Some reflections on the planning of M21E

M21E Map showing routes taken

When the first draft of the full map was available in the Autumn of 2005 I printed out both a full colour one and a contour only one and started looking for some legs that provided some decent, and interesting, route choice options. I came up with four, not a lot but enough hopefully to base a reasonable course around when combined with others that offered either less interesting route choices or fine navigation. Some back of envelope claculations based on similar terrains suggested a winning speed of around 4.5mins per (adjusted) km for the leaders, giving a total course length of around 14.5km.

The long early leg was always a risk, a risk that all the competitors would spot an obvious path route and follow this for 2k. The ends of the leg needed to be carefully chosen to provide a real choice of going straight over the top or round to the North. I had originally intended to have the long leg as leg 1 (as it was on M/W20E and M21L) but Steve McKinley (controller) was convinced that everyone would then follow the ride rather than go through the wood to the road. Thus I put in the first, trivial, control to get competitors up the hill a bit and making the drop back to the ride less inviting. Of course it also encouraged the route through the farm and housing - but more about that elsewhere. I felt that there were three options leaving control 1 - round the OOB block clockwise, round it anticlockwise or straight up the slope. The straight up the hill route then had the choice of going left or right around the OOB farms. Those opting for the Northern route had simple line features to follow with a few opportunities to contour through forest. Upon reaching the common, the choice was whether to climb up to the trig point, run along the ridge and then drop down to the control or to contour round to the back of the control. I thought the latter the better choice. Anyone coming over the top had an obvious path route to the control. I test ran both basic routes and didn't think that there was much in it - indeed there was very little difference in adjusted distance.

The second leg that I thought offered route choice was N-S through the common, either straight or following the paths round to the east. I would have prefered to start such a leg further north but this would have ruined the first leg. Again I needed to find a site high enough up to encourage the straight route but not too close to the path to make the path route the obvious one.

3-4 was intended to test fine navigation in a relatively complex area (for the SE anyway). I would have liked to have similar legs in the block around 5 but this area was, at the time, being heavily used for the relay and I didn't want to compromise the relay courses too much - thus just a single site was used for all courses. There was no choice then but to follow the path between the blocks of fields.

My original courses then had a leg from just north of 6 to a site near the re-entrant to the NE of control 7, offering some route choice options. Unfortunately when we lost this strip of common to nesting birds I had to settle for the boring path run.

7-10 provided some opportunity for losing time through inaccurate map reading before setting up the next long leg across Great Common. I felt that the straight route was best, but with alternative loops round to the north and south. I informed Tim (BRC planner) that I didn't think that anyone would go as far south as the relay assembly area - I was wrong.

I tried to find another good route choice leg between 13 and 14 but each leg I looked at seemed to have an obvious choice, perhaps I missed the good one.

14-15 was initially intended to provide some route choice left or right round the fields. Safety concerns about the road though forced me to opt for the eastern route. First time I ran this path I completely overshot since none of the paths at the northern end actually join this path, I expected that some competitors might do the same. 15 and 16 then provided an exercise in contouring, distance judgement and tree spotting.

16-17 was the next leg to provide route choice, either drop down immediately and take the path and field route round the broad spur, contour round and join the above route at the tip of the field, or climb and drop into the control from the top.

For 17-18 I had hoped that we could have access to all of the fields, or at least the four southwestern ones. This would have given more choice as to whether to go through the fields and then the wood, or cut across and take more of a path route. The loss of two of these fields however constrained that choice.

From 18 onwards the terrain became less interested and finding good legs more difficult. It wasn't always like this. Originally the mapper had put some ground detail in the block around 20 which could have provided some more fine navigation legs. Unfortunately I felt that the detail was just too complex to be mapped at 1:15,000 (or even at 1:10,000) so what had been mapped was replaced by the broken ground screen and the only reliable (at least in my opinion) feature - the ditch - used. Furthermore the rough open section south of 19 was actually forest until just before Christmas and would have provided a more interesting challenge. I was intending to go straight from 18-20 but Steve suggested the extra control which was a good idea. It provided some basic route choice options - knowing the terrain I think the route across the wood and rough open block the best - as a competitor I would probably go round the tracks.

Couldn't really find any decent legs from 20 onwards but hoped that tired bodies would still have to work hard to get through these last controls cleanly. Main objective was to avoid path runs.

Neil Crickmore
Planner BEOC (Long) and BOC course 5