Guide to Hosting a BOK Event

Guide to Hosting a BOK Event

The duties for running a BOK local meet fall into these general areas of responsibilities.  The Meet DirectorRegistrarCourse DesignerTeacher, and the Control Retriever  These responsibilities can be handled by two or more people.  The days of one person doing it all are (hopefully) over.

Meet Director’s Responsibilities

  • Commit to holding the meet on a particular date and site.  This is usually done at the meeting where we decide on a schedule, but can be done any time you see a date on the calendar without a meet director.  You sign up by contacting Joseph Huberman by e-mail bok-info-email or phone at 919-828-6068.   It is usually a good idea to check the calendar on the internet to make sure the information is correct as soon as possible.
  • Line up helpers.  If you aren’t technically ready to set the course then you need to find a Course Setter to help you with the technical end of the event.  If you want to be the course setter, then you should find a Registrar to help you the day of the meet.   As an alternative, two people can share both jobs. You should line up a Teacher to teach the beginners class at 12:30.  People who enjoy teaching the class are:
    • Joseph Huberman
    • Garry Wiggins
    • Ken Hanson
    • Joe Halloran

    The only other person that sometimes helps is a Control Retriever who will pick up the controls after the meet is over.  The controls should not be left out after the next day.   At Umstead Park we can not set out controls before the day before the event, and they must be picked up by the day after.

  • If your meet is at Umstead Park check (with Joseph) to be sure your permit is in order, and be sure to get your courses to Betty, the park office manager at least two weeks before your event.  She may ask you to stay out of sensitive areas.

Registrar’s Responsibilities

  • Pick up the meet bag with all the supplies from Joseph’s house the week before the event.  You should check to see that the following things are in or with the bag:
    • Maps
    • Compasses
    • Whistles
    • Watch for keeping time
    • Legends
    • Entry forms
    • Park Permit (for Umstead Park)
    • Direction signs
    • Table (if needed)
    • Water (unless there is a water fountain available)
    • Cups
    • First Aid Kit
    • 5 pens, at least 4 red ones
    • $10 for change
  • Tie out the direction signs by 11:00AM
  • Set up the table and master maps (from the course setter)
  • Welcome people, give them entry forms, take their money, and give them their maps
  • Give people start times and send them off as they are ready to go. (Make sure there car info is on their card.)
  • Direct new people to the free class that starts at 12:30 PM
  • Write down people’s finish times on their cards as they finish (post the times if you feel like it)
  • Make sure everyone is back. (That is why you need the car info.)
  • Pack up the stuff and count the money
  • Return everything to Joseph’s house.

Course Designer’s Responsibilities

  • Decide on the exact competition location and see Joseph about getting the maps
  • Design the courses following these guidelines:
    • White Course 1.6-2 Kilometers
      • 1. AN EASY START. Make the first two or three points particularly easy. This allows the competitor to get familiar with the map and keeps him from getting discouraged from the very beginning. The first control should be as simple as possible — in fact, it can even be visible from the starting point.
      • 2. SHORT LEGS. Generally the legs should be kept fairly short — certainly no more than 500 meters. It’s better to have six to eight short legs than three or four long ones. This course mainly follows trails or obvious linear features.  There should be a control at each decision point, so if you need to make a left turn at a trail junction, there should be a control there.
      • 3. LARGE FEATURES FOR CONTROL POINTS. Make the difficulty of the control site fit the course. Use large, obvious features — the top of a big hill rather than the back side of a ten-foot knoll; a trail junction rather than a tiny reentrant. Rarely, therefore, will a control be suitable for both the White course and the Orange course.
      • 4. AVOIDANCE OF VAGUE AND DENSE AREAS. As with any course, the features you choose for control sites must be distinct; even large features can be vague, as for example the top of a large flat-topped hill. Also, if you pick precise spots, you will get fewer comments about controls being a little bit off. Never put a White control in a dense area.
      • 5. VERY SIMPLE ROUTE CHOICES. It’s not necessary to have a route choice on a White course, but sometimes it’s nice to offer a little towards the end. The options should be rather simple. Remember, people on the White course may take routes that you would never dream of.
      • 6. SUITABLE TERRAIN. Generally, the terrain you use for a White course should be “friendly,” with lots of good handrails, no excessively rugged features, etc.
      • 7. NO USE OF COMPASS. Avoid directions or features that require the use of a compass. A white course should be able to be completed without having to use a compass.
    • Yellow Course 2.5-3 Kilometers
      The yellow course is designed for males or females who are 13 to 14 years old, and for older orienteers who are relatively new to the sport. The course is still mostly on or around linear features, but there should be some good options for shortcuts throughout the woods.  The controls shouldn’t be on the trails, but should be close by, and also near a good attack point.
      Features appropriate for a yellow course:

