SHI 2014 – Team Manager’s Report
Deeside, Scotland, 18-19 October 2014
England Team Manager’s Report
The 2014 Senior Home International was hosted by Scotland as part of the Race the Castles event. There was an inaugural Sprint Home International in Edinburgh and Stirling on the 11th and 12th October with the main Senior Home International taking place the following weekend in Deeside. The Individual race was held in conjunction with the World Ranking Event on the Queen’s Balmoral estate and the Relays on the Sands of Forvie, just north of Aberdeen. The Race the Castles event was the brainchild (and coordinated by) Graeme Ackland with the SHI coordination done by James and Jess Tullie. The combination led to two excellent competitions, a fantastic evening’s entertainment at Balmoral and ideal accommodation in Ballater.
The combination of a WRE, with the opportunity to compete against some of the best orienteers in the world, and a brand new (never before used for orienteering) area proved to be very attractive. Unusually, England was able to field an almost full first-choice team.
In the Individual races England convincingly won W20 but came second in the other three classes to the Scots. This gave the Scots a 28 to 24 point lead overnight. On the Sunday the girls finished a magnificent first and second in the relay with the men in second and fifth. So England won the relays by a point but this wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit from the Individual, meaning Scotland won by 53 points to 50.
The England team were accommodated at Habitat bunkhouse in Ballater. Packed lunches were provided and dinner on Saturday evening was laid on in a function suite to the rear of Balmoral Castle. The excellent hog roast was appreciated by all (with the exception of a couple of vegetarians!) and those who still had energy managed to join in with the lively Ceilidh.
Some team members were already up in Deeside taking the opportunity to join the WOC 2015 training camps. Others booked flights to Aberdeen from various departure points across England and others drove up to Deeside.
Day 1 Individual
The Assembly Area was in a perfect setting with Balmoral Castle in the background. We drove into the Estate past the private Royal golf course to find the finish set up on the cricket ground. The weather was perfect for late October; mild and sunny but with a strong breeze. No one knew quite what to expect from the area as it was completely new to orienteering. Early indications from the radio controls suggested it was going to be tough. It was quite a while before anyone broke 2 hours on M21.
The M20s were the first to start as they had to be out of the way for the women running the WRE on the same course. Aidan Smith performed well, winning the class (and just beating the time of the top women) but the others struggled physically. Scotland finished in 2nd and 3rd giving them the class victory. Our best result came in W20 with Zoe Harding and Lucy Butt finishing 1st and 2nd to give us a convincing win in that class.
In M21 and W21 we had more than our fair share of misfortune. Graham Gristwood got washed away whilst crossing an in-spate river (where most people ran a little further to use a bridge) and lost his SI card. He would undoubtedly have gone on to produce a high class result but this probably wouldn’t have altered the result in M21. The other men were well packed in mid-field giving us 2nd place in M21, just ahead of Ireland.
In W21 we only just managed the required four finishers. Rebecca Harding, stepping up to join the team the night before (replacing the ill Sarah Rollins) performed admirably, as did Tessa Hill and Charlotte Watson. Unfortunately both Ruth Holmes (foot injury) and Catherine Taylor (shoe failure) had to retire. This handed Scotland victory in W21 by the very small margin of two places and led to a 4 point swing from England to Scotland which was to prove decisive. Scotland won the Dolgellau Bowl for the leading team after the first day’s competition.
Individual Team Results
Day 2 Relay
A complete contrast to the terrain for the Individual, the Sands of Forvie is an area of open sand dunes on the coast north of Aberdeen. Most of the area is covered in heather, making the going heavier than usual for sand dunes. The weather was again favourable, although the strong wind did add a bit of a chill factor and make pitching tents difficult.
As last year, England placed a confident first and second in the Women’s Relay. The first placed team consisted of Lucy Butt, Bex Harding and Cat Taylor. The second team was Tessa Hill, Charlotte Watson and Zoe Harding. The Men’s Relay teams finished second and fifth, with the Scots in 1st and 3rd and an Irish team 4th counter. The top placed England team consisted of Aidan Smith, Dave Schorah and Graham Gristwood. Both Men’s and Women’s relays were larger than usual with a number of international teams joining the race. There was a risk that this could have affected the outcome of the SHI but this worry proved unfounded. The open sand dunes meant good visibility which led to some good head-to-head racing as long as one kept in contact and avoided being led into the wrong ‘gaffle’.
Relay Team Results
Huge thanks are due to Graeme Ackland who co-ordinated the whole week and to the SOA (and in particular local clubs MAROC and GRAMP) for hosting the weekend. Also to SHI coordinators James and Jess Tullie who were very helpful, particularly with the late changes.
My thanks also to the England team members for advice and generally helping to make my job easy over the whole weekend.
England SHI Team Manager