Welcome to DrongO

Welcome to the DrongO website. We are an orienteering club for past members of Cambridge University Orienteering Club. Join DrongO online here.

DrongOs on Orkney


Various DrongOs ended up on Orkney during the first part of June. Helen P is there for 3 months doing a placement as part of her master's with the RSPB, so it was a good excuse for various people to visit.

John O got there via a quick 2-day stop off on Shetland with his bike so that he could ride 60k, get to the highest point on Shetland, and ride back. Ben W, Matthew V and Fiona P all arrived at about the same time, just before John left. James H joined for the last couple of days so that he could taper for his 10k race. Then everybody left together, leaving Helen with only a pineapple for a friend. Despite there being no orienteering, various activities went on such as camping, cycling, walking, running, swimming, cooking, eating, sleeping, trespassing, decorating, escaping vicious birds, hide and seek, sandcastles, cricket with rock-bats, seeing ancient monuments, as well as more of most of the activities already mentioned in this list. Helen "hosted" us by staying in a hostel during the week whilst she was working and we were camping, but did store/drive our stuff around in her car to make our bikes lighter! It was windy and cold for a while, then windy and slightly less cold for a while, but it didn't rain much - an excellent time to be there whilst England was getting flooded.

DrongOs on the Isle of Wight


Some DrongOs were recently spotted on the Isle of Wight sporting the whole range of upper body cover stash. They tried their best to fly but pathetically failed like flattened pansies.

Cambridge Beer Festival 2019


Cambridge beer festival was on for a week in May. John O thought it was worth making the trip from the Lakes to Cambridge just to attend this event, and was also joined by Ben W and DrongO offer holders Rowan Lee and Jeremy Knott - Jeremy lives right next to Jesus Green - ideal accommodation for the festival. On Tuesday evening the four of them queued for half an hour, and once at the front of the queue John moved to the non-existent queue for CAMRA members. Jeremy in his CU Gliding Club hoodie was told something about being useful for the Luftwaffe.

Once inside, many beers and some meads and ciders were sampled, as well as some fresh, warm, cinnamon-sugar-coated doughnuts. John's favourite was wobbly ass, which he got more of than he'd bargained for. Ben and John decided that they should go for a pre-work run on Wednesday morning, which turned out not to be very enjoyable (but still worth it) and was also about 5k longer than expected because Ben had remembered the distance if you start and finish at West Cambridge, rather than if you start at Jeremy's house and finish in Spoons.

Breakfast was eaten in Spoons, where Jeremy and Helen Ockenden also joined, because Ben had offered for John to buy Helen breakfast. The breakfast was very tasty and gladly not accompanied by further beer. At lunchtime a brief return to the beer festival was made for a picnic on the grass, and John decided that whilst he was here he might as well sample a couple more flavours of beverage. Because we hadn't had enough of meeting Helen and Jeremy for meals, we also attended CUOC orienteering training in the evening in North Cambridge. It was a great sprint session planned by Tessa Strain, and followed by pizza, although sadly the conversation topics during pizza were rather less exciting/stupid than average.

On Thursday morning John went back to Lancaster whilst "working", and Ben worked in Jeremy's house for the day (discovering Jeremy's engineering project was actually quite similar to what Ben was doing) and Ben returned for a shorter beer festival session in the evening with ex-colleagues from Cambridge.

Another Lake District Weekend 2019


On 18th and 19th May a small DrongO trip was convened to attend a weekend of orienteering in the Lake District, organised by LOC. On Saturday morning Ben S again got up very very early to catch the train from Cambridge, joined by Ben W and Zuzka S in London. John O and DrongO-sibling Annie picked them up in Lancaster and they went to a race on Caw, quite a vague open area. Matthew V also joined us from the Far Side of the Lakes. On the Black course, DrongO got 4 out of the top 10 spots (yes, there were more than 10 people on the black course), with Ben W winning and Matthew V a few minutes behind in 4th.

After the race Zuzka tried her best to persuade everybody to use the time in the Lakes well and climb a mountain whilst we were there, but was compromised down to climbing a pathetic mound of earth. However, there were some nice views from the top of Sellafield and Matthew told us what all the chimneys were for. Matthew also talked to Fiona on the phone whilst on the hill, and lay in his "sexy and I know it" pose - which Fiona said the first part was true but couldn't comment on the second part.

In the evening we went to Spoons in Whitehaven, because why not? John soon discovered why not when he was hit on the cheek with a rubber penis whilst trying to order drinks at the bar. We also found out that ordering food via the Wetherspoon app is good, but ordering drinks only is better done at the bar.

We stayed at Matthew's house and then returned to the same assembly area on Sunday for a technical middle distance race on the adjacent Stickle Pike, again open fell. The walk to the start and back was longer than some people's courses. Again DrongO managed 4 of the top 10 on Black, with Ben W just taking the win again by 13s despite Matthew's best efforts to cut off circulation to his foot by gaffer taping his shoe back together, and Matthew took joint 3rd, with John O and Ben S in 7th and 9th. Zuzka finished in the middle of the field on Brown. Zuzka made another failed attempt to make people climb a mountain, so we walked up Stickle Pike instead and got a good aerial view of control collection. Then we headed off to end another short but fun orienteering trip!

British Sprint Relay, Long, and Relay Champs 2019


The bank holiday weekend at the start of May saw the British sprint relay, long, and forest relay championships held near Leeds.

DrongO's attempt at a mixed sprint relay team (running order woman, man, man, woman) didn't quite go to plan and Ben W decided Ben S would go well in the women's mass start. He came back 4th just over a minute down on leader Fiona Bunn, and handed over to Ben W. Ben W came in just at the back of the leading group of 3, and Matthew V had another good leg to put us into non-competitive 2nd. Zuzka completed the team and we finished 9th overall.

We then headed back to Ben S's parents' house who had not only offered to have 8 people staying, but also cooked large volumes of veggie chilli and shepherd's pie which were both excellent! We played some games and Ben's dad made up some diseases which the disinfectant foot bath tomorrow on the way to the start was there to kill. Then we were off to bed. Ben W and Zuzka's bed attempted to collapse during the night but didn't quite manage it, and was easily restored to original state in the morning.

Sunday was the slightly shorter than long distance race on very runnable open moorland. A well planned long leg was included in many courses with a choice between crossing a valley with 100+ metres of climb, or contouring round. A lot of people contoured, but taking the climb was a couple of minutes quicker. On the 16km M21E course, Ben W finished 5th a little under 4 minutes down on the winner, with a close one between Ben S and Matthew V, finishing 28s apart in 23rd and 24th, and similarly Tom D just beat John O by 29s to take 29th place.