      • 1. AN EASY START. Make the first two or three controls relatively easy so that the competitor may become familiar with the map.
      • 2. A VARIETY OF LENGTHS OF LEGS. Vary the length of the legs, but tend toward keeping them short. The maximum length should be 600 meters.
      • 3. LARGE FEATURES FOR CONTROL POINTS. Use large and rather obvious features, such as a trail junction, top of hill, north side of pond. When a point feature is used, it should be within visual distance of a large feature.
      • 4. CONTROL PLACEMENT BY A COLLECTION FEATURE. Put each control on or just after an obvious collection feature. If the control is not on a collecting feature, put it within one hundred meters of one, preferably just after it.
      • 5. CATCHING FEATURES. If a control is not on a collecting feature, a catching feature must be within 100 meters after the control.
      • 6. ROUTE CHOICE. Offer some route choices. Even though the course may be easy, there should still be route choices. They should add a challenge to the orienteering without making the navigation too difficult.
      • 7. AVOIDANCE OF DENSE AREAS. Never put a yellow control in a dense area.
      • 8. NO USE OF COMPASS. A yellow course should be able to be completed without the use of a compass.
      • Keep in mind that these are guidelines for an ideal yellow course. There are likely to some differences in every yellow course you make. The goal of a course setter is for everyone to complete the course, have fun, and be challenged.
    • Orange Course – 3.3 to 3.5 Kilometers
      The orange course is for intermediate orienteers. Most of the good routes should be cross country, but it should be possible to bail out to a trail when frustrated and lost.   There should be good catch features behind the controls so a lost orange runner won’t stay lost for too long.
      Features appropriate for an orange course:

      • 1. MODERATELY BUT NOT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT NAVIGATION. The controls and best routes should invite the intermediate orienteer away from strong collecting features (roads, trails) that beginners must rely on. However, the penalty for navigational errors should not be extreme. An orange control may be placed in an area of intricate small features, but only if there is at least one good attack point nearby (preferably several) to help the competitors fond it, and also a catching feature nearby to which they can “bail out” if they become confused.
      • 2. LOTS OF ROUTE CHOICES. Set a course that forces the orienteer to make decisions constantly. Make sure that the competitor must continue to pay attention and think in order to execute his choice properly – it shouldn’t be, for example, just a matter of choosing which of two main roads to follow for one kilometer.
      • 3. COMPASS AND PACE COUNT. Legs requiring the use of compass and pace count should be limited to one or two. These are legs that cannot reasonably be found by map reading alone.
      • 4. DIFFICULT CONTROLS. Difficult controls may be used, but a good attack point should be nearby.
    • Brown 3.6-3.8 Km, Green 5.4-5.7 Km, Red 6.4-7 Km (and rarely, Blue >7.5 Km)
      The advanced courses should all be set so that the very experienced orienteer is well challenged, as challenging as you can fairly design it.  There should be several route choices.  Use minor features that aren’t near attack points.  The element of luck should be reduced as much as possible.  At a local meet the advanced courses usually share most of their controls.  The short courses are subsets of the longest course.
      Mistakes to Avoid on Advanced Courses

