VHI Report 2008

Autumn heralds the home international season and with it comes not only the uncertainty of the weather but also in recent times the uncertainty of the result.  This year’s VHI competition held in Northern Ireland in conjunction with their annual championships, definitely lived up to that. Contrasting weather, close competition and contrasting fortunes too along the way as many will long remember anxiously waiting on the finish line for the final runners hoping to spot an England top.

For those not familiar with the competition, teams have two runners in each age group from M/W35 to M/W60 for a total of 24 runners. The competition is scored on total points and everyone counts. In the individual with 2 runners in a class from each country this year a class winner scored 10 down and it went down to 3 points for 8th (or 0 for DNS/DSQ.) Relay teams have 4 runners, 2 men 2 women, with varying leg lengths and balanced across the age groups. Points for the relays total about half that of the individual, with 4 of a country’s 6 teams counting..

The individual was at Magilligan Sands, the British Championships area in 2002, organised by North West Orienteering Club. Saturday dawned grey and damp and this was probably the best of the day as the biting winds soon brought driving rain to the exposed area. On the start line the teams huddled closely in a tent pitched to half height in the hope it didn’t blow away. Once out in the area  runners needed to concentrate and find the right balance of  head down because of the conditions and head up to take advantage of the open terrain and other competitors in a short start block.

The individual result has been very close in the last few years and unfortunately this year we were once again narrowly second to an excellent performance by the Scottish team. They scored 181 to our 177. Orienteering is a sport of ‘ifs and buts’ and of course it is possible to look at the overall results and see how a shift of ten seconds here or there would have made the difference. There were some fine individual runs by English runners. We managed three class winners: congratulations to Clive Hallett, Michael Napier and Liz Godfree. Michael said he was particularly pleased after how he had run in 2002! There were also 2nd places from Charlie Adams, Lesley Ross, Jane Morgan, Beryl Offley and Peter Gorvett, and 3rd places from Jeff Pyrah, Quentin Harding, James Crawford, Beth Clayton, Jackie Hallett, and Sarah Brown.

In terms of the weather the relay held at Woodburn Forest organised by Lagan Valley Orienteers couldn’t have been more of a contrast. We sat under a cloudless sky in bright sunshine by the side of the reservoir in peace and quiet of the early morning – a true lull before the storm of competition. Prior to the start, the controller Wilbert Hollinger instructed team managers to pass on a warning about the man eating ditches with steep slippery banks. Unfortunately within 50 meters of the competition getting under way, first leg runner James Crawford fell badly in one of the ditches, breaking both wrist bones and dislocating many of the bones in his hand. He was able to get back to the start and was quickly taken to hospital by some of the Irish organisers accompanied by Mike Godfree who was with the English team. Many thanks to those people for their care and concern.

One team down – five left in the competition. Unfortunately we lost another team on the second leg because of a mispunching, and that left us with only four teams running and all of them to count. It was a very tense half hour or so of waiting, watching and wondering as we scanned the forest for the incoming runners. Last leg runners were aware of what was at stake and yet all put in wonderful runs under the huge amount of pressure.  This was really highly creditable. In the end it was our fourth team’s final leg runner Amanda Crawshaw (running with Jason Howell, Jim Prowting and Sheila Carey) overhauling 4 other teams that meant we won by the minimum possible margin of two points. Not enough to take the overall win but I felt we very much deserved the relay trophy. Well done to all runners and in particular our top placed team, second overall, of Jackie and Clive Hallett, Michael Napier and Jane Morgan.

Over the weekend everyone played a part either in the relay or the individual or both. The whole team effort made the result very close. As noted above the slender Scots win in the individual was less slender than our win in the relays, so with an overall 269 to 267 win, the Micklegate Bar Trophy has made its way north of the border. Of course it would have been good to win overall but it will make us even keener for next year, especially as it is England’s turn to host.

Thanks to everyone who helped in some way with putting on the weekend – planning, controlling, sorting out entries, food and accommodation. My thanks especially to Ruth Blair who was the principal contact for the VHI aspects. It is a beautiful part of the world and the magnificence of the Giant’s Causeway  I can assure you is enhanced by horizontal rain. We also discovered a little gem near Armoy called ‘The Dark Hedges’. It is a beautiful avenue of ancient beech trees which have grown to form a cathedral-like roof across the road. Highly recommended.

On behalf of the team I would also like to wish James Crawford a very speedy recovery and return to competitive orienteering.
Sarah Brown
England VHI Team Manager

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