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CUOC goes to Jukola

Jukola is the biggest orienteering race in the world, a yearly relay taking place in Finland which should absolutely be at the top of any self-respecting orienteer’s bucket list. Having been rescheduled to August last year, the race was back in its usual midsummer slot, promising light well into the night, speedy forests and some epic racing. Even more happily, the organisers had been lobbied by the political communications wing of CUOC and DrongO to make sure it fell after the end of the Cambridge exams, and before the start of May Week, so really, everything was in place.

And so, Dom, Sarah, James and I (Peter), along with veritable gaggle of DrongO members, made our way out to Finland for the race, being held in the south-western town of Mynamaki. People arrived in dribs and drabs and thus were able to get some practice in the rocky, tricky terrain before the big race. The days before the weekend were glorious and your author even managed some post-training swimming in a small quarry. There was even some attempts at night O, which is rather tricky when it was still patently not dark at 1.15am! I could just hear the voices of those southern Cambridge students waxing lyrical about ‘how armarzzinngg it is in the summmarrr when it gets darrrk at 10 yaaaaa’ – the chumps.

Anyway, race day arrived, and so did the torrential rain. Yippee. First up was Venla, the women’s relay, and it was with great anticipation that we gathered to watch the mass start of over 1500 teams. It really was quite the spectacle, only marginally ruined by the *REDACTED* who held up an umbrella about 5 rows in front of us. If you ever find yourself in the crowd at a rainy Venla, don’t be that guy. Cos we will shout at you violently, and you wouldn’t want that now would you?

Recent alumnus Fiona Bunn was running for her Swedish club on first leg and did a stellar effort to finish comfortably in the top 30, mixing amongst some real BNOCs of Scandi orienteering. Sarah Pedley found herself on second leg for the DrongO team and ran a cracking leg to pull them up to 447th, before Helen Ockenden finished off on fourth leg to take 244th, a great result for team! Venla was undisputedly thrilling to watch, and now those racing in the night were extremely excited/nervous/terrified (delete as appropriate) for what lay ahead…

At this point, your author must make a confession: I was running for Kalevan Rasti’s second team, and was thus granted the privilege of staying in an extremely nice house literally 200m from the start area with all the amenities any Finn could dream of: sauna, hot tub, surround decking, lack of humour etc (just kidding about the last one). Obviously, I was forgoing the true Jukola experience of military tents in the field like the rest of my comrades, but to be honest in the rain I was rather glad of this.

Soon it was time for the Jukola relay, starting at 11pm. The atmosphere and tension in the arena were palpable – I can quite safely say that I have never been so hyped in my life. With a 6 gun volley from the Finnish Defence Forces (personally I would rather like more things in my life to start with such a serenade), we were off for what would ensue to be 80-90 minutes of utter chaos: pushing, shoving, fighting over Emit punches, falling, shouting, swearing, more fighting and even some orienteering in there as well! Special credit should be given to James ‘Balboa’ Ackland, who started in 1213th and managed to work his way through 900 other competitors in the first few kilometres. I am reliably informed by eyewitness Luke Fisher that he was ‘literally swimming’ through middle-aged people up towards the start kite – apparently, some of them even survived his deplorable, unhinged violence.

The first leg was an unbelievable experience, and the torrential rain and not-so-far-off rolls of thunder only added to the surreal feel of it. I finished in 80th, having lost around 30 places late on owing to blindly following some angry Finnish men through practically impenetrable patches of dark green forest when we could have just run round the path – silly me. James should be commended for gaining nearly 1000 places from start to finish – there aren’t many races where you can say that!

Later on in the early light of the morning, Dom Dakin boshed round no bother through the forest to gain over 100 places on 6th leg and bring DrongO 3 up to the 500s, and special mention should be given to recent alumnus Luke Fisher who not only pulled the DrongO team up to a very respectable 127th place finish, but also got the 67th fastest split on his leg – seriously impressive stuff from the wee man in the blue, even if your author did have to dissuade him from going in the start pen about 90 minutes before his sixth leg runner was due. We have to remember that since Luke has not been orienteering since birth, he is in fact a complete beginner, so this sort of amateurism is excusable to an extent.

