Tayside Orienteers


Event Report Scottish Middle Distance Championships

Hill Of Alyth

Tayside's event organiser Fran Loots rounds up the event,

Hill of Alyth Report from the key officials


Organisers comments


What a day. The weather gods were with us. It was blowing a hooly the day before the event which could have meant a very different day. Mostly, everything went smoothly with a great TAY team on the day. As a small club, we were stretched pretty well to our limit but the willingness of people to pitch in and go above and beyond made it a pleasure to run the event on the day.


Only one idiotic action that I clocked: It’s really important to read final details and information!  We had one car which, despite the clear signage, ended up in the farmyard and then proceeded to turn around and boldly enter the car park by the wrong gate. Clubs work hard  to cultivate good relationships with landowners, and this kind of thing doesn’t help! 


Behind the scenes the calm veneer of the day belied some frantic actions. As a virgin organiser for a major event this was a steep learning curve, especially being baptised into the world of SIEntries. Dealing with entries, particularly late entries and allocating start times, was challenging as I knew nothing of the tricks within the system and workarounds. I do now! I think many assume that I have a level of knowledge because I have worked for SOA and been around the scene a long time. Make no assumptions! 


I’m left with a huge gratitude to organisers who have the hard slog to make things happen in the background. Having planned and controlled I definitely think the organiser role is the most difficult. 


In addition to thanks to my TAY members and including the planners Allan Downie and Grant Carstairs, I’d like to thank: Our controller Richard Oxlade(ESOC); Dave Ritchie (YourOMaps) for formatting and printing the maps; Pat Blashill (Stirling Surveys) for the remapping; Robin and Sheila Strain(ELO) for computing support on the day; Nicky Howard (SOA) for getting medals sorted and podium in place along with the new junior tent; Paul Caban (INT) for assistance taking in controls; Alistair Duguid (TAY) who did a lot of behind the scenes support both before and after the event and, from outside the sport: our farmer, Pete Hall, who made the parking field available, Perth and Kinross Council who provided toilets via Scotloo, and the First Aid team F1. 


Fran Loots organiser TAY


Planners Comments

When Tay’s bid to host the Scottish Middle Distance was accepted there was one

area that came to mind as a suitable venue for the event and that was Hill of Alyth. It

was originally mapped in 2013 by Pat Blashill from Stirling Surveys. It was used for a

local event in September of that year but was never used again. One of the reasons

for its lack of use was restrictions on parking. It is a long walk up from Alyth if

approaching the area from the south. Luckily we obtained the use of a parking field in

the north which reduced the climb and distance to the start.

An initial recce in October confirmed the potential of the area for the event but also

the realisation that since grazing has ceased in the area there was significantly

more gorse. Pat Blashill was approached to update the map and he agreed. The

map he produced for the event is excellent and rightly received many positive comments on the day.

We began planning the courses in late December before the final map was produced

but already we realised that to give a degree of challenge for the TD 5 courses that

where possible there should be options for route choice between control sites.

Speaking to competitors afterwards it was reassuring to see that competitors had

chosen the different options, some with regret! In a middle distance race a few

seconds gained can make all the difference. In the women’s open the first five

competitors were only separated by 72 seconds.

Richard Oxlade kindly agreed to control the event and his input and advice was very

much appreciated.

Grant Carstairs and Allan Downie



Controller's Comments

With my SOA hat on I’d firstly like to thank Allan Downie, Grant Carstairs, Fran Loots and the team from Tayside Orienteers for putting on an excellent Scottish Middle Championships. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have enjoyed the area and the courses and it was fantastic to see so many competitors staying for the prize giving.


When I first visited Hill of Alyth it did seem like an excellent area for a Middle Distance Championships. However, the planners and I agreed that it was only going to work if the gorse was mapped almost perfectly. I think  Pat Blashill from Stirling Surveys did a first class job of this and as a result the area almost had an urban feel to it with little alleyways through the gorse and lots of gorse cul de sacs. Arguably this also made it less technical but Allan and Grant created some great courses and I came away with the impression that everyone appreciated running on an atypical new area. The views also helped if you had a chance to look at them.


Unusually these days the map was not LIDAR based so there was one area to the north east (visited by Course 1) that was open to interpretation but the control was hung visibly to avoid any unfairness. Allan and Grant are excellent planners and although mapping was delayed by the poor spring weather I had no problems finding all the tapes (correctly numbered!) amongst the gorse during just one visit in late March. We had the inevitable discussions about course lengths and it was very satisfying to see the Men’s Open won in just over 32 minutes against a target time (for all courses) of 30-35 minutes. All other courses were planned using the British Orienteering Course Length Ratios and winning times were pretty much as expected apart from Course 5 which has led to some discussion about course length ratios for older competitors. This is always difficult owing to a) the number of competitors and b) the grouping of age classes into categories but if anyone has any strong opinions please let me know and we’ll have another look at the competition guidelines.


Thanks again to TAY for a great event


Richard Oxlade



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