A race for the ages

CUOC News. It's been hard to come by of late. Recent lowlights have included an email from our loyal captains announcing the return of their emails and the eventually successful quest to bestow upon our fine members the gift of BOF registration. There was also a stash delivery of shockingly revealing mesh o-tops, the date of which is now lost to the mists of time. The flatlining of the intrigue meter has reportedly caused concern amongst the inhabitants of Thetford Forest, who's beloved locale is at risk of losing its status as the most boring thing to happen to Cambridgeshire orienteering. But on this auspicious day in late February, amidst the seemingly endless abyss of newslessness, there occurred an ewent of seismic consequence.

Two former captains of this fine society, tragically separated by geography, circumstance, and orienteering ability, were reunited by a chance encounter in cyberspace. James is relatively new to the virtual orienteering domain, but sullies online decorum by carrying himself with the arrogant air of a bone fide cybernavigational legend, as evidenced by his writing of this very post. Such arrogance belies a man who feels compelled to make up for piss poor results in real forests with computerised glory. Paul, meanwhile, is a more experienced catcher of features, although he refuses to accept the legitimacy of the game as a true analogue for 'IRL racing'. (We'll see about that come August, Pruzina). The record hiterto is clear, both on- and off-line. Paul: many, James: none.

What then, I hear you cry, is the purpose of this article. Well, dear reader, it is to impart upon you the tale of a fine Catching Features race, some say the finest there ever was, planned by Tomas Lima on the 32-bit representation of Osso da Baleia, a fine Portuguese area in which the sandy paths are "usually slower". Twas a crisp, albeit fictional, summer's day, the Iberian air pierced only by the distant cries of anguish from those CF men and women foolish enough to incur the traditional 10 second penalty for running headfirst into a tree. I made a rapid start, taking a joint-fastest split of just 15 in-game seconds to reach the first control, applying the time-proven method of 'straight is great (and don't bother with the nav)'. Bergman would be proud. Moments of hesitation to controls 2 and 3 through the speedy skog left me slightly off the pace, but then a series of trickier controls caused our fondly-remembered fluid-dynamicist to err this way, that way, forwards and backwards, ultimately avoiding an aquatic return to his motherland by no more than mere good fortune. Perhaps this luck was in fact induced by his careful selection of an Irish flag to accompany his avatar on the online results lists.

Emerging no fewer than 90 seconds behind James at the halfway mark, the scene was clearly set for an Ackland upset. With his hopes of clawing back the lead disappearing in a puff of dust not unlike the virtual Portuguese sand behind his computer-generated legs, soon-to-be-Dr. Pruzina (presumably) sank to his knees in despair, as he conceded a further series of slower losing splits, the humiliation culminating in a loss on the run in. Losing to a 2:36 man on the sprint finish. Let that sink in. Of course, such despair in the final throes of a race is not unfamiliar to our vanquished former captain, who will no doubt remember this race no more fondly than the JK relays in 2019, in which he suffered a devastating 'Pippa Carcas-ing' in front of a throng of delighted Interlopers, EUOCers, and probably some OUOC folks too.

Where next, then, for Paul, having been sunk in such brutal style? Well, when informed of his demise in a post-race interview, he simply replied 'oh yeah', cutting as dejected a figure as is possible to represent in text form, before slinking off into the recesses of Facebook messenger. 'Active 1 hour ago' - the online equivalent of a hasty return to the car park. CUOC wish him well in turning around his fortunes after this defeat, although we won't be surprised if this catastrophe is the beginning of the end for an illustrious Catching Features career - perhaps a hook on the wall beckons for Paul's pixelated boots.

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