Month: March 2022

NZOC2022 – A Half-century in the Making

50 years of New Zealand Orienteering Championships, NZOC2022! 

The last post set the scene for NZOC2022, this post will take readers through a brief history, specifically the road which has brought New Zealand orienteers to this year’s celebration of 50 years of national championships.

1972, the year NASA officially launched its Space Shuttle Program, was also the year of the inaugural New Zealand Orienteering Championships.  Peter Snell presented the trophies for the Auckland event which would launch the annual competition for the next 50 years.  It is a privilege to be part of such a rich history that began some 20 years before I did.  Fast-forward to 2006, and New Zealand orienteers found themselves for the first time competing towards national titles in the Top of the South region.

A thousand or more years ago Kupe’s great journey across the Pacific Ocean reached its zenith in 1642 when Abel Tasman explored the coast of what is now the National Park bearing his name. These words were part of Nic Gorman’s eloquent report on the happenings of the 2006 championships in the now lost New Zealand Orienteering Magazine.  You can read the full article from the 81st Issue below and try guess who features on the front cover, they will be competing at NZOC2022.  In 2006, Canaan Downs was used for the first time for orienteering during a long weekend of racing that featured household names at the top of the leader board in both elite classes.  Chris Forne completed a perfect weekend of racing, taking 3 titles.  He is now 16 years the wiser with multiple World Adventure Racing titles to his name and will be on the start line at NZOC2022.  The big question for many is will his experience pay dividends this year against youthful energy and resurgent forces to consolidate his position as the most decorated New Zealand men’s elite orienteer?  Tania Robinson, Penny Kane and Rachel Smith were the stars of the women’s field in 2006 and produced exciting racing that I am sure will feature again at Easter.  I aim to share a post in the week before NZOC2022 to cover my predictions, albeit unlikely to feature at the TAB any time soon.

The second time that orienteers from around the country navigated for national titles in the Nelson-Tasman region was in 2016 which I wrote about in the previous scene setting post.  I suspect the character of NZOC2022 will be comparable to the 2016 edition, bringing together iconic landscapes and fierce competition in the theatre of racing.

Which brings us back to today, 25 days out from the first race of NZOC2022.  The planning teams have been hard at work, checking control sites and testing courses, and the weekend just been Gillian Ingham conducted her IOF controllers check for the Sprint, Middle and Long, all World Ranking Events.  The terrain is pure, the courses absolute.  The excitement is palpable as numbers head north of 300 just 3 days out from the entries closing.  I recently took part in a radio interview on Fresh FM talking about NZOC2022 and orienteering more generally in the Nelson-Tasman region.  You can listen to this here, should you need some soothing monotonous tones to put you to sleep – a crucial ingredient in anyone’s build-up to a successful national’s campaign.

What have Neil and Michael conjured for the NZOC2022 Middle?
Georgia immersed amongst the ancient beech forests of Canaan Downs

I have now test run courses for all four days of racing.  Each competition will offer a set of unique challenges which will need a composed and skilful mind to navigate through successfully.  In the next post I will write about the technical skills required to achieve clean races; most importantly how to manage the ancient beech forests of Canaan Downs.  This terrain is truly special, the pinnacle of native New Zealand orienteering.  But as with any contest, you must first be in it to win it.  So on the eve of entries closing, there is only one thing left to do.

NZOC2022, enter now.

NZOC2022, Enter Now

NZOC2022 – Setting the Scene

Now we go, the 50th New Zealand Orienteering Championships 2022 (NZOC2022)! 

A major focus for me at present is the delivery of the 50th New Zealand Orienteering Championships which is being hosted in my home region of Nelson/Tasman.  The reinvigoration of this blog, I thought would be a great vehicle to share the project, from both a technical and non-technical standpoint.  This initial post sets the scene for NZOC2022, introduces readers to the remarkable team that has been assembled and provides sneak previews to the maps and terrain that competitors will face come Easter.

Setting the Scene

COVID has fundamentally changed the events landscape in recent years, and orienteering has not been immune.  Fortunately, the O-community has had two very successful national championships the last two years despite the pandemic.  This is the result of the tireless efforts of Orienteering Wellington (2020) and North West Orienteering Club (2021).  Again, this year we as organisers have had to strongly consider the risks presented by COVID, most pressing the timing of the “peak” of the Omicron outbreak.  We have reserved Labour Weekend should the landscape dramatically change for the worse, but with easing restrictions and controls we as organisers can put in place, we are confident that Easter is the best time to host NZOC2022, a decision now supported firmly by ONZ.

The New Zealand orienteering championships has a rich history, and like the sport itself, has been driven by enthusiastic and passionate individuals and clubs.  The first championships were held in 1972 hosted by then Auckland OA and since then every year has seen, in some form or another, a national championships.  This year will be the 50th.

