Day 1: Glen Tanar
40 years after the first Scottish 6 Days over 3,000 competitors from 30 countries across the world converged on the scenic Glen Tanar Estate near Aboyne in Royal Deeside. Following a pleasant drive along the dusty dirt track cars emerged onto a vast field to the south of the River Tanar. Over a 1,000 cars fitted comfortably into the space but we are grateful to the bus users who helped reduce any possible pressure on parking. Fine weather, aluminium trackway and a well-drilled parking team ensured this element of the event went smoothly. The race arena was situated in the top north west of the area – a departure from previous events that allowed an area of forest new to many orienteers to be used, especially suitable for juniors and those orienteers of more advanced years.
Red, Green and Blue starts were accessed by a beautiful path along the banks of the river. Many of the courses dropped back down the hill and took in a complex area of boulder fields, boulder clusters and boulders. There is a symbol for each of these! Inevitably there was a climb back again and all courses had a long trek across deep heather and areas of bog before climbing over or contouring round the western most hill. Courses finished through a small enclosure before emerging onto the pleasant runnable slopes above the arena. This looked terrific “dressed” with international flags (sorry USA nobody told me you were coming) and the Scottish 6 Days and EventScotland “Scotland the Perfect Stage” branding.
The British Red Cross were kept busy with the usual array of scratches and sprains. We apologise to the senior competitor who slipped and was severely lacerated on the final fence crossing – barbed wire worked its way through the protective lagging and competitors are reminded to take care on other days. On Day 2 there are bouncy bridges and a rather impressive set of stairs up and down over the final fence.
Thanks go to landowner Michael Bruce and all the estate staff, especially Ranger Eric Baird and new Sales & Events Executive Eilidh Connolly. TAY and ESOC did a great job organising, planning and controlling the day, and Davie Frame as Organiser will be a hard act to follow.
Back at base not everything went entirely smoothly – vandalism to the water supply pipe (across Monaltrie Park) cut off the water supply that fed toilets, showers and water supply at the well-attended event campsite. It is hoped that with supply restored that we don’t need to switch to Plan B.
Looking forward to another day of sunny weather and runnable forest at Balfour Woods on Monday.
Day 2: Balfour Forest
Aberdeenshire is famous for cattle (Aberdeenshire Angus) but unfortunately they need somewhere to eat, sleep and carry out bodily functions. We only discovered a few days ago that beasts were still on the Day 2 and Day 3 arena, and had marked their presence. Apologies for anyone who stood or slipped in something fragrant.
Balfour Woods were new to orienteering – I initially had doubts that the area could support a quality event, influenced no doubt by my decision to cross a large open area on the initial recce. Experienced Technical Coordinator, Sarah Dunn, convinced me otherwise and indeed it was a fine area for this event. Fortunately the courses were nearly all in white forest, certainly more runnable than Day 1 though there were still a large number of sprains caused by rough ground (mossy boulders?) and cuts (low hanging branches) treated by British Red Cross. It is understood the injury tally exceeded yesterday. There were some excellent contour features, and some surprisingly massive boulders that aided relocation. Runners were treated to elaborate wall and fence crossings, fitter runners choosing to launch themselves into mid-air rather than bothering to step down.
Thanks go to John Emeleus (Day Organiser) and helping clubs of KFO, SOLWAY and INVOC. Planners Iain Shepherd and Marsela McLeod set some excellent courses .
Scotland has an (unfounded) reputation for being wet so it is somewhat ironic that the lack of water has been a major issue! It’s a long and complicated story but essentially Ballater does not have enough water to supply 500 dirty and thirsty campers. Scottish Water (left hand) gave permission to discharge to the sewer but nobody questioned where this water might be coming from. Scottish Water (right hand) thought there was a water leak somewhere until someone spotted the event campsite. Essentially Scottish Water turned off the tap and now we need water tankered in. We pay for each litre you use, so any measures you can take to reduce water usage are most appreciated.
So Day 3 it is back to Day 2 parking and race arena, but a very different orienteering challenge awaits.
Day 3: Birsemore Hill
This was probably the first orienteering day incorporating a World Ranking Event where knitted aliens were presented to the winners. The Scottish Junior Orienteering Squad (ScotJOS) is looking at various fundraising initiatives including aliens. The Gristwood household (Graham and Fanni Gyurko) as winners of the Men’s and Women’s Elite will no doubt be delighted with these new additions.
Birsemore had more challenging technical terrain than Days 1 and 2 and included some steep and boulder strewn northerly slopes as well as a more runnable central hill (Birsemore Hill itself). A few courses including the Elite ventured further west towards Craigendinnie, part of the Glen Tanar estate used on Day 1. Dunecht Estate kindly allowed access to Birsemore, very much a traditional shooting estate. All courses were constrained by pheasant pens near to the race arena, but there were huge advantages to the organising teams by the re-use of the same arena, with only a minor tweak to the run-in.