      • 1) TOO BIG A CONTROL FEATURE. If you put the control on too large a feature, it is usually very easy to find; Therefore the competitor does not need to use precision techniques. Too big a feature might be the top of a large hill, the edge of a large clearing, a point along a trail or stream (if there are many confusing trails or streams, this could be OK), etc. In fact, having a control within 50-75 meters of a big feature is probably too easy as well. Use small features – boulders, cliffs, small reentrants, spurs and knolls, small marshes, depressions, etc. Make the competitor orienteer to the feature before he can find the control. If he is coming from the south, for example, place the control on the north side of the knoll or boulder.
      • 2) CONTROLS TOO CLOSE TO COLLECTING FEATURES. Placing a control soon after a collecting feature, for example, 100 meters after a road, will usually make it too easy to find even if the feature is small. Furthermore the competitor will probably be able to run to the road without thinking, making the leg too easy. Instead, place the control some 200 meters BEFORE the road. That way the less skilled orienteer will have to cover an extra 400 meters if he must use the road to find his bearings. Collecting features are long features lying across the competitor’s direction of travel, such as roads, large trails, streams, ridges, clearings, large marshes, etc. Concentrate on this: if the competitor uses them to make his route or his navigation easier, make him travel farther out of his way. Don’t make the direct route the easiest route, whether it be the easiest mentally, technically, physically or any combination of the three.
      • 3) LOST KILOMETERS “Lost Kilometers” means any parts of a course that require little or no thinking, merely physical effort. They are to be avoided as much as possible, as the preceding paragraphs have already indicated by implication. If a control is on top of a large hill, the leg becomes a hill-climbing event instead of an orienteering event. If the control is placed right after a big collecting feature, the competitor can turn off his mind until he reaches the feature. If the best route is along a trail for several hundred meters, again the leg becomes a racing event requiring little or no thinking.
      • 4) HANDRAILS. Try to avoid having the routes parallel to obvious linear features such as roads, trails, streams, fences, or power lines. Keep such features more nearly perpendicular to your route unless the linear feature network is complex so that a parallel route will not simplify the leg significantly.
      • 5) CATCHING FEATURES. Advanced courses should not have controls placed too close to catching features. Controls should not be located beyond a catching feature; rather, any catching feature should be at least 200 meters beyond a control.
      • SPECIAL COURSE FEATURES (not necessary considerations for local meets)
        BLUE. Blue competitors are the elite; they are the best orienteers as well as the most physically fit. A blue course can therefore use areas that are more demanding, physically and mentally, than any other course. Climb should not exceed 5%.
        RED. Climb should not exceed 4%.
        GREEN. The majority of competitors on a green course are older. In general, therefore, they may have some vision problems and only limited leg strength. The climb should not exceed 3% or at most 4%. Map areas with many fine details are to be avoided, since many competitors are likely to have some difficulty reading the map. This is particularly true in case of rain. Rough and dangerous areas must be avoided. While it must be less demanding physically, a brown or green course should require the maximum in orienteering skills.
  • If you haven’t had much course design experience, then get help from Joseph or another experienced course setter.  It is usually a good idea to get someone else to review your courses.  Frequently it can save you a lot of extra work.
  • It is best to design the courses so they all run in the same direction so we can pick up controls while the late finishers are still out.  Also, it is easier on the animals because they don’t have people running every which way (important at large meets).
  • If the meet is at Umstead be sure to show your courses to Martha Woods, the park superintendent at least two weeks before the event.  You can mail them in (Route 8, Box 130, Raleigh, NC 27612)or set up a meeting time (787-3033).  You can use the old maps for course approval, use enough maps so it is easy to see the courses.
  • If you haven’t had much experience on the map, then it is a good idea to visit the sites while you are planning your course.  Otherwise you should set the “far out” controls the day before and check the spots for the “near trails” controls so you can draw the master maps the night before the meet.  You can not draw the master maps until you have checked each control site.  The “near trails” controls should be hung  the morning of the meet.  (Even if you did hang them the day before you would have to check them the morning of the meet to make sure they were still there.)
  • Give the course master maps with the control descriptions to the Registrar by 11:30 so they will be ready when people arrive.
  • Give the master map with all the controls on it to the meet director so it can be used for retrieving the controls.
  • That’s it, enjoy the meet.

Teacher’s Responsibilities

  • Arrive by Noon welcome and help people who are new register and decide which course they are going to take.  Let them know you will be teaching a class at 12:30PM.
  • Teaching the Beginners Class 
    • Things to have for the class
    • Maps for everyone
    • At least one compass for every two people
    • Control flag & punch (hanging)
    • Registration form
    • Master map and control descriptions
    • Schedules to hand out
    • Welcome to the Backwoods Orienteering Klub.  My name is ——- and I’m going to teach this course in three sections.  The first is how the meet works, the rules and procedures.  The second is about the map, and the third is how to use a compass. If this is just a refresher course to you feel free to leave whenever you got the information you wanted.
    • How A Meet Works (Part I)
      Orienteering is a sport, where using a map and compass, you choose your route, over unfamiliar terrain, to locations that are marked on your map, and where control flags have been placed. At these locations you mark your card with the punch, and then proceed to the finish and report in.

