After a gruelling 3 year hiatus, it’s finally back. The pinnacle of the UK orienteering calendar, the race every serious competitor focuses their training around, with everyone that matters and no one that doesn’t in attendance. That’s right - this weekend marked the hotly anticipated return of the DRONGO Easter Egg Hunt. However, since only one current CUOCer turned up, there’s a slight dearth of content, so this article will instead focus on the supporting act of the JK races, which were conveniently scheduled to take place in the surrounding area of South Wales on the same weekend.
Day 1 saw the ghosts of CUOC past, present and yet to come (more on that later), descend on Swansea University, whose motto is “Gweddw crefft heb ei dawn”, which is Welsh for “straight is great”. This turned out to only be true for the Northernmost section of the courses, which were in a section of parkland so dreary that we might have to use it for a Wednesday training next year. The rest of the area, however, was a sprint orienteering paradise. Large university buildings allowed for technical route choice problems, before a section through the arboretum to throw off those who believe sprint races shouldn’t involve the use of a compass.
Our very own Peter Molloy boshed his way to silver on M20E, which translated to a very handy 5th in the combined M18/20/21 rankings. Exactly 1 minute slower was James, followed by Olly, in a strong 5th on M20E, just 10 seconds shy of the podium. Ben Windsor (alias Mr. DRONGO/Pizza Boy/Wen Bindsor) was the fastest man sporting the soon-to-be legendary DRONGO sprint vest. Grey came agonisingly close to beating Oxford’s very own care home escapee Aidan Smith, who recently competed in his 87th Men’s Varsity match (where - as you may remember - we won). Dom ‘the influencer’ Dakin collected himself some nice scalps on the results list, but this only partially makes up for his disappointingly low count of 2/7 social media logos (yes, you can have LinkedIn on there).
Meanwhile, none of the CUOC women raced, which wasn’t very fun of them, so the only news of note from the Women’s side came in the form of Oxford taliswoman Miss Molloy’s fall from Grace (see what I did there?). Her seemingly fast time transpired to be the result of not actually going to all the controls, which is cheating.
On day 2, former captain and present man with a squirrel on his head Paul Pruzina declared that the ‘real orienteering’ would begin. Before that, though, all competitors were treated to a poster advertising CUOC to incoming freshers. This almost obscene level of organisation could have been the work of only one man (although James did at least pretend it might have been Sarah to be polite). While Mr Dakin’s efforts on behalf of the club are surely impressive, such dedication to the club and forward-planning prowess is frankly unbecoming of the office of the CUOC captaincy, which has a proud tradition of mediocrity. Questions must now be asked of his suitability to the position for which he is rumoured to be a frontrunner.
Out in the ‘forest’, which was actually a big sod-off marsh, the stand-out performance once again belonged to our M20 maestro, Mr Molloy, who massacred the opposition over the reduced-distance course to win by over 90 seconds. Olly lost time early on, but got down to business in the second half to finish in a respectable 6th. Sarah began her JK campaign, taking 38th on Women’s elite, while Beth was 4th on W20L, and Rachel just nipped inside the hour mark for 18th on W21S. On Men’s elite, Lachlan took 45:30 in an attempt to find out how long he would have liked the Varsity match to have been. Dom was 49th in 42:51, a little over a minute down on Grey, who was this time on the satisfying side of the nearest Oxford opposition, showing Tom Wood how it’s done. James had a suspiciously good run for 6th, and would kindly ask you to absolutely not compare his splits for controls 10-17 to those of home clubmate and eventual winner Sasha Chepelin.
Back in the arena, James explained himself to an onslaught of people barely concealing their shock at his placing (and also to Grace, who went straight for the jugular, hence your dear author’s retrospective delight in her Day 1 exploits). Elsewhere, Pete met David Hanstock (Sidney Sussex, 1974), who, presumably recognising his handiwork on one of our… let’s say “ultralight” mesh shirts, revealed that he was the original designer of the CUOC logo. On behalf of former CUOCers Aidan and Paul, who are responsible for recent sartorial atrocities in the club, we wish to apologise for the association of such a fine piece of graphic design with such vulgar garments. Meanwhile, Dom’s poster campaign was proving a success, with various offer holders declaring themselves, which is good. Official press & publicity policy prevents me from naming names, but basically Oxford had better get used to losing varsity matches.
Day 3 was held just across the vaaalleeeeyy (you know how to say it) from the inappropriately-named ‘Big Pit’, which DRONGO have ascertained is actually quite small by mining standards. In amongst the steam railway and big ol’ bits of mining equipment is Pwll Du, brutally stripped of both coal and vowels by a century of mining by burly Welshmen. The area itself is almost entirely mapped as rough open, which makes it difficult to differentiate between the surprisingly fast scree and the stunningly unfast marshes.
Today was a day of military consistency in results for club members. Matthew, Sarah and Rachel all matched their placings from Day 2 precisely. Pete again took the win on M20, but this time with only a perilous 9-second insurance from what is known in the industry as ‘a Gooching’. Olly went from 6th to 5th, and James from 6th to 8th. Lachlan slightly ruined the fun by improving his 59th to 39th, but the conclusion can still be drawn that day 3 of the JK is effectively redundant for those running for CUOC (r(4) = .958 [.656, .996], p < 0.05). Less statistical stories of the day include Lachlan’s 3-minute victory over Dom, which was just enough to overtake him in the combined rankings, and James’ 100-minute slog on M21E, which culminated in a loud reception on the run-in, which was nice because it meant there was some second-hand noise for winner on the day Will Gardner who finished (and I cannot emphasise this enough) just behind.
On the fourth day CUOC emerged once more, in various states of bedragglement, for the relays. 3 days of JKing is tough on the body, so it was absolutely no comfort at all to find that the relays were on a cross-country course cunningly disguised as a military base. Although there was no CUOC team, there were notable performances from various CUOCers, starting with Pete Molloy (who’da thunk it), who shot out of the gates on leg 1 for 6th to give FVO a battling chance of a medal. His team mates blitzed through the rest of the race, but their gallantry was only sufficient for 2nd place in the end. James was somewhat less explosive, finishing 12th, but setting up INT for a handy 4th, courtesy of strong runs from his comrades. SquaDRON GOld came back 11th, with notable performances from Luke (5th on leg 2), and Ben (7th on leg 1, but the more important thing being his impressive-but-not-obviously-effective two-footed fence hopping technique). Olly ran for BOK Massive Attack, who don’t need a military pun, while Sarah took her marching orders from EPOC, and Dom led the charge for an SYO team. Lachlan, Grey and Rachel all decided to dodge the bullet of the relays, and tactically retreated on Sunday instead.
And with that, dear reader, this CUOC JK report comes to a close. Members dispersed back around the country, presumably beginning to make preparations for their Easter-term exam caves (your author wouldn’t know, as you’ll be no-doubt delighted to be reminded). Congratulations and/or commiserations to all as appropriate, and I hope no-one else returned with as much Welsh undergrowth embedded in their hands as I did.