After the race we waited until we were almost the last ones in the assembly field, then failed to initiate a pile on to Fiona, then moved the cars 300m to the pub. We then had a gentle walk part way up the hill opposite the race area, where we good some good views of where we'd just run from above, and also had some deep debate over whether the distance from assembly to pub was exactly 300m or not. Matthew found a hat and a sock and decorated a signpost with them, while Ben W failed to initiate a race back down the hill. The pub was where DrongO Adam Leaf had stayed on Saturday night, but since he wasn't staying for the relays he wasn't there on Sunday, so our plan to have a meal with him didn't work but we decided to go to the same pub anyway. Ben S's parents' 1 star verbal review of it based on their experience 15 years ago fortunately turned out not to be true any more. Jonny, a friend of Ben W's from secondary school, also joined at the pub after the coincidence of him also spending a day in the Yorkshire dales. By the time we wanted dessert the kitchen had closed so we discussed stopping at another pub for dessert, and Matthew vetoed Fiona's idea of eating his chocolate bunny. We settled for getting dessert in coop, although there was no custard which was sad. Fiona was happy having decided that a pint of custard was the thing she would least like to down, but later she decided beer would be worse.

Bank holiday Monday saw the relay with a some stronger than usual DrongO teams - SquaDRON GOld of Ben S, Matthew V and Ben W, and second team HyDRONGOnated oil of John O, Mark B and Zuzka S. It was at Middleton Park on the edge of Leeds, with a great assembly area at an athletics track with a large grandstand to spectate from. Contrary to Matthew's grandma's description of the area, there didn't seem to be many dumped fridges around. Ben S enjoyed starting in his correct gendered mass start, and the team finished 5th overall - the area was technical for a relay, and Matthew navigated well to only drop a couple of minutes on fastest 2nd leg times. Our second team beat all the teams who mispunched.

JK 2019


DrongO's previous contributions to global warming by attending races around Europe finally paid off, providing the warmest, sunniest Easter weekend ever for the JK.

On Thursday night Ben W selected one of four detailed transport options, ordered by price, provided by Tom D, of how to get from central London to the M25, and met Tom there. Most other people joined on Friday morning at the sprint race, which was around Aldershot Garrison. Running was fast and most route choices were just about which side of the buildings to go. Top DrongO male was Ben W in 17th place, but beaten by two DrongO offer holders Paul Pruzina (4s ahead) and Aidan Rigby exactly one minute ahead in an impressive 6th place. Best woman was Helen P in 47th, with future DrongOs Helen Ockenden and Pippa Dakin up in 15th and 18th.

Once everybody had finished running we relaxed in the sun for quite a long time, whilst a few people went for QueueO interspersed with the occasional bit of TempO. One car then went supermarket shopping for the weekend, but massively failed to buy barbecue stuff because clearly the entire country had had the same idea about suitable food for this weather.

We were all staying at Zuzka's parents' empty house near Reading, a fairly small house, but 10 of us filled out the floorspace nicely. We cooked veggie chilli in the evening, Rona expertly grated quite a large volume of cheese with a very tiny grater, and Matthew expertly broke both a wooden spoon and the doorstep.

Saturday was middle distance day and we organised ourselves into cars according to start time, allowing Matthew and Phil maximal lie-in time. On the way to the race, a car stopped at Asda in an attempt to get barbecue food before it sold out - supplies were low but the mission was successful, and included two large bags of ice to keep things cool since it wouldn't get put in the fridge until evening. The area was Windmill Hill, which was generally very runnable and had plenty of undulating contours. Top DrongO man was again Ben W in 15th, a minute behind DrongO offer holder Aidan Rigby in 12th. Paul P wasn't as fast as usual because his delicate skin had spent too long in the sun before his race. In the women Zuzka S and Helen P finished 52 seconds apart in 39th and 40th place. There was more TrailO happening after the race, but most of us spent the afternoon sitting in the assembly field in the sun again. By the time we'd finished doing nothing, it was time to go home to get 12 people through the shower before walking down to a local pub for dinner. The Varsity shower queueing system was not enforced as time wasn't quite as tight, and we only got to the pub a few minutes late. We ordered Indian food - 12 Peshwari naans and one garlic naan later (there had to be one, Ben W's uncle Simon), we were very full. We walked back home for bed, and Matthew V nipped off to Reading to pick Fiona up from the station.

The long distance race was on Sunday, and we awoke to equally blue skies and predictions of heat as the last two days. The race was at Cold Ash, a very long thin forest, and generally pretty nice to run through. The 17.8k men's course was tough in the heat, with only one drinks point about 2/3 of the way around. This time Ben S was top DrongO man in 27th place, with Matthew V 3 places and 7 minutes behind. Ben W whacked his foot on something and retired, but it turned out to just be a bruise, with the handy side-effect of avoiding a long run in the heat. Zuzka S again beat Helen P by one place, them finishing 3 minutes apart in 31st and 32nd, a little over 40 minutes down on winner Meg Carter-Davies. We did some more sitting around in the sun (or shade), as well as observing some picnic blanket competition between Matthew V (who had the Lake District) and Mark Bown (who had the whole of the UK).

We then headed back to the house to get the barbecue going, which went well because we bought charcoal which was flammable. The halloumi was very popular, so perhaps more halloumi, less burger next time! We ate and played group games outside until it got dark, then continued these inside. One game involved miming random words from Harry Potter picked by Matthew, which included "Gregorovich", "Confringo", and "Quibbler".

The final day of the JK was the relay at Minley. SquaDRON GOld surprisingly came back in the lead after first leg, with Ben W leading the way. Due to a map issue queue Richard W hadn't quite made it into the box, but luckily the handover happened before Murray Strain caught up. Phil Slingsby completed the team - CUOC captain and GB representative in the late 80s who has recently rekindled his orienteering after a 30 year break! Meanwhile, PokeDRON GO was made up of Helen P, Zuzka S and Simon W, who replaced Fiona who had an injured foot. We again sat in the sun for a while, and then went to a very touristy "beach" by the side of a lake for some afternoon swimming before heading home. Sadly Matthew's car missed out on swimming due to it being the wrong way and Matthew having a "long way" to drive home.

Thanks to everyone for coming, and what a great weekend of sunshine!

Lake District Weekend 2019


Day 1 - Middle Distance at Haverthwaite

Ben S got up at 4.40am to catch a train from Cambridge, and Ben W and Zuzka joined him on the train from London, getting up at a relatively civilised 6.30am. Ben S was at least 30 minutes early for the train, and it's debateable whethen Ben W and Zuzka were at least 3 minutes early or not. John O picked them up at Lancaster and we went to the race.

The forest was very technical and very not like The South, and John O did well to finish in 8th on the 4.3km "Black", just breaking the 40 minute barrier - but still 10 minutes down on winner Will Gardner who must have had a blazing run. David Maliphant was also spotted in the assembly area, we believe he came because he had his family with him so he could actually turn up to a Lake District race without being a lone driver.