It was all going so well on the day up until 1630 hrs – no official complaints, great service from the traders, no drama in the car parking field, better weather than forecast. That was when we first had concerns over five overdue competitors. Within half an hour we were down to one competitor – part of a large Army contingent taking part in this orienteering week on adventure training. Missing competitor was an Army Nurse, on W35S. As part of the event we have a well-defined rescue plan and procedures, so we started to tick off the list. A number of Army orienteers went out on a quick sweep search, and just before we were due to interrogate the electronic units (SI boxes) we received a call to report she had been located high up on Birsemore Hill. Our Red Cross 4×4 ambulance was deployed (with an orienteer) to recover the casualty – nothing dented apart from her pride (and a raucous welcome from her colleagues and perhaps a talking to from the Sergeant Major). Useful lessons learned, a happy outcome, but a 6 o’clock finish!
Everyone involved in the staging of the event has been very pleased to receive thanks and compliments for the very professional nature of the event delivery. This of course means a huge volunteer effort, for example Scottish clubs allocated to individual days (ELO, GRAMP, STAG and TINTO today). As Assistant Coordinator I have worked primarily with the Central Organising Team of MAROC and Interlopers. The Coordinator (Jon Musgrave), Day Coordinator (Roger Coombs) and Andy Tivendale (Equipment) are in particular involved in the smooth day-to-day set up and running of the event, especially the superb race arenas. Limelight Event Services, contractors from Inverness, have done the heavy lifting and moving and have provided the generators that power the IT systems and the traders. More about the IT side in a future report.
In Ballater itself Sprint Scotland took on the organisation of a Sprint Race, helped by volunteers from the Scottish Elite Development Squad (SEDS) and ScotJOS. Courses took advantage of the path network on the southeast side of Craigendarroch, the lump of a hill that sits directly above the village. After a quick dash across Monaltrie Park (adjacent to the event campsite), the race was more urban and included a small industrial estate and mini-park adjacent to the event centre at the Victoria & Albert Halls. The Sprint Scotland Team (Graham Gristwood, Kris Jones, Chris Smithard and Fanni Gyurko) attracted an excellent number of competitors and sponsors. The Scottish 6 Days event itself has had support from EventScotland (Scotland the Perfect Stage), Aberdeenshire Council and Ramboll.
Further down the glen, opposite the area earmarked for next year’s British Relay Championships, the Hicklings (Anne and Rob) put on a well-attended TrailO event with both Elite and Novice categories. My own hopes of selection for Team GB were severely dashed by a below par performance but it was interesting to watch the meticulous approach taken by some of the real experts. TrailO (Trail Orienteering), a recognised competitive discipline of the International Orienteering Federation, is best described at http://orienteering.org/trail-orienteering/
The rest day doesn’t extend to everyone, and behind the scenes the Day 4 arena was under construction. Thanks to some excessive trampling by cattle in the original race arena everything has been flipped and moved into the next field – Andy Tivendale was hard at work enabling a new fence crossing to make this all possible. The race arena (and parking) is a very short distance from Braemar Castle. This is celebrating its tenth year as Scotland’s only community run castle, and would love to welcome all Scottish 6 Day Orienteering participants to come and visit. They are offering a 10% discount – Adult entry would be £7.20. The castle was originally built as a hunting lodge in 1628, but in this commanding and strategic site, played a part in both sides of the Jacobite Uprisings. It has indeed had a turbulent and varied history – as a British Army garrison and a Victorian country house. Today, you see the home of the Chiefs of the Clan Farquharson, owners of this magnificent Invercauld Estate, and can visit 12 furnished rooms, as if the family had just stepped out! Please walk from the orienteering car park and do not use the castle car park.
Looking forward to more orienteering challenges.
Day 4: Creag Choinnich
Competitors enjoying today’s terrific area and scenic arena were largely unaware of yet another Plan B. Earlier in the week we discovered that the corner of the race arena field was ankle deep in slurry – even our staging boards would have been hard pushed to bridge this. Many thanks go to Angus McNicol at Invercauld Estates and farmer Neil Fraser who allowed us to move into the adjacent field, as well as moving the cattle towards the Invercauld Arms. They (the cattle) seemed totally relaxed and chilled about the event. Essentially we did a complete mirror of the existing arena layout. Courses were always going to have a remote finish above the arena, so no changes to maps were needed.
The Amplified Sound commentary box was always going to be up the hill, but I think commentary team of Mark Nixon and Chris Poole were a bit anxious about the prospect of a runaway box heading down the hill. Commentary was part of a big IT set-up, masterminded by Keith Roberts and with professional help from Andrew Leaney and SteveMcLean of SPORTIdent. Dave Coustick once again helped with radio controls – some of you may have noticed extra wires and bits emerging from the SI boxes. This gives the commentary advance warning of runners at various stages of the race.
