EUOC, not to be confused with EUOC, is good fun. Yes, this year's European University Orienteering Championships, with it's notable absence of those reading their degrees North of the border, was a great success for our esteemed club, a success which will be discussed forthwith.
It was five intrepid (for how else should a CUOC website report describe its members) CUOC members who assembled in the old mining city of St Gallen to compete for the light blue against some of Europe's finest university orienteering clubs, and also Oxford. Peter and James, fresh off a training tour (the details of which are expounded in a previous edition) were first to arrive. As is now established tradition in the club, the Forgery Act 1913 was swiftly violated to allow the smoother operation of club administration, and maps firmly in hand, they were taken to their hotel by the team attaché. To our not insubstantial chagrin, this would prove to be our final encounter with said attaché, but presently blind to this fact, we enjoyed the thin facade of luxury in which the Swiss opt to enshroud their event organisation.
Any idea that the orienteering might be as smooth as the transmission on our attaché's Mazda was quickly dismissed upon our arrival at the middle model area. Vegetation and mapping quality alike had us scraping the metaphorical barrel of metaphors - a slope as steep as a Swiss public transport ticket, a block of green as enjoyable as a night out in Cambuslang; a pit mapped with all the conviction of a JCR president. Upon request for further comment on the terrain, James opted for 'no', while Anna, who for narrative reasons has now arrived at the area, opted for "thanks, I hate it". Every non-English speaker had understood from the programme that showers were available at the model area, but your CUOC delegation found no evidence for this, and so thanks to the aforeunmentioned Saharan heat, a very smelly and poorly-dressed return through the city centre was in order. The fashionistas of St Gallen city centre (a trendy area first settled by the Greeks in around 800 BC) were, it's fair to say, less than impressed by the DRONGO mesh and full Kalevan kit on offer.
The next day - by which time Kevin, Tom and Anna had all arrived in both human and literary form - we went to the sprint model, where very little happened. Peter found plenty of controls and declared at our evening meeting that 'at the end of the day it's just a sprint, we've all done it before, and we all know what we're doing'. Reader, this is foreshadowing. The opening ceremony featured yodelling, which is less cool than you think it is, a man making music with a coin and a tin, which is exactly as cool as you think it is, and four clones who gave identicate speeches on behalf of organisations that are all, apparently, very important. The highlight of the ceremony was Kevin bearing the Cambridge flag, which received rapturous applause. The lowlight was the mere single rendition of the FISU national anthem, which wasn't even the spicy remix featuring a children's choir. At last, we were released to enjoy the traditional Gallonial (that's the demonym for St Gallen) specialty of sultana curry, first brought the city by Franz Imhof, a fourteenth-century merchant whose direct descent Beat (yes, really) was one of the mappers for the competition.
On Friday it was finally time to do some racing. We rose early, except for Peter who rose *stupidly* early to go for a shakeout, and made our way to quarantine. The day's first quarantine was brief, at least for your dear author, who had a very early start thanks to the extremely high banter level "total randomisation" approach the organisers had taken to the start list. James had a terrible run and believed he had failed to qualify for the final, and thus did the only reasonable thing by having a massive petulant radge (technical term) in the finish chute. During this, his SI card slid away on the very shiny floor, forcing him to crawl around looking for it underneath tables and chairs while a group of Swiss officials watched on bemused as the last of his dignity seeped out of the building through cracks in the floorboards. James had actually comfortably qualified by over a minute and a half. Peter made light work of qualification, while Anna and Kevin missed out on the A finals through somewhat more adventurous days out. Tom ran straight through the finish chute to download, and so we are technically still waiting to find out if his finish time is a qualifying one.
Friday's second quarantine was less brief. Peter and James played a best of 50 round of rock, paper, scissors, which James won in a nailbiting 26-25 finish. Meanwhile, Kevin, Anna and Tom did some orienteering, and then probably some other things, but because your author was in quarantine, he doesn't know anything about them. He bets they were cool, though. James ran a good final, other than one terrible mistake that must have cost over 30 seconds although winsplits reckons it was fine. The race finished in the historic abbey of St Gall, notable both for its impressive Tudor architecture and for its distinction as the only church in Central Europe to have never been under the control of the Pope. Peter, meanwhile, displayed the sort of sprint orienteering prowess you would expect from a GB athlete fresh off a top-20 result at the World Cup. On course for a top-10 finish in a stacked field, he took inspiration from clubmate Kris Jones' 2022 WOC individual sprint race, and engaged in some light cheating. To quote from wikipedia: "Orienteering is a sport that requires navigational skill using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points." Neglecting the final clause of this somewhat clunkily written explanation of our sport is how you lose. And lose is what Pete did. Having collected an absolutely gigantic L to go with his M and P, Pete went for a very slow, very angry, occasionally introspective, but predominantly Tuckerian, warm down.
The next day brought a shot at redemption. A middle race in the beautiful area of Hirschberg, accessible only by an excruciatingly slow train followed by a 2.5km walk to the start from the obilgatory sports hall arena. Hirschberg bore about as much resemblance to the model area as that statue of Cristiano Ronaldo does to its subject matter. But unlike that bronze monstrosity, this was a white, yellow, and occasionally light green wonderland of orienteering ecstasy. Everyone had an excellent time, except for the men's winner on the day, who is afraid of the Dad-joke potential of that adjective. Peter partially redeemed himself with a 21st place, and James achieved that rarest of things for a Brit orienteering abroad in achieveing a higher placing in the forest than he had in the sprint. The deportation committee will meet in September. Tom ran well for 87th, while Kevin was 94th by rights (technically overtime, but who's counting). Anna injured her ankle, which was bad, but consequently got a lift back down the hill, thus avoiding the marathon jog back from the remote finish, which was good. In the evening, some members of the team attended a 'cultural activity' where they learned about the history of the city. Your author was not amongst them.
The final race was a sprint relay. Anna and Tom, originally slated to run together, were separated into teams with Oxford runners in order to ensure a lower entropy arrangement of injured runners. Kevin ran with a Polish man called Mikolaj, and Pete and James continued their saccharine bromance. Conditions were poor, but our orienteering was not, and while other teams slipped and slid their way to positions not deserving of a diploma, like first, second, third, and seventh, your heroes ran quite much stable races in a really nice terrain to take sixth place. Though technically non-competitive, Kevin and Mikolaj ran a time good for 26th, while Tom and Anna overcame their dark-blue-clad encumberances to record creditable effective positions of 20th and 23rd (notably ahead of Oxford 1) respectively. These results, when added to the individual ones, resulted in a 23rd place finish for CUOC out of 66 universities, vastly surpassing the measly 24th that our friends from South West Milton Keynes Polytechnic scraped together. The process by which these rankings were divined is known only unto a select group of IOF doyens, but we defer entirely to their indubitable authority.