For those who might have forgotten, Stuart Payne collaborated with numerous stalwarts of New Zealand orienteering, to produce “A history of orienteering in New Zealand” which celebrated 40 years of the federation, now ONZ.  Here you can read more on the nationals baton that has been passed from club to club, paving an enduring legacy bringing orienteers to all parts of our beautiful country. 2022 will be the third time that Nelson Orienteering Club (NOC) has hosted the nationals, the first being 2006 followed more recently in 2016.  I was fortunate to compete in 2016 which arguably sparked my love for the Nelson Lakes Region, a stunningly diverse subalpine environment.  My maps and routes from 2016 are available here.

NZOC2016 Middle
Nelson Lakes, Top of the South

I am truly excited to be part of the core organising team for NZOC2022, bringing Canaan Downs to orienteering at the mapping quality it so deserves, along with the iconic areas of Nelson College and Moturoa (Rabbit Island).  The vision of NZOC2022 is to showcase the stunning paradise for outdoor recreation and pursuits, that is Top of the South, through a high quality and memorable festival of orienteering.

The Team

To deliver NZOC2022, we have positioned none other than the King of Adventure, Nathan Fa’avae as the Event Director.  Michael Croxford, who has inspired orienteering in the region, is overseeing all technical matters, for which there is almost a mountain to overcome in organising such a high-quality national-level event.  I am working closely with both Nathan Fa’avae and Michael in a role that I can only aptly describe as the event workhorse (/project manager).  Alongside us is Jodie Fa’avae (People), David Mangnall (H&S), Daniel Penney (Tech) and Tracy Allan (Marketing). I am especially proud of the team of Planners and Controllers that has been assembled.  They will be profiled along with some of their thoughts on how best to handle each days unique challenges in later posts.  To host a national championship requires an army of volunteers, and with NOC having been the largest O-club in New Zealand in 2019, there is a large pool of talented and dedicated members to draw upon.  My goal is to bring as many club members as possible along for the fun ride that will be NZOC2022.

NZOC2022 Event Team

The Terrain (and map samples)

When I moved to Nelson in 2019, I was blown away by the diversity of terrain the region has to offer.  It was not long before I dubbed it as the next meca of orienteering, extending the meca of adventure sports that it is already known for.  For NZOC2022, we went through 6 event configurations before finally converging on what we thought would balance unique orienteering experiences on world class terrain with the logistics to manage both COVID and event attributes to make it memorable.

NZOC2022 Map Samples

Friday 15th will be the Sprint Distance held at Nelson College and Braemar Campus. This icon of Nelson, visible from the numerous surrounding high points, was established in 1856 and is New Zealand’s oldest state school.  Somewhat fitting then to host the most recently introduced individual discipline of orienteering.  The map will have three distinct terrain types which will test all aspects of one’s sprint repertoire:

  1. Nelson College: multi-level campus with staircases, ramps, paths and walkways which weave between a mixture of building size, age and type.
  2. Braemar Campus: intricate network of paths and covered walkways linking a range of buildings on a rolling campus.
  3. The Woodlands: forested slopes with hidden glades and a network of paths constructed by students.

Saturday 16th will be the Middle Distance held on Canaan Downs South and Sunday 17th will be the Long Distance held on Canaan Downs North.  The vegetation cover is a mixture of open farmland, regenerating low viz scrub and native beech forest reminiscent of Waikaia at it’s best.  The landforms include fields of karst sinkholes, intricate marble outcrops, granite boulder fields and vague bush clad hillsides.  Bryan Teahan has done a truly remarkable with mapping, which I am confident does justice to the spectacular landscape.  I will cover the mapping, with input from all mappers across NZOC2022, in a future post.  But for now, some quick statistics about the Canaan Downs mapping project from Bryan himself.

  • Area: 10.3 km2
  • Time: 393 total hours – 35 hours prep, 204 hours fieldwork, 148 cartography, 6 hours finalisation
  • Longest Day: 10 hours, plus 2 hours travelling
  • Climate: 34% of all fieldwork days were very wet

Monday 18th will be the Relay held at Moturoa West (Rabbit Island).  This terrain form is more familiar to New Zealand orienteers, but more diffuse contours and areas of lower visibility, are likely to test everyone under the added pressure of intense relay racing.

We are now 40 days until the first race kicks off for NZOC2022.  Planning is well underway, and the excitement is building.  Hopefully our Event Director emerges from GODZone well rested and filled with fresh ideas.  The COVID situation is omnipresent, and I really hope, as we all, the situation does not deteriorate beyond the capacity society can adequately manage.  My plan is to release several more NZOC2022 posts in the coming weeks, to raise the profile of the event as well as providing insight to the challenges and rewards that come with organising a major event such as this.

NZOC2022, now we go.

NZOC 2022, Enter Now