We promised a high up start for the race so of course the amount of climb on actual courses was reduced. Deep heather didn’t make it much easier however, and it was with some relief that our courses eventually dropped into some very pleasant forest. Conditions were still fairly typical Royal Deeside underfoot, and as part of my own contribution to the daily Red Cross sweepstake I came very close to hitting a tree headfirst but managed to twist and cut and bruise my arm instead.
We hope that the casualty stretchered out and ultimately airlifted from Braemar to Aberdeen makes a good recovery. As part of the event planning we had met with the Event Safety Advisory Group managed by Aberdeenshire Council and presented details of the event and our approach to organisation, management and safety. The Scottish 6 Days has a well-developed rescue plan template and completed plans were available to key staff in the arena but also circulated to NHS Grampian in advance. Please don’t make us initiate any more aspects of the plan over the final two days.
Day 5: Glen Feardar
Before moving unto the Day 5 report a quick note on yesterday’s results. Control 133 was vandalised by “pesky kids” so some competitors were re-instated and others will have seen their times improve.
We are lucky to have such an iconic flower of Scotland, the purple thistle. Unfortunately this same plant chose to grow in profusion in the assembly area and due to a problem with some agriculture machinery the farmer was unable to top the field. Thanks go to Stephen Wiseman for his efforts with a strimmer to clear some space.
Peter Downie and his extended family were very much in evidence as an extra trader, with Sheridans moving down the glen to set-up for Saturday’s Aboyne Highland Games. The big draw was the 4×4 full of dogs. Oh how cute!
Today’s race was held over an extended Glen Feardar East. Courses extended out to Creag Nordie, at 488 m just over half Munro height. There were fantastic views down to Balmoral Castle, where Her Majesty was enjoying tea on the lawn. The terrain roughness index was down a bit today, with around 30 injuries reported to the Red Cross. Birsemore with 62 injuries is substantially in the lead so please try not to exceed this. Early finishing would be appreciated. Day 5 is always interesting when overall positions can change as bad runs are discarded. Maybe all to play for tomorrow for some…
Work was progressing on a setting up for tomorrow to enable arena production – this should include live action from the forest, GPS tracking of the Elite race – to be viewed on the big screen and hopefully available across the world through a live broadcast on the web.
Day 6: Glen Feardar West
So that’s it – 40 years after the first Scottish 6 Days we end another successful event. Once again the weather gods were kind to us and much of the day’s competition was staged in bright sunshine. Light rain fell on the prizegiving!
The final results were determined for all classes, though some had already accumulated enough wins during the rest of the week to be assured podium places. The podium itself was a fine affair with Aberdeenshire Council Leisurelend’s mini-podium on top of a more substantial trailer pulled into place by farmer Peter Downie. Sheila Reynolds did a great job with floral decoration (complete with bracken) and some of our colourful Scottish 6 Days scrim completed the picture.
The big screen showed live footage from around the arena and spectator control (also broadcast on YouTube) along with snippets of GPS tracking provided by SEDS. Many thanks go to EventScotland for supporting this aspect of the event, along with the very popular daily videos filmed and produced by Jason Sinclair of Poppycock films.
The commentary team provided extensive coverage of the Elite races – Mark Nixon of Forth Valley Orienteers was the fastest man on the day but Ali McLeod of Clydeside Orienteers was a clear overall winner. Unlike some other multi-day events the Scottish 6 Days is based on 4 best results out of 6 – this gives everyone a sporting chance even if days are missed through injury, organisational commitments and orienteering off-day disasters. In the Women’s race Megan Carter-Davies of Mid Wales Orienteering Club was fastest on the day but Jess Tullie of Badenoch & Strathspey Orienteering Club was clear winner. Closest rival Hollie Orr sat out today with damaged feet and made her debut in the commentary box.
Statistics from the week include :
- Red Cross daily count – 45 45 62 30 30 24. No maternity cases, one air ambulance and one NHS transfer to hospital by ambulance (badly broken ankle today).
- 26 existing gates, 24 fence crossings (including 4 deer fences), 1 wall crossing, 7 ditch or stream crossings
- 35 toilets each day plus disabled toilet and well-ventilated urinals (apologies for frequent regular lack of loo roll. The toilet movement plan worked well with this exception)
Thanks go to all the traders including the very busy pre and post-race massage therapists, equipment suppliers (CompassPoint is up for sale) and food providers who gave us such a good choice.
There were a huge number of volunteers involved from every club in Scotland plus many others from south of the border. The Central Organising Team was largely local club MAROC based but included some key staff from Interlopers. Everyone will agree that Jon Musgrave did a great job as Event Coordinator.
Thanks go out to everyone for such positive comments. 33 countries were represented, did you know the flags? The feedback from landowners and farmers was also very positive – they were most impressed with the event organisation and the good nature of the competitors.
So as they say in Looney Tunes – That’s all Folks (at least till Strathearn 2019).