Results for Planning Competition 1 - Graythwaite

Brown Long Course

Tue 26 May 2020

The results are as below, the maps may be viewed using the links, thanks to Martin Bagness for doing an excellent job as our first judge.

Position Planner Score (points) Links
1st=  Derek Allison 17 Map
  Carol McNeill 17 Map
  Richard Tiley 17 Map
4th= Nick Howlett 16.5 Map
  Andy Robinson 16.5 Map
6th Jo Cleary 16 Map
7th           Jerry Purkis 14.5 Map
8th           Dave Walton 13 Map
9th           Elizabeth Rocke 12 Map
10th         Loz Colyer 11


Martin's Judging Comments.

Total respect to everyone who entered and got stuck into the challenge! The blank map of Graythwaite is a daunting prospect – with so much going on and so many options it’s hard to know where to start! I hope everyone enjoyed the creative process once they made a start. Please tell your friends to enter the next competition!

The majority of courses were excellent and embraced the long-distance-style brief, with cleverly set long legs, thoughtful use of the area and plenty of variety. I would be pleasantly gobsmacked to pick up any one of these courses on the start line at any level of event, let alone a Cumbria Galoppen!

It was interesting to see how people used the less interesting part of the area – the far northern 500m and the felled / green in the north-east. Some courses, reasonably enough, avoided this altogether with a more convoluted course in the rest of the area. Many courses set a long leg with route-choice picking up sections of paths / rides through the green / felled – a good solution. A few cunningly placed the start in the far north, so they only had to cross this area once. There is only a limited corridor of nice forest linking to the north, and courses using it in both directions ended up with some dull legs, often doubling back on the same paths.

Because there were so many good courses that ticked all the boxes, it was very hard to separate them. I admit to resorting to a negative approach and deducting a few points here and there for minor issues. For example, some courses had weaker sections where the interest waned and the planner could have tried again with a different course shape. There were a couple of cases of unnecessary, steep climbs of 10 contours or so, immediately followed by a similar descent – a personal dislike (my fell-running days are long past!) Some planners didn’t set the short legs with the same care as the long ones, for example too-obvious control features, line features just before the control etc. Some didn’t fully use the best terrain, for example the white slope above the finish, and others over-used it. There were quite a few ‘doglegs’ - very acute angles out of controls – these often result in following the same route in and out of the control, which is boring, and in giving away the control site to other runners. Having said this, it’s impossible to plan the perfect course – compromises always have to be made. Most entrants achieved the important things – lots of off-path running, good long legs, plenty of variety, good use of all the terrain types on offer, a test of a wide range of o-skills, plenty of interest and enjoyment.

There were so many very good courses submitted that it begs the question - why are the courses we actually run at real events so invariably dull and disappointing, not just at local events, but at all levels in Britain? Poor courses let down all the hard work put into other aspects of event organization and can disappoint hundreds of competitors. Many planners set out with no clear mental list of objectives – those things that make a course enjoyable and an all-round test. Legs are seemingly randomly set – often they are all of similar length, with each control plonked in the middle of each block of forest – or even worse, linked by an obvious handrail feature. Too much emphasis is put on the mechanical task of identifying and tagging hundreds of sites, then linking them to create courses with exactly the right winning times and control loading. The more important creative side of planning is often given less priority or glossed over altogether.

It may have helped that this competition had a clear brief and list of objectives, in which case all inexperienced planners simply need some simple instructions and they will produce great courses. More likely, this competition attracted people who were already knew what they were doing, in which case there is a hidden wealth of planning talent in the region which could be used to guide newbie planners.

Obviously we need first time planners, and its sensible that they start with small events, but they have to be given clear guidance – just a simple set of objectives, then someone to check over their courses (by email) and ensure, through constructive suggestions, that they end up being good ones.

The other issue is with experienced planners, often of level A events, who just have no idea. Through mapping, I get to see most course files for major events in the region. Some planners (and even controllers) are only capable of placing and checking control sites using GPS (not reliable enough!). Even in an area as good as, say, High Dam, they would be happy to send everyone across 2km of felled area. These people need to be tactfully retired somehow!

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