JK Memories – Day 4 Relays

Day 4 Relays Tyrella South, County Down

  • Planner – Philip Baxter, LVO
  • Organiser – Wilson McAlister, LVO
  • Controller – Andy Lewsley, BL
  • Assistant Organiser – Mark Hudson, NWOC, Colin Henderson, LVO & Pat Flanaghan, 3ROC
  • Assistant Controller – John McCullough, 3ROC

Day 4 and back to Tyrella South – though with the relays capturing a rather different feel than Day 2:


Philip Baxter, LVO, Planner writes

Gosh, 10 years have flown by but the memories of JK 2011 remain as sharp as ever. When the decision was made to hold both the Middle Distance and Relay races on the dunes of Ballykinler, despite knowing the terrain well, Wilbert and I walked the area again to come up with a plan that would make the best use of the most complex parts of the map without making the 2 races feel very similar.

We settled on the Middles starting and finishing towards the eastern end while the Relays arena would be further west on one of the ranges.  We also decided not to share our course plans to begin with so that we would not influence each other and not to use any control site twice. We spent many happy days planning, re-planning and ‘taping up’ potential control sites. We were using orange plastic tent pegs, individually numbered, as tapes and were equally frustrated when making our way to the perfect beginning or end of a leg only to find an orange peg already in place!

Mass start. Credit Crawford Lindsay, ESOC

Eventually the outline relay courses were in good enough shape to share with controller Andy Lewsley and assistant controller John McCullough. John came to do much of the initial site checking, discussion (and argument) which resulted a really useful tightening of all the courses. From the get go I wanted the relays to replicate all the best bits of the many JK relays I had previously attended, with a special emphasis on a festival arena layout focused on the starts, finish and changeover with spectators, club tents, map issue, download and traders all integrated so that nothing would serve to distract. The compromise would lead to a longish run out for all but the very shortest courses, with John and I having to strim away the undergrowth at the end of the lead-out tapes!

I decided to challenge the packs from the outset with as long a first leg as the courses would bear before heading straight into the most complex of the dunes with a series of shorter but navigationally demanding legs. The latter part of most of the courses would involve changes of pace and style as they passed first through the urban nature of the training village and then onto the gorse strewn golf course before the final leg back to the arena.

We were brilliantly supported by the landowners who helped us by building wide ladders over the worst of the fences in sufficient quantities to unwanted avoid bottle necks.

To save time when Andy came over from Cumbria we developed a system of checks that avoided all 3 of us running round together. If a control tag couldn’t be found or if the control site was disputed then a long stick with a big blue tape was put in at the ‘right’ spot. We would then meet at the rare blue flags and sort out the best site for the control.

Brian Bullen (Wilbert’s controller) had spent a lot of time earlier challenging and adjusting the map so our concerns were all about course flow and accurate siting; where the map wasn’t quite clear enough (and we couldn’t work out how to improve it) we replanned to make the leg finish unequivocal.

Womens Elite winners

The day before was spent putting out controls while the JK crowd enjoyed Slieve Croob; sadly the original parking agreed with the landowner was withdrawn very late on resulting in a rather long approach march for competitors while Andy, John, Wilbert and I switched on all the controls – 139 boxes spread over 89 control sites. Nonetheless we managed to start on time and finished (as far as I recall) with no serious incidents.

I stood beside a 5 foot high wooden fence that bounded the range close to the final control; the fence had barbed wire along its length so we had wrapped the top rail in carpet, expecting competitors to follow the track the final 20 metres along and around the end of the fence and wanting to avoid them injuring their hands as they swung around. To my astonishment the first competitor in the Men’s Premier class simply stretched his legs and hurdled the whole thing without touching any of it!!

What a brilliant day to bring to a close a brilliant festival. Right from the earliest planning we wanted to present a real festival of orienteering that would show off Northern Ireland and its orienteering volunteers. We had a lot to live up to after the success of the delayed 2001 British Championships in the northwest – and I genuinely believe we succeeded.

Off they go. Credit Crawford Lindsay ESOC

John McCullough, 3ROC, Assistant Controller writes

The weekend was a blur: cross-checking maps and courses at Planner Philip Baxter’s beforehand; emphasis on the Arena and spectators; trying to include fun and variety in the courses; finally realising I should have brought two dibbers to wake the controls!

Roxanne White, IOA, Relay Starts, Changeover & Finish writes

One of the Relay objectives was to provide as good a spectator arena as possible, on the relatively flat terrain of Tyrella.  A great deal of thought and practice went into the design and layout during the years before, so it was very exciting to finally have competitors and an actual competition.

Wilson McAlister, Phil Stuart and myself started building the arena early Sunday, the day before the Relay; thousands of stakes and kilometres of tape. Then tents, more tents, signs, tables and boxes. We knew all was going well, when Harold came down after a full day’s work at Slieve Croob and adjusted the curve of one of the run-in lanes. Then we were ready to go, except for some equipment that was still on route. I think our last equipment delivery from Slieve Croob was pre-dawn on the event day, dropped off by a cheerful Ivan Millar.

Winning SYO Team: Credit Brian Ward

On the Relay day we were lucky with the weather. It was an early start and we had a great group of helpers, who despite three previous tough days of competing and/or organising, were still able to focus on the intense relay issues of registration, map issue and directing competitors into the correct lanes.

Our Relay helpers were volunteers from practically every orienteering club north and south; and I am still grateful for how many people turned up to help and how they coped with the high volume of competitors. It was a very busy couple of hours. At the end of the event, everyone, competitors and helpers seemed happy and of course tired.

Somehow after the prize giving, it was quick to pack up the arena, head home and think of the next JK in NI.

Murray Cowan, LVO, JK 2011 Assistant Event Coordinator writes

An event of the importance and scale of the JK is a major undertaking and, for orienteering in Northern Ireland, it was definitely the right ambition at the right time.

Committing to take on the JK is of course the easy part.  The creation and delivery of the premier orienteering festival in the UK is quite another matter.  The way in which the whole team involved in the organisation and delivery of JK 2011 rose to the challenge was an exceptional effort for an all-volunteer venture.  The unrelenting desire to make everything as good as it could be right down to the finest of details was remarkable and made real positive differences which competitors notice and appreciate.  It was a life privilege to be involved – and perhaps dare to say it is time for the next major event in Northern Ireland.

For more information on orienteering in Northern Ireland, a great place to start is with one of our DIY Orienteering courses


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