And with that, Jukola was concluded. An amazing weekend of racing with thousands upon thousands of Scandinavians with stupid little folding stools which they insist on carrying around everywhere – what could be better? Now, thoughts turned to the upcoming May Week, with Dom even managing to get from Finland back to Cambridge for Emma May Ball that same day. Rumour has it that if you open him up, he is made up purely of red bull and blue smarties…

CUOC goes to the British Sprint Championships

On the weekend of the 11th and 12th of June, some CUOCers found themselves competing in the northern powerhouse of Leeds, host of this year’s British Sprint Orienteering Championships, featuring both the Mixed Sprint Relay and Individual disciplines.

First up was the relay at Leeds Beckett University campus, whose main feature appears to be being nowhere near the centre of Leeds. Having survived a berating by messenger by James for his choice of train, your author made it to the arena with 4 minutes to spare before the mass start of the elite race, which featured a wealth of international and domestic talent, as well as James Ackland. His namesake was appearing for his home club and posted an extremely impressive performance on second leg which saw his team leapfrog into second place. Although they ended up in sixth, he can be glad that he didn’t end up with the same fate as my team, who were disqualified after a late mispunch. This is now the second year on the trot that my team has been disqualified from the British MSR (not my fault!), so I look forward to coming back next year as an honorary EUOC member so they too can be eliminated. Mwah hah hah.

All eyes turned to the individual races on Sunday which came in the format of heats and then a final. James cruised through to the M21E final, despite the organisers’ best efforts to pretend that the Aussies and New Zealanders were in fact from Blighty. Sarah Pedley ran well, but unfortunately just missed out on a place in the final in what was a highly competitive women’s field featuring some now world championships medallists. I had a slightly more interesting morning when I was forced to run another course due to lack of maps before then having a nervous wait to see if the results would indeed acknowledge my existence. In the end, it all turned out fine.

The final awaited, in and amongst the multi-level mayhem, the underpass unbelievability, the intricate inexplicableness, the technical treasures of the main Leeds University campus. Geeking (the art of being a bit of a nerd and preparing for the race beforehand) would prove crucial for competitors wishing to move at high speed through this urban jungle. I managed to clinch the victory on M20E by virtue of being the only one who actually went the correct way to the first control, and James finished in joint 14th place on the open category, tying with the first gentleman of British orienteering, Mr Ben Mitchell. Sarah seems to have been disqualified from the B final, but I cannot for the life of me seem to see why: punching an official maybe?

Jokes aside, this was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend of sprinting which just about all ran smoothly, despite the British rail network’s very best efforts. It also served as a nice warm up for what was to come for the more intrepid members of CUOC…

CUOC Turns 50! - Training at Thetford

On Saturday 30th April, CUOC turned 50! Well, not quite. The club actually hit this milestone back in 2020, but owing to two years of restrictions, we decided to just pretend and say it was now. Nothing to do with when we could access Sidney Sussex for a formal dinner. No, no, not at all.

Anyway, our captains Lachlan and Sarah had planned a veritable smorgasbord of orienteering fun to celebrate this joyous day. Unfortunately, their application to Royal Mint for a commemorative coin was rejected, for reason of there being some of 'jubilee' on this year. How disappointing. So, disregarding this completely false story, club members were instead looking forward to a day of training at orienteering's San Siro - Thetford forest. Intricate contours, tricky rock detail, thumping views... Thetford has none of these. But what it did have was some pretty tasty skog and a healthy dose of CUOCers and DRONGOs ready to terrorise anyone unlucky enough to choose that day for outdoor activities.

Your author, after much reflection during the car journey, remarked that the forest felt rather French in some parts. This not entirely unfounded statement was met with ridicule from James Ackland, who is known for his Thetford-bashing and is known to have smeared this forest on many previous occasions. He is to Thetford forest what Alistair Campbell is to low-level conservative backbenchers on twitter. Thank you. Thank you for reading my metaphor.

Accompanied by some truly cracking sunny weather, the orienteers had some fun on a trains exercise on the comedically out-of-date Highlodge map. People should be commended for finding *any* controls, so well done everyone.

Once we had all reconvened, it was time for the real action of the day - the peg race! In a peg race, competitors are sent to do extra controls if they pick up a peg at certain controls, thus the course aims to have a pretty even field, regardless of abilities. The race got off to a shaky start, however, when it transpired that Lachlan had hung the first control in what can only be described as completely and utterly in the wrong place. Not even the right feature. Tut tut. Cue 2 minutes of minor chaos as the orienteers charged ferociously around the forest, hunting for the control and baying for Lachlan's blood. It was DRONGO's Rowan Lee who sniped it first, and from then on, the relay ran more true to form.