Afterwards we sat in the hazy sunshine for a while and ate chilli and cakes and analysed whether paying four times as much for a cake from Podium catering instead of the junior squad stall was worth it. It appears to largely depend on what sort of cake you like.

On Whitbarrow ScarThere was still time to enjoy the good weather so we went for a walk up Whitbarrow to see some views, including (just) the Blackpool Tower in the distance. Then it was back to John's house to make some food - we decided that John has greatly improvied at turning into his driveway.

We made chilli and Czech blueberry dumplings, but accidentally on purpose forgot to pour melted butter over them. We were also joined by Claire, who had been bouldering, and Joe, who had been for a very long run, not quite long enough to make him hungry to finish the 5 people's worth of chilli which remained though.

Day 2 - Long Distance at Hampsfell

In a repeat of last year's Lakes weekend, we offered to help with the race today, except this time Ben W managed it without breaking his arm. We all started around 10am to make it back in time for second shift start helping. The area was half complex, steep, and rocky woodland, and half open fell, which was easier both technically and physically. There was also a tricky couple of controls towards the end in an area with limestone pavement, rough open, wooded patches and squiggly contours all mingled together. On the (Short) Black, Ben W finished 5th, just over 3 minutes down on the winner, with John O in 12th having caught Ben S by four minutes during the tricky forest section.

Helping on the start was busy, especially for Ben S who had to run around about 10 map boxes every minute putting a map under the box before the next minute started. After this we had lunch and then went to collect controls. It was extremely satisfying that it started raining quite heavily just after we'd got into the car having finished control collection!

Meanwhile Zuzka was standing in the rain in assembly waiting for her lift back to London to pick her up, sacrificing her own dryness to keep her laptop dry. She even refused the offer to sit in the car until they arrived! We dropped Ben S at Lancaster station. The previous evening Claire had told Ben W and John they could come to Phil W's house this evening (without his knowledge of course) but it turned out to be fine and we enjoyed some very tasty takeaway pizza. The amount purchased roughly abided by the CUOC pizza algorithm, however the pizzas were somewhat larger than Aldi ones so pizzas defeated humans by a margin of around one pizza.

Varsity 2019, Isle of Wight


Day 0 - Arrival

All of CUOC, most of DrongO, and exactly 1/3 of JOK (just Ed Catmur) came over all on one ferry on Friday night with optimal car efficiency of 5 cars and 24 people (one car didn't have a middle seat). A rendezvous point was found to meet organiser Ben where orienteering equipment brought from Cambridge could be exchanged for large volumes of food brought from Tesco. The very very nice on offer peanut butter was very very popular.

Day 1 - Individual and Social

Saturday morning was quite a relaxing start for everybody already there, with the first start not until 11am, and all the controls were already out the night before after a successful dash-before-dark control hanging session by Ben, Zuzka, and Zuzka's dad. For those travelling in the morning it was a less relaxed start, but still OUOC turned up with an impressively large team, partially helped by having some recent good cross country recruits.

The prediction was for OUOC to win the Men's and CUOC to win the Women's, but especially in the men's it wasn't totally clear that OUOC would win, as both sides were fielding strong teams at the top.

It was quite windy at the start but also sunny with lovely views over the sea.

The first half of the course was very fast, runnable, and fairly flat, unless you went wrong and got stuck in the brambles. There were some technical sections of gorse bushes to navigate around, and also some longer open legs where you could see the control from quite a way off - unfortunately, as some competitors found, it wasn't always their control. The second part of the course went onto the steep southern slope of the area, where there were more brambles if you weren't careful about which way you went. There were two route choice legs initiating lots of discussion - a choice between running along a very steep slope with not much climb, or running along paths but having to climb 40-50m. The second was an over-or-round the valley route, with the straight route involving around 75m climb but the round route being about twice as long.

Once everybody had safely finished, it turned out OUOC had indeed won the Men's and CUOC had won the Women's, and CUOC's men's captain Jeremy had won the prize for worst team selection by (a) not selecting himself for the team and then being the fourth best runner and (b) possibly being the first time (ever?) that the captain hasn't been in the Varsity team!

Among the alumni it was tough going. All of JOK's one-man team mispunched, and JOK's two-women team were beaten by DrongO's many-women team.

Well done to John O and Helen P who won the best men's and women's alumni trophies, Jamie Parkinson (OUOC) who won the student men's, and Fiona Bunn (CUOC) who won the student women's.

In the afternoon there was a bit of time for some tourism, which included Ben Stevens going swimming in the sea, some people visiting a cafe, and some people visiting the garlic farm. Some unlucky people (thanks John and James) got to take Ben to Tesco to buy more food and boat race beer. Luckily John's car park fears didn't come true.

At the accommodation the showering situation was very non-optimal (very unlike Oxbridge) until near the end when the queueing system was optimised, ensuring maximum use of the showers by making sure there were at least four naked people in the changing/showering room at any one time.

The showers only delayed the boat race by half an hour, which took place very appropriately in a children's playground. Despite an impressive effort by Rowan from CUOC taking the place of 3 people in the team, OUOC still took the victory. Unfortunately Paul is silly and left the trophy in Cambridge, but at least there was a bottle of Cava to spray as a prize.

We then headed immediately across to the pub opposite for the social. This was buffet style, and we think there was enough food relievingly. There was also beer/cider included, but but 53 people did a poor job of drinking the 100 pints or so available, and there was still quite a bit left at the end! The prizegiving also happened, during which prizes were given, and then a band played for a while and some people danced.

DrongO won the party again by having the most people left shortly after midnight when we all went back over to the community hall to go to sleep.

Sunday morning was the relays - with 9 control hangers the controls were out in no time (good work team!). It was extremely windy, and Ben S decided not to hang a kite at one particularly windy control on the cliff tops because he decided it wouldn't be there for much longer. Luckily we avoided the rain, and a suitably sheltered location just below the start was found to put up the tent.

The relays were mixed teams to try to make them fair, and the one with Paul in it one because he's fast like Paul. Ben was presented with a very tasty easter egg for his organising (thanks Jeremy!) followed by an extremely efficient control collection, and we were all packed away before the rain arrived!

We believe Varsity 2020 will be abroad somewhere, to be announced a week or two beforehand, unless it's in Stockholm in which case it will be announced very soon ;)

Day 2 - Relay

Sunday morning was the relays - with 9 control hangers the controls were out in no time (good work team!). It was extremely windy, and Ben S decided not to hang a kite at one particularly windy control on the cliff tops because he decided it wouldn't be there for much longer. Luckily we avoided the rain, and a suitably sheltered location just below the start was found to put up the tent.