      • Demonstrate punching in at a control.
      • First you register — have a registration form to show
        • Fill out your name and address clearly so we can send you a newsletter.  Put down your e-mail address if you want to get reminders about club activities once or twice a month.
        • Put down your phone number, car color and license number so we can determine if your still out in the woods if you forget to check in or we don’t mark your card properly when you do check in. Almost every time we have begun a search the person was actually home.
        • Sign the release
        • Decide on & mark your competitive status. You are competitive unless you check off “Map Hike“. “Map Hike” means that your times won’t be posted. Check “Walker” if you don’t run at all during the meet. You can compare your time with others who also only walked. You can change your mind after you return (so if you don’t run a single step you can mark “walker”, or if you do run (even a little), you can change it back.
        • Decide on your course…
          White – Beginners – mostly on trails and other linear features that are easy to follow. Best course to take for the first time.
          Yellow – Advanced Beginners – some bushwhacking. Controls won’t be so easy to spot. This can be your first course if you have had experience and are comfortable with topographic maps.
          Orange – Intermediate – Can use trails, but shortcuts will usually be the best way to go. Controls may be difficult to find. If you think you want to try this course, and this is your first time, start with yellow. If you finish easily in 20 minutes or less you know you are ready to move up. If there is time you can take another course when you return without paying any extra.
          Brown / Green – Advanced – A difficult course using very subtle map features for navigation and control locations. Only take this course if you have had success on orange.
          Red & Blue – Advanced – Longer versions of the Green course.
        • Now that you have registered, pay the registrar, get your map and rent a compass if you need one
          Copy your course on your map from the master map which is over there on that table. You can look at the different courses before you make your decision
      • Show a master map with a control description sheet and explain…
        • Triangle marks the start
        • The exact center of the circles mark the control locations
        • Controls must be on a map feature like Boulder or trail junction
        • Rootstock – a blown over tree with roots sticking up. Whole trees are shown and the direction of fall is accurate.
        • Re-entrant – a very subtle gully or draw where water would flow if it were raining very hard, can be very very shallow and small, or large and distinct.
        • Numbers indicate the order you must find the controls in
        • Connecting lines help your eye locate the next circle
        • Choose your own route! That is the point of the sport, Don’t follow the lines.
        • The control descriptions tell you the exact placement of the control flag and confirm that you are at the right (or wrong) spot
        • Copy the code letters and the descriptions in the little box with the correct number.
        • Control codes are also  located on the control flags. When they match then you know you are at the right flag
        • Descriptions tell you which map feature the control flag is at, and its relationship to it, such as Boulder, North Side; or Between the trails; or Re-entrant Upper Part
        • Controls are never hidden even at an advanced level. Luck is to be minimized
      • Check out with the starter, Wait for a start time and get an OK to go
      • Decide on the best route to control 1
        • Take it slow when you start & understand the map. Pretend you are checking the map. Examine every feature and follow your progress checking off each feature to the first few controls. Notice how close everything is (show an example of features where you are teaching the course).
        • People who have experience with USGS maps must be particularly careful… they always overrun the controls because they don’t expect such detail on the map.
      • When you find the control (demonstrate again); check the code; punch your card in the proper box
      • Check in at the finish; EVEN IF YOU DON’T FINISH — CHECK IN
      • Controls are picked up at 3:00 you must be back by 3:30
      • If you can finish another course by 3:00 you may go out again without paying, if you use the same map. Be sure to be back and check in by 3:30
    • The Map (Part II)
      Ask everyone to find examples of what you are discussing. Check that the kids are correct.

      • The Colors
        Green is thick vegetation, the darker the thicker. There is never any reason to go into dark green areas.
        Yellow is open ground, clearings – where the sun can shine in
        Black is man made features like roads and trails. Black is also rock features like boulders
        Blue marks water features
        Brown lines are contour lines, or pavement on roads or parking areas
      • The vertical lines are the north south lines so you can orient the map.  North is at the top, the lines are magnetic north so you can line the compass needle up with them. (demonstrate)
      • An oriented map shows direction on the ground
      • The Legend has (almost) all the symbols. Point it out or explain that they can get one from the registrar.
      • Explain contour lines
        • Contour lines connect points of constant elevation
        • Imagine your fist is a mountain, and it is under water
        • As the water level lowers trace imaginary lines on your fist with knuckles as hills
        • Circles are tops
        • Depressions lakes and creeks are bottoms
        • Show how rain would flow between your fingers – re-entrants
        • Show how the lines form arrows pointing up hill in the re-entrants and down hill on the ridges
        • On the back of your hand, looking from the top, show that close together is steep and far apart is almost level
      • Scale – point it out and give people a nearby reference
      • Map corrections and the date the map was made (discuss them for this map)
    • The Compass (Part III)
      • Red end points north
      • Use the compass to orient your map by placing the edge of your compass needle along a north-south line.
      • Place the map down, or hold it steady, and because the orientation of things on the map is the same as the things on the ground then…
        • Sight along your map from where you are to where you want to go
        • Pick a point on the map and everyone tries this out
        • These are the basics, when you get confused go back and try it this way.
      • Short cuts to find your direction when you know where you are
        • First, figure out what you know
        • You want to walk forward through the woods
        • Hold the direction of travel edge of the compass so it points directly ahead of you
        • Put the map under your compass and place the edge pointing along from where you are to where you want to go (don’t move your compass, keep it pointing straight ahead)
        • Without moving your hand, or pointing your compass in any way but straight ahead.
        • Take little steps and rotate your body until the needle points north on the map
        • Walk straight ahead. That is the direction you want
        • Notice that this is the same direction as if you just oriented the map and sighted along the map features like we first did using the basics.
      • Short cuts to check your heading on a trail (or along a stream or re-entrant)
        • Face down the trail the way you think you should be going
        • Line the compass edge along the trail on the map
        • With the compass pointing straight ahead check that the needle matches north on the map. If it doesn’t look right then see if you may be off because of a local curve. If you are still off then you get to practice relocating.
        • When you relocate you use all the information that you can to figure out where you are, because if you don’t know about where you are you can’t figure out which way to go
        • Safety bearing is a direction of last resort
        • Discuss the safety bearing and catch feature for this event. We’ve never lost anyone — yet!
      • Hand out schedules and direct people where to go next
        • If some are having trouble offer to take a short demonstration walk
        • Depending on how ready they are send them to: Registration, Map drawing, or the Start.


