Orienteering has been described as “running while playing chess” and “cunning running”. It is easy to learn how to orienteer, but the challenges the sport provides are endless. Orienteering offers an intellectual challenge in addition to ordinary physical exercise.
Orienteering is a sport for everyone, despite the age and experience. Orienteering sport is famous for many mass events, in which elite orienteers and recreational orienteers, men and women, young children and over 90-year-olds can enjoy the sport together. Orienteering is a sport for the whole family – a real sport for all.
Orienteering is not an expensive sport. A map and a compass, and suitable outdoor clothes are all you need to get started.
Orienteering can be practised almost anywhere in the world, in all kinds of terrain from parks to deserts. Orienteering terrain varies from dense, impassable bushes to treeless areas, and from mountains to plains. There are several different forms of orienteering. The international Orienteering Federation (IOF) is the world governing body for foot-orienteering, ski-orienteering, mountain bike orienteering and trail orienteering.
Competitive orienteering involves using a detailed map and a compass to navigate one’s way round a course with designated control points which are drawn on the map. On the route, orange and white control markers are set in the places that correspond to the points on the map. The competitors punch their control cards at each control point. The winner of the competition is the participant who has used the shortest time to visit the control points in numerical order. Fast running alone does not make you a winner. You must also choose the best route between the control points and find the markers without wasting unnecessary seconds.
Do you want to know more about orienteering? Please contact the orienteering federation in your country or visit web site of IOF (International Orienteering Federation) http://www.orienteering.org
Foot orienteering is an endurance sport which involves a huge mental element. There is no marked route – the orienteer must navigate with map and compass while running. The map gives detailed information on the terrain such as hills, ground surface, obstacles etc. To be successful in foot orienteering, the athlete needs excellent map reading skills, absolute concentration and the ability to make quick decisions on the best route while running at high speed.
Orienteers run over rough ground, completely unprepared forest terrain or rough open hills – cross country in the true sense of the word. Therefore, considerable body strength and agility is needed. Fitness similar to that of a 3000m steeplechase or marathon runner is required.
There is a wide variety of orienteering events: individual competitions and relays, ultra-short park races and mountain marathon events. Night orienteering with the aid of a head lamp is also a popular form of orienteering.
In uneven numbered years, the best foot orienteers in the world fight for the World Champion titles, whilst the victory of the World Cup is at stake in even numbered years. The programme of the World Championships includes three competitions for both women and men; classic distance, short distance and relay.
Foot orienteering became a recognized Olympic sport in 1977.
RACING SUIT: A lightweight, stretchy suit protects from undergrowth whilst allowing maximum freedom of movement even if it gets soaking wet.
SHOES: Light, strong shoes with non-slip soles allow sure grip on all types of ground – including mud and bare rock.
MAP: The map provided by the organiser shows the course with the control points which must be visited. The map is designed to give detailed information on the terrain – hills, ground surface, and features such as boulders or cliffs.
COMPASS: There is a wide variety of sophisticated compasses to choose from. Basically they can be divided into two main categories: base plate and thumb compasses.
CONTROL CARD: To prove that they have visited all control points in the right order, the orienteers have to punch their control card at each control using an electronic device.
Short Description of Ski Orienteering
Ski orienteering is a cross-country endurance winter sport. Similar to the orienteering disciplines practised in the summer season, ski orienteering requires an extremely high level of both physical and mental fitness. An elite level ski-orienteer needs excellent skiing and map reading skills – and the ability to combine those two. The athlete has to take hundreds of route choice decisions at high speed during every race.
The prepared ski tracks are of various quality. Throughout the competition the ski orienteer has to make decisions about which route is the fastest between the controls. The route choice is made on the basis of the quality of the ski tracks, gradient and distance, all of which can be read from the map.
In respect of physical condition, ski orienteering is comparable with marathon running or cross-country skiing. To be successful in ski orienteering, the athlete must master all skiing techniques, classical and free technique as well as all general downhill and turning techniques.
World Championships in ski orienteering are held every even numbered year, and the World Cup is organised in uneven numbered years. The programme includes competitions in long distance or medium distance, short or super-sprint distance, and relay for both women and men.
Having its origins in the 1890s, ski orienteering is a sport with long traditions. Ski orienteering became a recognized Olympic sport in 1949.
RACING EQUIPMENT: Ski orienteers use the same kind of racing skis, ski poles, suits, boots and bindings as cross-country skiers.
MAP HOLDER: A specially designed map holder attached to the chest makes it possible to view the map at competition speed while skiing at full speed.
MAP: The map provided by the organiser shows the control points which must be visited. The map is designed to give all the information the competitor needs in order to decide which route is the fastest, such as the quality of the tracks, gradient and distance.
COMPASS: The compass is attached to the map holder or to the skier’s arm.
CONTROL CARD: A control card is attached to the competitor’s arm. At each control, the competitor punches the card as proof of having visited that control.
Short Description of Mountain Bike Orienteering
Mountain bike orienteering is an endurance sport attracting both orienteering and mountain bike enthusiasts. The most important orienteering skills needed are route choice and map memory. Extremely good bike handling and ability to cope with steep slopes both up and down is an absolute must for a top level athlete.
Mountain bike orienteering can be practised in many different types of terrain. The essential requirement is a large number of paths, tracks and roads offering the athlete challenging navigation. Navigating between control points means matching map to ground at high speed, correctly interpreting the maze of paths and tracks.
As an environmental safeguard, competitors may not leave paths and tracks.
Mountain bike orienteering is the newest of the orienteering disciplines administered by the International Orienteering Federation. It started in the late 1980s at club level in countries where mountain biking was a popular outdoor sport. In 1997 national championships were already run in 12 countries – and the number is rapidly growing.
World Championships in mountain bike orienteering will be organised every second year from 2002 onwards.
MAP: The map provided by the organiser can be a special mountain bike map, a ski orienteering map or an amended foot orienteering map.
COMPASS: The compass is attached to the competitor’s arm or to the map holder.
MAP HOLDER: A map holder (map case) attached to the bike or to the competitor’s chest makes it possible to view the map at high speed without stopping.
HELMET: A hard helmet is compulsory.
BIKE: Competitors use robust mountain bikes. For safety reasons, the condition of the bike (e.g. brakes) is checked by the organiser before the start.
TOOLS: Competitors may carry tools and replace spare parts but may not seek or obtain help to carry out repairs.
Short Description of Trail Orienteering
Trail orienteering is an orienteering discipline centered around map reading in natural terrain. The discipline has been developed to offer everyone, including people with limited mobility, a chance to participate in a meaningful orienteering competition. Manual or electric wheel chairs, walking sticks, and assistance with movement etc. are permitted as speed of movement is not part of the competition.
Trail orienteers must identify on the ground control points shown on the map. As this is done from a distance, both able-bodied and participants with disabilities compete on level terms. Proof of correct identification of the control points does not require any manual dexterity, allowing those with severely restricted movement to compete equally. Most trail orienteering events have classes open for everyone.
European Championships in trail orienteering have been organised every year since 1994. Athletes who cannot participate on reasonably equal terms in the sport for able-bodied people because of a functional disadvantage due to a permanent disability are eligible for the event (i.e. the same criterion as for participation in the Paralympics).
The first ever World Cup in trail orienteering was held in 1999.
MOBILITY AIDS: Any recognised mobility aids, apart from a combustion engine vehicle, are permitted. Requested physical assistance is also permitted.
MAP: The competitor interprets the map to choose which one of the control markers in the terrain represents the one marked at the map.
CONTROL CARD: Trail orienteers use a multiple choice control card.