The relays were mixed teams to try to make them fair, and the one with Paul in it one because he's fast like Paul. Ben was presented with a very tasty easter egg for his organising (thanks Jeremy!) followed by an extremely efficient control collection, and we were all packed away before the rain arrived!

We believe Varsity 2020 will be abroad somewhere, to be announced a week or two beforehand, unless it's in Stockholm in which case it will be announced very soon ;)

Cross Country Skiing, Czech Republic


Day 0 - Arrival

In what turned out to be DrongO's largest trip for a long time, or possibly ever, 19 people made it to a remote hut in the Jizera mountains in the north of Czech Republic.

Everybody flew out on Thursday afternoon/evening which no wheelie bags in sight, and we then split between Dan+Bára's flat and Mark+Blanka's flat in Prague. We enjoyed buying 50 transport tickets from the ticket machine at the airport, and those staying at Mark+Blanka's only started working out exactly where their flat was after we'd left the airport, thereby going by a mildly non-optimal route.

Although this was unusually a non-orienteering trip, James, Dan, and Mark went to a night race on Thursday evening. James got into Dan's office by cunning use of LinkedIn and then came 4th in the race, leading one of Dan's friends to ask whether James' surname was actually Bond (only two letters difference) - this would also explain why James has free airport lounge access.

Day 1 - To the Mountains

We had an early-ish start on Friday to catch an 8.30am bus to Jablonec. We split between us the 60kg or so of food supplies which Mark had bought. Sadly the bus wasn't one of the ones with free drinks and TV screens, but it was good for sleeping on. As we got nearer the mountains the snow got deeper and the trees whiter, and Miranda in particular marvelled out of the window as she'd never been somewhere this snowy before. We then switched to a train which cost about £10 for 15 of us to go for half an hour, and we got to the end of civilisation at Josefuv Dul.

We hired skis from a shop just next to the station, although Andrea had her own shoes which didn't fit their skis, so went for a 4k walk to another shop (it also turned out there was a station very near to that shop, but the train didn't go for an hour so it was ok). Once everybody had experimented with different shoe sizes until something vaguely fitted we discovered that they only take cash and there was no cash machine in this town/village. So we clumped together the money we had for lunches, and Mark (who was coming in the evening) saved us by bringing as much as the cash point would give him! Zuzka also decided we needed to hire a sledge because some people had never been sledging, which is not ok.

It felt like a very long 3k up the hill to our accommodation because the snow was knee-deep and hadn't been ploughed. Just as we were nearing the top a plough came through made the last tiny bit a lot lot easier to walk. As a result Andrea, who met the plough much nearer the bottom, only arrived just after us (although it also helped that she knows how to ski so she skiied up).

The hut has no running water (just a nearby well), no mains electricity, and a dry toilet - back to basics! We got the fires going as much as possible as it was freezing inside, while Matthew really really enjoyed digging a path through the snow to make it easier to reach the well. Just as he was completing said path, the snow plough came through in the other direction, nullifying some of his efforts. We had lunch and then got our for our first bit of cross country skiing!

Most people had never tried it before, so there was a lot of falling over, but in general people did pick it up impressively quickly. The main issue tended to be slowing down on downhill slopes. It was about 2 hours until it got dark so we had some practice on a nearby track with Zuzka and Andrea as coaches! James appeared not to need much practice and just sped off as if he was going for a run, except with skis instead of trainers.

Once it was dark the hut had a collection of oil lamps, candles, and various other things which emitted light if you put a match to them. With these lit it was very cozy inside, although still quite cold - the fire was gradually doing its job though. The first meal was curry and cous cous, with water boiling made easier by a gas cooker which we weren't expecting to be there. After a public transport nightmare, Dan, Bára, Mark and Blanka arrived through the darkness, with Dan bringing 8kg of bread for us. We chatted and played games and went to bed relatively early to make the most of the light the next day.

Day 2

Saturday was our first full day of skiing - we set off along a track and agreed to regroup at the junction about 5km away. However, we spread out a little more than expected so it was quite cold for people waiting at the junction. There was plenty of falling over but everybody managed it very well. The next stop was lunch at Smědava, a mountain hut/pub. The first group to arrive got food, but then there was a power cut as the second group came along, meaning that they could only get soup and bread. Nobody seemed phased by the power cut as if it was fairly normal in these parts. We split into groups in the afternoon and met back at the hut. The evening was spent with more fire, eating halušky (a traditional Slovakian dish which is vaguely similar to Gnocchi), and playing more games, including a new acting one where you have to "bet" against the other team how quickly you can act out a word. Fire master James and his helpers had done a very good job of warming up the bedroom and it was too warm for the first part of the night!

Day 3

On Sunday we did a loop to the west of the hut - this meant that everybody had to do about 27km to get to the lunch place at Nová Louka and back. The weather was a bit worse today, it had been cloudy until now but there was more snow falling. We were pretty hungry by the time we reached lunch, and then had to wait for a table at the restaurant. There was a very moody waitress and a quite friendly waiter. It became clear yesterday that Blueberry Dumplings were becoming a favourite dish - they are a main course, but consist of sweet dumplings filled with blueberries, topped with icing sugar, tvaroh (a creamy cheesy thing) and molten butter. On our table of 7 we all had a normal meal, then 4 plates of the dumplings between us on top of that. We were quite full at the end but that's a good thing. Then there was a long uphill for about 6km, which seemed to go surprisingly quickly, and then another 6km or so with not much uphill to get back to the hut. It was quite dark by the time the last people arrived, and skiing down the final slopes whilst not really being able to see the snow led to more falling over.

The people who had got back sooner had got the fires going, and James and Andrea and managed to convince themselves to go for a quick snow bath outside the hut when they got back. The final meal was pasta with various ingredients which didn't require chopping/cooking, and more games were played for the rest of the evening. Helen P and Claire also left us this evening, and both made it down the hill safely.

Day 4

Dan and Bára got up very early on the final morning to go to work. James got up with them for about 5 minutes before realising it was still very very early and nobody else was moving. When we did get up we packed our stuff, before having half a day to get some skiing in before leaving. It was a beautiful day, the first time we'd seen the sun and the snow covered landscape looked really impressive under its light. It was also pretty windy, and quite bitter when gaps in the trees allowed the wind through. The "fast" group consisting of Andrea, James and Ben originally planned to go to Smědava again for lunch but got there at about 10am. However, James hadn't had any blueberry dumplings yet, so had a large plate of them and was very full afterwards, but later on was glad he'd eaten them as it was a while until actual lunch! We then carried on to explore some tracks which we hadn't been on yet. The wind, combined with the weight of the snow, had felled quite a few trees and this made going quite slow to get around them, especially if you had to take your skis off beause you'd then sink knee deep (or more) into the snow. There was also a "shortcut" along an unploughed footpath which was very slow going and too steep uphill really for skis. Other groups of people did various other loops/lines, and even Miranda, who had really terrible blisters, went for a short while - this did mean that the final carrot never got used for the nose of a snowman though.