  • Teaching The Intermediate Class 
    Intermediate Orienteering Class To help people who have mastered yellow, and are ready to move up to orange. Covers the basic orienteering strategies. 30 – 45 minutes long

    • This class will cover the following strategies: Handrails, Catch Features, Collecting Features, Attack Points, Pace Counting, Map Handling, Trail running, and Quick Compass Use.
      • v Handrails
        • Linear feature parallel to your course
        • Stream, Ridge, Vegetation boundary, Trail
      • Catch Features
        • A feature that tells you that you have gone far enough
          • A handrail sideways
        • You need a catch feature if you will be going through a featureless area.
      • Collecting Features
        • A group of features that signal to you that you are approaching your destination or help you locate your position along your route.
      • Attack Points
        • A prominent feature near the control
      • Pace Counting (All the time, especially if you don’t have a catch feature.)
        • Practice keeping it going all the time until you can count in the background and still think.
        • Measure the distance between two points and count the paces
        • Note the differences between the different terrain types
        • Adjust your count depending on the terrain
      • Trail running – always identify how you will get off the trail before you decide to use one.
    • Put those skills together to Locate an advanced control 
      • The first thing you do is locate where you are and where you are going.
        • Study the area around the control and find a close-by identifiable point
        • Identify if there is a favored approach
        • Find the most direct way. Then identify any obstacles and the best way to go around them.
        • Choose a route keeping a lookout for the navigational features we discussed.
        • When you get to the last hundred meters Slow Down
      • Map Handling
        • Keep the map oriented as you turn around
        • Single fold the map
        • Keep your thumb on your location
        • Move it as you run – count and move it 100m at a time.
        • If you have to keep forcing the map to look right, you probably aren’t where you think you are.
      • Quick Compass Use
        • Keeping the map oriented and compass on your thumb notice that the arrow is pointing north whenever you are on a straightaway
        • Aiming Off
          • Setting a course deliberately to one side of where you want to go so you will know which way to turn.
        • Stay on course, by locating a distant tree or feature, then taking a new bearing when you get there.
    •  If you want to practice these skills in a class you should sign up for one of our half day classes. The dates are on our schedule, and the classes are included in your membership.

Control Retriever’s Responsibilities

  • Pick up the controls and return them to the meet director (if still at the park) or Joseph Huberman at 904 Dorothea Drive, Raleigh NC 27603
  • The controls on or visible from trails or popular areas of the park must be picked up the day of the event.  The remaining controls must be picked up no later than the day after the event. (The controls with punch cost about $15 each, we don’t want to lose them.)
  • Get the master map with all the controls marked on it from the meet director or course setter
  • If you are picking up the day of the meet check the course master maps to see which way the courses are running, so you can pick up in the same direction so the late finishers can finish ahead of you.
  • Find out who is still out on the course – if possible try and give them time to finish, be on the lookout to see if someone is lost or injured.
  • Pick up the controls and pack them properly.
    • Collapse the control
    • Wrap the punch string around one side two times, not more wraps
    • Stick the punch into the pocket on top between two layers of canvas, not in the vinyl code pocket
    • If you are running with the controls in your hand, hold them with the pocket opening up
    • Do not run with a handful of controls with the punches dangling around – untangling them will take longer than collecting them from the woods took.
  • If the meet director is still at the park, give him/her the controls.  Otherwise return them to Joseph at 904 Dorothea Drive, Raleigh NC 27603
  • If this job is just turned over to one person then we can pay $10 if the person wants it.  If the meet director takes on the responsibility and gets several people to help then we usually don’t pay.

Copyright 1998, 2000, 2006 Backwoods Orienteering Klub

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