Originally set up by the Scandinavian military to teach keep their troops physically fit and to help with their map reading skills. Orienteering has blossomed into one of Ireland’s best loved alternative sports.
The sport is one of many that’s funded by the Irish Sports Council. There are three different ways that you can get involved in the sport. You can attend a “Come and Try It” event which are specifically designed for newcomers. Or you can join one of the 14 different orienteering clubs in the country.There are 6 cubs situated in leinster and 3/4 in the South east region alone. There is also the associations “active calendar” which is an up-to-date list of all events that take place throughout the coming year. The association is also launching a “Summer Series” this summer, which is specifically designed to introduce families to the sport.
The website (http://www.orienteering.ie) is the best source of information for anyone that is newcomer to the sport. They have some brilliant instruction videos on not only the rules and regulations of the sport but what type of gear you need to compete. These videos even have views from Sweden and Norway. The facebook page has over 800 followers, which communications director Finn Van Gelderen describes as “100% organic followers, as we haven’t bought any advertising to promote the site. The main aim of any of our social media platforms is to funnel people back to the website, as we believe that it’s by far the best source of information for not only seasoned competitors but also to novices.”
When asked about other ways that the Association have tried to encourage new members Van Gelderen adds “We’ve launched a summer series this year, that’s specific aim is to try and introduce families to the sport. There are a wide range of different courses, that are suitable for all ages. Some small kids see going round a course as like doing a treasure hunt, which is brilliant. The series finishes up at the end of the summer in Hollywood Co. Wicklow, with a big BBQ and party.”
What is becoming more and more common now is the establishment of urban courses. Schools or colleges can be mapped and used as by clubs. These are usually “Sprint” events meaning that they’re shorter course than the traditional ones. Both UCD and Trinity run such competitions and our great ways for people to get involved too.
This past Saturday there was a Come and Try It event in UCD, which was attended by just under 100 people. The event is aimed to try and introduce people to the sport and get people involved in orienteering. Obviously running around UCD is quite different to the forests that would usually be used as courses. These events are normally held nearer to Dublin or cities instead of out in the country, to try and encourage the highest levels of participation.
Urban Orienteering is becoming more and more popular. Colm Moran is captain of the UCD Orienteering club explains how it differs from the more traditional form of the sport. “Urban is much more about being quick and making good decisions. It’s relatively easy to be able to navigate your way around a college, so it’s more about seeing how to get the quickest possible route. You don’t want to run around a corner and then be stuck in front of a wall or some awkward obstacle. The normal form is more about endurance and your ability to be able navigate more complicated terrain.”
Moran’s been involved in the sport since he was ten years old, “My mum used to bring me and my brothers and sisters to the events, we’d maybe go one Sunday a month to an event. It was great because it’s really for all ages, from the age of ten up orienteering can cater for all ages. Obviously running around UCD is quite different to the forests that would usually be used as courses. These events are normally held nearer to Dublin or bigger cities instead of out in the country, to try attract as many people as possible and encourage the highest levels of participation.”
Obviously a vital aspect of the orienteering is the map. Crucially, it is the clubs that pay for the mapping of courses and not the association. So if clubs want to create a new course or update an old one, fundraising for their incredibly accurate maps (1.5000 or 1.10000) must be done.
How they map their courses is incredibly interesting. This is done by a method called Lidar (Laser Illuminated Detection And Ranging) Mapping. The association gets an additional 20-23 thousand euros to help with this process. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes it as follows “This method uses a pulsed laser to measure the range of the earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.”
Targeting people in schools is the most ideal place admits Van Gelderen. “There’s a primary schools event that takes place in May and we’re expecting nearly 700 kids to be participating in it. One of the main reasons why you would chose to get involved in orienteering is that it’s a sport for all ages. All levels and abilities are catered for. It is inclusive of the whole family, and there’s a great social element to the whole day.”
Most people get involved in it through Scouts or in school. Whenever our club goes to league or championship events, some of the older members are really helpful with lifts and stuff. They really encouraging to some of the younger members, because they can see where we’re coming from. Some of us are just beginners while others are more experienced. Moran
They have also linked up with Coillte, which manages Irish forestry to make permanent courses. So whenever you feel like doing an orienteering course all you need to do is print off the map and head outside.
By Daniel Pim