As Andrea, James and Ben got back, everybody else was just leaving to get back down to the valley for the train. The small amount of remaining food was also packed up, but we managed to scavenge dried apricots, peanuts and cereal bars for lunch! Half an hour or so later we (along with Zuzka and Jeremy) also set off thinking we'd easily catch up if we skiied down, but the track hadn't been ploughed and there were several fallen trees across it. This led to us all regularly falling over, and even Zuzka, who was rather impressively skiing whilst towing the sledge) had her first fall over of the trip! The most efficient way of getting down ended up being Ben running whilst towing the sledge with his skis tied to it, and the other three skiing as the track became less uneven lower down.

There was just enough time to return the skis and make the train which the others were waiting for. We had about an hour to change train to bus in Jablonec, so some people went to a pub, some went to a sweet shop, some went to a bakery, and some went to multiple of the aforementioned. John had fun in the pub working out that his beer wasn't in fact 13% alcohol. Some people went straight to the airport to fly home, and the rest of us went to a pub for dinner (fried cheese was becoming another favourite) before having a bit of time to walk around Prague and sample Trdelník and sausages.

Going home

We slept at Mark and Blanka's flat and got up early to fly home and go back to work! James had a later flight so went for a run before leaving home, making the difficult choice to go for a run in the centre rather than running to the airport.

And so came the end of one of the largest, most remote, and most enjoyable DrongO trips, which ironically didn't involve any orienteering (although we did spot some kites in the forest). There's been a suggestion of next year combining our visit with the Jizerska 50 for a challenge! Thanks to everyone who came!

November Classic


Saturday Results | Sunday Results | CUOC report

Last weekend a load of people went to a classic race in November: the November Classic. Ben W, Ben S, and still-managing-to-be-CUOC Emma headed off from Cambridge in the first car on Saturday morning for the Winchester City Race. Ben S managed to put the postcode in wrong and lead us to a very full car park, before we led ourselves to a different car park with a very empty top floor, which was also very far from the assembly area. However, it did mean that we got to walk across the centre to get to the race, thereby seeing where the busy shopping street was, and spotting a rather good chocolate shop to come back to later. Emma didn't run so that she could work, but we don't think she got much work done. She still out-cooled most of the other CUOCers though, who didn't come until the evening because of work.

The race was nice, it went through various types of urban terrain and showed us interesting bits of Winchester, although navigationally it wasn't especially difficult. DrongO got 3rd and 4th on the Men's and Women's courses respectively (Ben W and Sarah R).

Sarah also came, bringing two triathlon friends with them from Oxford. Turns out their friends had tried two orienteering events, then decided to do the OMM the previous weekend, throwing themselves in the deep end! We all went to the pub after the race for lunch, followed by the chocolate shop where Ben couldn't finish his chocolate cake because it was outrageiously sugary/chocolatey, but fortunately many others were willing to help. We were also joined by Rory whose ankle is gradually recovering after an operation on it, and Michal, a friend from Zuzka's Czech club who is currently working in Brighton.

We drove back to Zuzka's parents empty house and dropped off the CUOCers to do work whilst the others went to see fireworks in the neighbouring village. It was quite an impressive display considering it was in a village. We then returned to make veggie chilli, but due to lack of saucepan space there was a pan of rice, a pan of lentils+tomatoes, and two steamers on top of other vegetables - then you mixed them on your plate! The CUOC car arrived at just about the right time for food to be ready. In the evening Paul tried to do a Scottish accent but it didn't sound as Scottish as a Scottish person, the ex-CUOC men's captain's first disappointment of the weekend. There were 11 people sleeping in the 2-bedroom house, but I think there was still space for a few more.

On Sunday morning Paul tried to be helpful by making porridge, but he got the recipe wrong and actually made a mush of hot oats and water, his second disappointment of the weekend. Fortunately adding banana or sugar to it covered up for his reckless behaviour.

We drove to the race and it rained, but not too heavily. The area was very fast, mostly open with a few patches of forest. There were some interesting long legs with over/round routes and through/round the gorse routes. The ex-CUOC men's captain thought he might be able to catch the DrongO captain by four minutes, but actually only caught him by 7 seconds, underachieving his expectations by a staggering 97%, his third disappointment of the weekend.

After the race we all had to go home and not do more orienteering, which was everybody's final disappointment of the weekend. Looking forward to the Southern Night and Long champs later this month!

Stockholm Training

DrongO results

On 6th-8th October, 9 DrongOs headed out to Stockholm for a long weekend. The reason for going was that Ben W had a flight voucher from BA giving him £100 off per person for up to 9 people, so we needed to make best use of it. We met on Friday evening at Heathrow (except Bara, who flew there straight from Czech Republic). James H had lounge access and Dan was the first to volunteer himself as the guest, so they enjoyed free stuff whilst the rest of us read Matthew's chartered engineer application form and tried to fill up our water bottles from a very slow machine, which claimed to have saved 20 plastic bottles with the amount of water it took to fill up one. Dan brought some ice cream back from the lounge and then we got on the plane.

When we landed, Bara had already arrived at the Ravinen Club hut, and couldn't find the key. It was about midnight at this point, so most people who could have been helpful were asleep. It turned out that Ben W had forgotten to email the key holder to remind him to hide the key, and the key holder had forgotten to hide the key. We did get through to him, but he was 200km from Stockholm so couldn't help. We spend the 90 minute journey from the airport wondering what to do, whether to try to cram into a hotel room or just sleep outside. When we arrived we tried the windows, and there was one which wasn't secured very well, which we managed to get in through! Panic over.

We had a good lie in in the morning and then went training on the area next to the hut. It was also the 25 manna relay today, but we didn't have 25 people, and didn't want to get up before 7 to give us time to make the start. The terrain lived up to Swedish expectations of complicated contours and rocks, and nicely runnable. We were doing the "naturpasset" permanent course, which meant we didn't even have to hang controls!

Ben W and Matthew V were first back and immediately went off to the supermarket to buy food for the weekend. Fortunately a 1p coin worked to release a shopping trolley. Matthew decided to load all the very heavy things into his holdall, rather than splitting them evenly between the three bags we had, and therefore struggled to carry the bag back to the bus stop. When we got back we counted the weight, which was 25kg, plus another 20kg or so in the other bags. Everybody thought we had bought way too much food, but it turned out we'd only bought a little bit too much food (we did eat about 4.5kg out of the 5kg of cheese). We basically had a whole Sarah Gales worth of food to eat.

