles such as water, woods, marshes and hills, and more roundabout routes with easier passage. Athletes set out from the starting point at intervals of 1 to 5 minutes, using map and compass to locate, check in, and stamp or punch their cards at control points indicated by orange and white marking flags, which may be from a few hundred meters to a kilometer apart. The winner is the competitor who completes the course in the fastest time.

Introductory orienteering courses have control points on, or close to, trails and notable features. Intermediate courses have control points off the trails and into the woods, although it usually uses more obvious, bigger features to reference from. These trails are normally 4 to 5 kilometers long, which is long enough to put an emphasis on physical fitness. Expert courses can be 10 kilometers or longer and need a good deal of acquired skill, precision and experience.

A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control points that are marked by circles on a map, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish. On the ground, a numbered control flag marks the location that the orienteer must visit. The competitor is given a map with control point descriptions.

To verify that a participant has actually visited the checkpoint the orienteer has to match the control number with the control description, and if they correspond, uses a punch hanging next to the flag to mark his or her control card. Different punches make different patterns of holes in the paper, ensuring accuracy of the site visit. The route between the control points is not specified, and is entirely up to the orienteer; this element of route choice and the ability to navigate over the terrain are the essence of orienteering.

Most orienteering events use staggered starts to ensure that each orienteer has a chance to do his or her own navigating, but there are several other popular formats, including relays and events in which the orienteer must find as many controls as possible within a specified time.

Understanding the map is a key component in orienteering. The map’s indicates the location of the control points and the direction of North. Maps also show roads, trails, vegetation types, elevations and contour gradients and buildings.

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