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Brandywine O’Challenge tests fitness and wits

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Orienteering competition returns to Whistler, June 5 to 7

The sport of orienteering is continuing to grow in scope and popularity, thanks largely to the growing popularity of adventure races that have orienteering components.

Sometimes called "cunning running," modern orienteering competitions are often described as a combination of cross-country running and chess – challenging mind and body as athletes use maps and compasses to locate control points hidden in the woods in the shortest time possible.

The annual Brandywine O’Challenge, which is part of a provincial series of events sanctioned by the Orienteering Association of B.C. (OABC), takes place from June 5 to 7, and includes basic and intermediate orienteering training sessions for beginners on Friday, a Classic Orienteering contest on Saturday, and a four-hour Rogaine Orienteering contest on Sunday.

The Orienteering Training sessions are open to anyone, and are strongly recommended for newcomers to the sport who plan on competing in any of the other events, or events like the Sea2Summit Adventure Race.

Space is limited to 12 persons for each session, so if you want to learn the sport of orienteering accompanied by experts from the OABC, sign up early.

The workshop for beginners, billed as the Learn O’session, takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, meeting in the Brandywine Falls parking lot.

After lunch, there will be an intensive, advanced training session on technique and relocation, running from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Registration for the Classic and Rogaine competitions starts at 5 p.m. at the Cal-Cheak B.C. Forest Service Recreation Site. That night at 8:30 p.m. there will be a technical and social meeting around the campfire, as well as a barbecue. Catering is available.

You can also register for the events on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Preparation takes place between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and the race gets underway at 11 a.m.

The Classic Long Orienteering Race will feature a set number of control points, and the object is to see how fast you can locate all of them and return to the start.

The course closes at 3 p.m.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday afternoon there will be another Learn O’session.

That night, if all goes well, there could also be a short night orienteering competition over a small area.

On Sunday, registration will again take place between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Teams will start at 9:45 a.m. and solo racers get underway at 10 a.m.

The format is a four-hour Rogaine, which means that groups and individuals will have to locate as many control points as they can within a set amount of time. Different control points have different values, depending on their difficulty level, and the winners will be determined by the total points collected rather than time.

The course will close at 2 p.m., and the closing ceremonies will get underway at 3 p.m.

More than 100 people took part in last year’s Brandywine O’Challenge, and organizer Jackie Slavenova of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures hopes at least the same this year, although another orienteering event in the North Shore that was rescheduled for the same weekend may keep the numbers down this year.

"Still, we’re seeing lots more local people from Whistler and area every year, and most of them told us last year that they would be coming back," she said.

Given the choice between the two events, a lot of orienteering enthusiasts from the Lower Mainland may also choose to come to Whistler for the terrain and other recreational opportunities.

"The terrain is very technical, and for orienteering that means you have to be totally focused all the time on where you are," Slavenova said.

The map being used is the same map incorporated in the Sea2Summit race, and she expects a lot of adventure racers to take part this year to familiarize themselves with the map and terrain.

"Of course, our (Rogaine) contest is about four times larger. In our race they have to find 40 control points in four hours, where in the Sea2Summit, they have to find 10 in an hour," said Slavenova.

To learn more about the Brandywine O’Challenge, or register for any of the learning sessions or events, visit www.uoa.ca/brandywine.html, or contact Jackie Slavenova at 604-671-2931, or info@uoadventures.com.

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