After a late lunch we went to do a 5-person trains exercise in the forest to the north of the hut. The course did a lap of the lake which gave some great views from the cliff tops when on the far side of the lake. When we got back, Ben, Richard, Natalie and James jumped in the lake, while Matthew nobly sacrificed his swim to take photographic evidence for the rest of us. We thought the water might still be warm from the summer, but we were very wrong. Fortunately the sauna in the hut was waiting a few hundred metres away, so after a few rounds of sauna we had a late dinner of veggie chilli and apple crumble.

It was an early start on Sunday, since we went to the middle distance race which accompanied the 25 manna relay from yesterday. On the way there we enjoyed splitting into two groups for a tube train race between Slussen and Central Station. Unfortunately, the side-by-side trains were above each other by the final station, so we don't know who won. The forest was about a 15 minute walk from an underground station (Stockholm is great) and was very very runnable. We discovered that the meaning of "elite" in Sweden is quite different. All 9 of us were entered on the elite course, and all the men except Matthew had been demoted to a second elite course because the first one was full. Of the 66 people on W21E, DrongO got 60th (Zuzka), 64th (Natalie), 65th (Fiona), and 66th (Bara). This was despite Zuzka having a pretty good run, with better min/km than all the DrongO men who didn't mispunch. Matthew managed to mispunch, and on M21E-2, we achieved 40th (Dan), 41st (James), with Richard mispunching and Ben retiring with a bad knee. Classic DrongO in a nutshell. The organisers were nice though, and didn't disqualify the people who took longer than the two hour time limit...

In the afternoon it was very sunny and Zuzka went back to the hut to do more orienteering that she'd missed out on yesterday because she had to work, while everybody else went to be tourists in the centre. Dan and Bara went to a ship museum about a ship which didn't work, while everybody else went to see an ammunition factory which hadn't worked and was replaced by a building commemorating how it didn't work. Ben discovered he wasn't thin enough to fit through a metal ring. Dan and Bara went for a coffee, while everybody else walked past many nice fresh ice cream shops to search for packaged Daim ice cream, which must be eaten when in Sweden.

When we got back to the hut Zuzka had finished orienteering and had gone for a walk, so Ben went to meet her. Richard sent a message to the WhatsApp group saying that dinner was nearly ready, to which Ben replied "We will be back in 10 mins, soz we were a bit busy getting engaged". Most people hadn't read it when they got back, which was amusing for Ben and Zuzka, and the people who had read it hadn't said anything. Then Natalie read it and made no hesitation in asking about it, which was also amusing.

We ate pasta bake and played a Czech game calle Bang. Some people decided to see if it was possible to resist being tickled by tensing your core muscles. Ben was quite good at it, while Zuzka, Matthew, and Fiona were all terrible. Once dinner had gone down, some people went for the reflexbana (following reflectors in the forest). Matthew and James ended up doing 15k having cut the long loop short.

On Monday morning, having finally had a normal night's sleep and Matthew had recharged fully, some people went to do a different part of the permanent course to the west of the hut, while injured people went for a walk around the lake, and Matthew and James headed east (Matthew orienteering, and James doing a path run because his ribs were hurting after running into the side of a car the day before we came to Sweden).

We ate the leftovers from the previous meals for lunch, and sadly threw away the leftovers of the leftovers, before clearing up and heading off to the airport. Another fun weekend for DrongO. The next trip's the cross country skiing in January, which 15 people are coming to so far!

London City Race


Day 1 - Friday Middle Race


The 2018 London City Race weekend started with a middle distance urban race around Rotherhithe. It was quite tricky, with a couple of especially tricky sections of short legs which you needed to be well prepared for! On the women's course, Zuzka S came 6th and Natalie H was 8th, while Ben W won the men's elite by 14 seconds, with Tom Dobra in 9th. James was involved in a Jeremy/Dan situation and followed somebody to the wrong control.

In the evening there were 6 people staying at Ben and Zuzka's little flat, and based on this they decided that 12 people would just about fit sleeping there if needed. Sarah and Riggas had been to a wedding instead of the race, but were ironically still the first to arrive because Dan was waiting at the station for Bara to arrive from Czech. By then it was quite late so the initial apple crumble making plans were postponed. Dan gave Bara a t-shirt, which was a nice present for a while until it turned out it was free from a careers fair.

Day 2 - Saturday Main Race


The assembly area was the same as yesterday, and DrongO found a suitably prominent place for the banner to be put up. The weather was pretty perfect. The courses were good, planned by JOK's Ed Catmur, and even though there were some easier legs across blocks of buildings, you had to use these to plan ahead to the more tricky sections if you wanted to do well! It was 2k to the start, including crossing Tower Bridge, which meant those with later starts had to time their journey to the start for when the bridge wasn't open!

In the men's elite Ben W was top DrongO in 4th place, 2:32 down on the winner, followed closely by James H in 6th, who had been leading at the mid-point of the race but made some mistakes in the second half. We then had Tom D 12th, Ben S 16th, and Cedric F was very excited to beat Dan S by 21 seconds to get 40th place. Iain Stemp was also spotted in a DrongO top coming 53rd. Now official DrongO-in-law Riggas came 43rd on Men's Open, followed closely by Richard W.

The women's saw Sarah R just making the top 10, with Natalie H 17th, Miranda L 25th, and Andrea Stefkova reappearing in 29th after a long time not orienteering, followed 6 seconds behind by Zuzka S. Bara Z got round probably her first ever elite course and even beat some people! Raphaelle ran W40+, claiming that this is the age her body is, which is clearly not true.

After the race we continued the Dicken's Inn tradition of going for Beast Pizza. This year the quantity wasn't as ridiculous as last year, we ate 4 of the beasts between 15 of us. It was a very good turn out considering several DrongOs were in Ireland at the MMM instead!

Natalie then invited us all back to her house to play some games, so most of us went there and played Mafia and Mascarade for the rest of the afternoon. We then headed back to Ben and Zuzka's flat to make curry for dinner. Apple crumble was postponed indefinitely as we were all quite full by the time we'd eaten the curry. During the course of the evening we discovered that 5 people had managed to leave something at Natalie's house, the most impressive being Bara who had left her entire bag behind and not noticed. Luckily Natalie could bring everything the next day! There was time for a quick game of Articulate before bed.

Day 3 - Sunday Middle Race


On Sunday there was another Middle race based in Bloomsbury. This one was navigationally much simpler, and although there were a couple of hard to decide route choices, it was mostly about running hard. There was a "self standing banners only" rule, so the DrongO banner was eventually stood up tied to a bench, and later supported by being stuck in a bin by Dan, much to everybody else's disapproval. Those of us staying with Ben and Zuzka hired Santander bikes and cycled to the race.