The map was slightly inaccurate in places, which definitely increased the fun factor of the training - knowing what the terrain is actually going to look like is just a bit boring. The race continued, and more pegs were pegged onto shirts, leggings, nippl-.... no, don't be so churlish. A special mention should be given to Patrick Pan, for whom this was a first ever experience of forest orienteering! He did extremely well, considering his map was about as accurate as OJ's testimony - well done Patrick. It can only get better.

Your author must confess that James and himself were still recovering from a race the previous evening and thus had thighs which felt they had just been used extensively for HS2 crash resistance testing. This called for an early dip back to the car park, which allowed us the chance to watch a steady stream of runners come crashing out of the undergrowth with a varying number of pegs. DRONGO's Ben Windsor and Matt Vokes led the charge, but it was in fact James Hoad who romped to victory, thanks to his claiming a peg at the first control.

(Nearly) all orienteers made it back for the 4pm notional cut-off and everyone agreed that much fun had been had in the forest. Thanks to Lachlan for putting on the training! As engines spluttered into life and the convoy rolled across the expansive fens towards the towering spires of the old university town, thoughts turned to the next orienteering challenge of the day. I leave you in the hands of Dom to recount the story....

Et voila! The pinnacle of the day had arrived (no offense intended to Lachlan’s previous planning efforts, but he really surpassed himself with this!) So you’ve heard of WOC, WMOC, WTOC… but how about WESOC?! – yes, it was time for the inaugural world e-scooter orienteering champs, utilising Cambridge’s plentiful supply of Voi scooters. Much debate was had as to the name of this specific flavour of ESO: Voi-orienteering, Vo(r)i-enteering, vOi…?

Call it what you like, this could only have been the brainchild of a man who, having had his biked nicked in Michaelmas, took to two (significantly smaller) wheels to whizz around checking control sites for trainings. Teams of three were devoised, and a tense crowd (including many a bemused normal person) watched as the mass start sped off at a leisurely pace of 5mph, courtesy of the pedestrian zone ‘speed’ limits.

Lachlan had been cunning, placing artificial barriers throughout the course, making some routechoices rather cunning. Clearly our outgoing Captain has friends in high places (or at least Voi HQ), as he’d even managed to get the scooters’ geofencing to match up to these barriers – and on account of the “You’re in black tie, strictly no running rule”, there was literally no way through. A particular flowerbed-heavy British Sprints spring to mind as an event that could have done with a bit of geofencing…!

I’ll come clean at this stage and admit that your author has no clue as to which teams were leading, and who actually won – it was all a bit of a coral pink blur! However, in order to win the WESOC, it’s pretty clear to me that you have to be entirely de-voi-d of all fear of falling off your steed. But the main thing to remember is to a-voi-d collisions with (in no particular order) cars, kerbs, and locals – else you may find yourself in-voi-ced for damage (sorry 🙃) Fortunately/remarkably (delete as appropriate) there were no collisions, all courses were correctly completed, and no teams were voi-d (hehe, last one I promise). Only other thing we learnt was that due to the mass migration of the Voi population of Milton into central Cambridge on account of DrongO, our chosen Voi rank actually became full, and so following the instruction of Big Brother Voi, various members had to slink off to dump their scooter somewhere else.

And so it was onto the 50th (+2) anniversary dinner, held at Sidney Sussex College. We unashamedly defer to DrongO’s more promptly published write up for details:

“The food was very tasty and nicely presented. We swapped places between courses to be able to talk to more people. When the eating part was done port was then served, and Richard had organised a fun quiz where you were given a map extract of a CUOC area, and had to identify the area and the mapper. The teams with John O and Ben W in came first and second respectively, which was definitely nothing to do with several of the maps having been mapped by them. Ben W had also collated several pages of memories, news and photos from 52 DrongO members all over the world, which were handed round for everybody to look at. Colin Duckworth then gave a very well thought out speech about a variety of topics relating to his orienteering experiences, including the M25.

Lachlan Chavasse (CUOC Captain), Pete Molloy (CUOC Treasurer), and Ben W (DrongO Captain) then all gave less planned-out speeches, during which Pete told us how CUOC [REDACTED due to allegations of fraud] were going to [encourage] its members to go to Czech Varsity next year. We then took a variety of group photos, and DrongO taught CUOC how to build a human pyramid.”

Celebartions continued in Sidney bar, with some DrongOs even continuing their night in Revs (after a failed attempt to relive their glory days by dashing around Lola's, map in hand!)

Here's to another 50/49/48 years!!

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