Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Orienteering is a sport involving navigation with map and compass. The traditional form involves cross-country running, though other forms have evolved from the original. This article will begin by discussing this original form: Foot Orienteering or Foot-O.
The English name derives from Swedish orientering, "orientation". The Swedish word was likely chosen because it was more specific than orientation, yet recognizable.
Participants are given a map, usually of an area with which they are unfamiliar, and a compass. They attempt to visit, in sequence, control points that are indicated on the map. Competitive orienteering is a race to visit all controls in order shown on the map as fast as possible.
Orienteering originated in Scandinavia, as a military exercise, in the 19th century. The competitive sport form began in Sweden in 1919. It gained popularity with the development of more reliable compasses in the 1930s, and became an international phenomenon in the 1960s with its themes of open-air competition and environmental awareness.
Today, 63 different national orienteering federations are registered with the International Orienteering Federation, from every habitable continent. World championships are held annually (bi-annually before 2002), and orienteering is a sport in the World Games. The sport is dominated by the Nordic nations and Switzerland.
The start and finish areas and procedures generally resemble those for a cross-country race with a staggered start; the course in between, however, is unmarked beyond the symbols on the map that must be read correctly and followed to the controls.
High levels of fitness and running speed are required to compete successfully in elite-level orienteering, but success is also heavily dependent on choosing the fastest route between controls (while controls are always the same for the competitors in a particular category, the route they choose to reach the points may be very different). Competitors are often required to cross rough undeveloped terrain; accurate map- and compass-reading can make the difference for good race results.
Indeed, most competitors would say the single key to orienteering success is balancing the fatigue of racing with the mental alertness required to read the map clearly and make proper course selections to keep ahead.
Map and control details
Maps used for orienteering are specially created by orienteers at considerable expense and effort. They are far more detailed, and more accurate, than general-purpose topographic maps. The detail is focussed towards what needs to be perceived at eye level, at a run; it must also convey any obstacles clearly. They are typically produced at scales of 1:10,000 or 1:15,000.
Controls are usually based around a visible feature, and explained on the map or on a special control description sheet. They are marked on the course by white and orange (or red) flags. A competitor marks their visit in some way; traditionally this was by using a punch placed at the flag, but events in the last few years have moved to an electronic chip carried by the competitor, which uses a device at the flag to record the visit time.
The lack of a marked course increases the flexibility of the competition area; many controls can be placed (each with a unique identifying number), with different sets of controls for different courses, allowing races of varying length and difficulty.
While a staggered start on a linear course is the standard method of orienteering, other ways of laying out and running the course are possible. A few are listed below.
Much like a standard relay, this involves teams of competitors each running the same short course, and scoring the team's total time. A variation is to set up multiple short courses in a small area, and have either team members, or even the same competitor repeatedly, run the different courses.
Taking the multiple-short-courses format a step further, this method uses a course with one general track, but with options of different controls at points along that course. Each competitior is given a list of the order that these controls must be visited in, and will run the course two or three times, each time visiting a different set of options. As different competitors will have different overall runs, they can run the course at the same time without being able to 'follow' each other reliably. A diagrammed example of this format can be found at the link at the bottom of the page. More recently, as maps become easier to reproduce, competitors are given a premade map for each run; thus they need only worry about the controls they are seeking at the time.
This is a score event in which competitors aim to visit as many controls as possible within a time limit. There is usually a mass start (rather than staggered), with a time limit of (often) one hour. Controls may have different point values depending on difficulty and there is a point penalty for each minute late. The competitor with the highest point value (or who has the shortest time after visiting every control) is the winner.
The large-scale, endurance-style version of a Score-O is known as a ROGAINE, competed by teams in events lasting (often) 24 hours. A very large area is used for competition, and the map scale is smaller as a result. The format originated in Australia. The term ROGAINE is often said to stand for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance; this is essentially a backronym, as the name actually originates from the names of Rod Gail and Neil Phillips, who were among Australian Rogaining's first participants.
Endless variations on the sport are possible by using different forms of travel and by limiting or removing the race aspect of the sport. The generally recognized forms (beyond traditional Foot-O) are listed below, along with their differences in play, setup and map design.
This is very essentially similar to Foot-O, but involves shorter events in city parks and other more urban settings. As a result, it uses larger-scale maps, 1:10 000 at the smallest (and as large as 1:4 000). Nothing else is much different from Foot-O, other than the speed of play (due to more open terrain) and shorter event length.
Orienteering on a mountain bike involves equipment and procedures from mountain bike racing, with differences for orienteering being a consideration. The map is likely of a smaller scale (1:15 000 at the largest) and has slightly different symbols for tracks and paths to aid readability. As bikes are not permitted to leave the path system, the major focus becomes finding the proper trail to the control while navigating at bike speed. The one major equipment change is a map holder attached to the front of the bike.
As an urban competition, some groups plan score-o courses on street maps. Partaicipants don't seek an orange/white marker with control codes, but look for letters or numbers that may be spray-painted on curbs or appropriate places. Often courses are set to begin and end in a park, where people can picnic afterwards. Bicyclists are expected to follow normal rules of driving; bikes are vehicles just as cars and so riders must stop at appropriate signs, etc.
Skiing while orienteering is a challenge. Standard orienteering maps are used, but with special green overprinting of trails and tracks to indicate their navigability in snow; other symbols indicate whether any roads are snow-covered or clear. In most modern events, the track system is extremely dense, and the best skiers may meet a new crossing about every 15 seconds. Standard cross-country ski equipment is used, along with a map holder attached to the chest.
This is a form that is inclusive of disabled competitors; the object is accuracy, not time. This involves determining, along a set accessible course, which of various controls in a small area is the one indicated on the map; another form involves determining the position on a map of a control viewed from a set point 30-40 metres away. Maps tend to be at a 1:5 000 scale to convey the required detail.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details