The men's was a very close finish, with James H in 2nd just 9 seconds off the win, and Ben W another 13 seconds behind. Tom D and Ben S were 6th and 7th to make the top 10 40% DrongO! Dan also got beaten by 22s by Katrin H's almost non-orienteering fiancee Hugo Popplewell. In the women's there were three top 10s: Katrin H in 4th, Sarah R 5th, with Natalie in 8th.

After the race it was sunny again, and some people left and some people went for a picnic in a nearby park to finish another great weekend of running around central London!

Langdale proven not to be unlucky


A few DrongOs met up in the Lake District this weekend to go for a walk: Ben, Zuzka, Matthew, Fiona, John, Helen P. Ben's previous two visits to Langdale had involved the cars getting flooded and him breaking his arm, but this time nothing especially bad happened. On Saturday four of us walked over Pike of Blisco and Shelter Crags, which weren't very sheltered. Fiona was bagging Nutalls, there were 10 today but we think she might have been to nut-all of them because it was quite foggy.

We got back to the car as Matthew and Zuzka arrived, and cooked dinner at the edge of the road sheltered from cars by Matthew's warning triangles. Then we camped by Stickle Tarn through a wet and windy night. On Sunday morning we did a shorter 3-Nutall walk including High Raise. We headed down to the cars and Matthew and Fiona left. The rest of us camped Sunday night in the same place and sat by the lake drinking tea, feeling a bit cold, but admiring the rather impressive stars, before walking down in the morning and going to work.

This weekend, we discovered:

  • Matthew is actually a sheep
  • Fiona would prefer it if Matthew was a cat
  • Ben is going to get wet if he mentions Fiona nut going to a Nutall one more time
  • Zuzka doesn't enjoy being kicked in the night
  • John doesn't complain if there is nothing to complain about
  • Helen still enjoys playing peek-a-boo after all these years

British Sprint and Middle Champs 2018


Day 1 - Sprint, Bath University

Results | Some photos

Six DrongOs (Ben W, Ben S, Zuzka S, Sarah *R*, James S, and Dan S) and DrongO offer holder Rowan Lee met at the sprint champs at Bath University. There were also some other DrongOs who for some reason had decided they would go with their beloved families instead of the DrongO group. Dan only decided he was coming on Thursday evening, and managed to get a lift off WAOC last minute from Cambridge, but didn't have an entry.

The area was good for a sprint, and although the multi-level area which was shown in the final details had produced some controversy, the courses were fairly planned and the element of luck was minimised. The assembly area was excellent, at the uni sports centre by an athletics track with showers and good spectator views over the finish. In the morning were the heats. In the men's, Ben W was the only DrongO to make the A final, with our favourite James making a mistake in the multi-level part and missing out. Sadly there were no DrongO women in the A final.

The A finals were run before all the others, which means that for some people there wasn't enough time to sample the barbecue which was being held over lunch. Ben W finished 13th overall with a 40s mistake, and it turns out the top runners were taking it easy in the heats as they opened up the gap in the final quite significantly. On Men's B, James H was 6th with Tom D and Mark Bown in 14th and 15th. The Women's B saw Sarah R finishing 4th and Miranda L in 14th. Dan entered orange on the day and did the course, but in the middle of it diverted in an attempt to punch as many controls as he came across, and came back with about 40 controls.

After the race we drove most of the way to Bath City Centre to where parking was still free, and walked the last bit. Ben turned on location sharing so that Zuzka, who had been at a youth hostel all day working, could come and find us, this wasn't very successful because Zuzka's phone is rubbish. Meanwhile, we saw the river, looked through the windows of a historic map shop, had fun running along a paving-slab maze with grass "walls", the Abbey, the Circus, and the Crescent. Along the way Sarah saw a guy carrying an ice cream with a WAFFLE cone, and asked him where we bought it. He bought it in a shop with a cow outside. We all had ice cream there, which came in a huge variety of flavours. We then went and had dinner in a pub and went back to the cars. On the way back Dan was using Ben W's phone Wifi hotspot, and Ben enjoyed controlling Dan by running away, and he had to follow if he wanted to stay connected. We also spotted a Waitrose and bought some very reduced bakery goods, as well as ingredients for breakfast pancakes.

We then drove an hour to Street Youth hostel and spent the evening eating the aforementioned pastries and playing bananagrams.

Day 2 - Middle, Stockhill, Somerset


We had quite late starts on Sunday so had lots of time in the morning to have a lie in and then make pancakes with banana and Nutella. Even after that, we still had some time so played a few rounds of the card game Cambio. Dan and Rowan had a milk drinking race to finish the last bit of milk before we left, which despite Dan being rather quick, Rowan still won by a significant margin.

The race was in a small area which had been remapped for the event - a comparison in the final details between the two made it barely recognisable that they were the same area from the way the detailed contour shapes had been remapped. The ground in the wood often looked like there was a lot of vegetation, but it was actually pretty easy to run through.

In the men's elite, Ben W was top DrongO in 6th, 2:42 behind winner Jonny Crickmore two took the double title of both sprint and middle this weekend. Ben S finished in 12th, James H in 17th. and Mark B in 21st. The women's elite course saw Miranda Leaf being top DrongO in 15th, with Sarah in 21st and Zuzka in 23rd. The W16 course was exciting on the commentary as the silver and bronze medal winners were decided on the run-in split. Dan again entered Orange on the day (M12) and punched so many extra controls whilst doing the course that the computer couldn't automatically assign his course by looking at what he'd punched, however once it was manually selected he had indeed completed the M12 course correctly, with a lot of extra punches.

After the race we had lunch (mostly chilli from the food van) and headed home by various methods of transport!

Nice Holidays 2018


Friday - middle

2 Drongo families Two DrongOs (Bara and Dan) participated at Nice Holidays orienteering in Czech Republic.

The first day was on Friday, late afternoon, where the start was very very very far, so we started the weekend with a 2.6k run to the start as we were a bit late. Bara succeeded in attaching her number. Dan attached it in some funny way so he lost it. But everyone knows Dan so they did let him start.

Everyone finished with a smile on their faces, including Dan and Bara's dad competing in M50. Dan was really pleased he was able to introduce the families with the help of a map. Dan ran M21U, where U stands for ultimate - the map is unusual in some funny way. On the first day there were no roads and no yellow.

Saturday - long and party

The second day was long. Bara's younger brother managed to come third at his second race ever in M10S. Natural talent! Dan's ultimate map had some roads, some contours and some rocks - not all at the same time! The hardest bit without contours was particularly challenging, as if a mistake was made one could accidentally run all the way up a wrong hill! Dan's map, day 2.

Later in the day, there was a pinpunching competition. Dan, who made the top 16 in the last two years, made a mistake and missed the final. Dan's mum had an excellent route choice and beat Dan by 7 seconds, nearly making the final herself - with a time of 1:06, only 4 seconds behind! We watched the final and cheered for Bara's future Czech club Kamenice (hopefully).

