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Accompanied by some truly cracking sunny weather, the orienteers had some fun on a trains exercise on the comedically out-of-date Highlodge map.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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