The Saturday night party was 2.5k away, so the organisers prepared a quiz on the way. We didn't answer all the questions correctly, however Dan knew the organizers and received the welcome drink anyway. The party was fun. Dan has (d)run(k) in a beer relay. During the race, someone accidentally spilled his drink. Dan solved the problem by confiscating a drink from one of the organisers. It didn't help as all the other teams finished before Dan even started the last leg.

Sunday - middle and prizegiving

Dan's map, day 3. Dan wasn't the only one who came with bread to raffle prize giving. On the last day, Dan's map was only missing roads, but it was nowhere near that easy as the colors were swapped. Dan made a few small mistakes and finished 12th overall. Bara returned from the woods with a smile on her face even on the last day, fascinated by the beautiful scenery and keen to do more orienteering in Czechia.

We went to watch the prizegiving ceremony and as we were approaching, someone told Dan he should go up the stage. It turned out Dan has won a main prize in the raffle. Everyone laughed as Dan happened to be carrying a sack of bread, which is not only his favourite food, but also a nickname amongst Czech orienteers, Breadie.

Sprint Scotland, 20-22 July


Ben W and James H attended Sprint Scotland on 20-22nd July. This was organised by "masterplan adventure", a new club set up by Graham Gristwood and friends for the purpose of organising high quality events like this. There was training on Thursday and Friday (but we only arrived on Friday) and then races at the weekend.


Friday 20 July

James picked Ben up from under the M90 motorway bridge just outside Perth, where Ben had been camping the previous night. The orienteering was all near Falkirk. On Friday there were three courses in Hallglen - route choice, a long line through a complex housing estate, and a map memory exercise. We did them, and then did route choice again, this time picking different routes for comparison. We then had lunch from the local shop: sausage rolls, potato pancakes with cheese and ham, and caramel shortbread, prompting GG to think that they should have a talk on nutrition next year.

We went to a nearby campsite and then walked 3 miles into Falkirk, seeing the Falkirk wheel and Callendar House, 2 out of the area's 3 attractions. We had food in a pub on the way back where James remembered having curly chips as a child in the same chain, but it appears they no longer do them, which was very sad. In the evening was a talk by Yannick Michels of Belgium about how he thinks about sprint orienteering.

Saturday 21 July

Ben Windsor. Photo by Tommy Horton. On Saturday there were two world ranking sprint races in Denny. Ben consistently made a 20s mistake and consistently came 17th. James improved from 15th to 10th across the two races, only 30s out of touch with team GB runners! The second sprint had two very short legs around some bushes followed cunningly by a very long third leg. Ben actually did some warm down runs with James, but unlike James didn't start warming up an hour before his start. In between race naps are also highly recommended.

James Hoad. Photo by Tommy Horton. After the races there was time to get curry in the centre before the evening talk by Kris Jones about his methods for sprint orienteering training. He had made some nice graphics about technical, physical and mental aspects, but we couldn't see them because Chris Smithard's laptop only had open office - we think a just giving page is required to buy him a copy of PowerPoint ;)

We then returned to the campsite where there was supposed to be a ceilidh, according to the campsite owner. However, what this actually meant was that he invites all the campers/caravanners to come and play and dance, and sees who turns up. It's a great idea for getting people to talk to each other on the campsite. However, in the end it was only, us, the owner, another lady who lived in a caravan permanently, and one other family also from Aberdeen. The owner said they sometimes have up to 60 people, but we were unlucky, and most of the campers were either English or German, which gave some explanation. We played some guitar and sung and talked a bit and then went to bed.

Sunday 22 July

The next morning was the 3rd sprint race in Grangemouth. Ben cycled here via Falkirk's third and final attraction - the Kelpies. This was probably the easiest race navigationally, but still tough to do fast. James finished 10th again but with a couple of mistakes at the very end, and again about 30s off the GB runners, with Ben a minute behind in 14th. We stayed to watch the prize-giving, signed some autographs for some small children who were collecting signatures from everybody they could find, and then James headed home and Ben headed across to cycle up the west coast and outer Hebrides. Looking forward to the British Sprint Champs at the start of September!

Harvester 2018


On 23-24th June a team of (just about) 7 DrongOs made it to the Harvester Relays just outside Crawley. Despite our cobbled together team including somebody who had stayed up all night the previous night (Dan), somebody who took 4 hours last time they ran second leg (Fiona), somebody who occasionally gets beaten by an honorary DrongO (Matthew), somebody who claims to be slow (Zuzka), somebody who didn't want to run in terrain because of recovering broken arm (Ben W), somebody who'd just got a 5k PB of 14:25 the previous evening (James), and Ben Stevens, we actually had a pretty decent result, coming 6th overall out of 13 teams, and won three of the legs.

The afternoon before the race the two Bens went to an urban race in Staines. It was one of the better urban races, and the courses were true to the final details in being 75% longer than straight line distance. There were lots of interesting route choices and terrain varied with modern housing estates, council estates, the city centre, some parkland, and also a graveyard where it was in-bounds to run across the graves!

Ben W was pleased to not be that slow, finishing 1st. Ben S 2 minutes behind in 3rd, having won the timed out road crossing with a time of just 10 seconds.

In the evening we met the rest of the team (and also UBOC) in a pub in Crawley for dinner, before walking to the area and pitching our tents. The campsite was in a very runnable bit of forest.

Dan Safka started us off on first leg, and mostly had a good run except for a 35 minute split on a particular control - he was pleased that his GPS watch finally came in useful though for seeing where he actually was! Fiona beat her time from 5 years ago by around 3 hours. The rest of the team continued with some solid runs, with Matthew, Ben W and James winning their legs (there were lots of paths with advantaged both James and Ben a fair amount).

In the morning James went home to visit his parents whilst he was back from Aberdeen and was replaced by Pavel who had been running for BKO, and we went for a walk up Leith Hill, where there was a great view over London and the second excellent climbing tree of the day was found. This was followed by a very good (if slightly pricey) Sunday lunch in a village pub to finish the weekend!

2nd June 2018


What some people did on 2nd June 2018

Ben W went back to Cambridge for a day and it was fun. Tesco lorries say "no baguettes are kept in this van overnight". Dan met him at the station. Ben assumed they were going to brunch at Darwin because Dan and Bára had clicked "going" on the Facebook event, but it turned out to be fake news because Bára was in Oxf*rd and Dan didn't know what brunch Ben was talking about. Half way there, whilst discussing the optimal route to Darwin, Dan realised he didn't have his phone because he'd left it balanced on one of the bike racks at the station. After a run back there in sandals, he found it and they could continue to brunch. In Darwin gardens they bumped into DrongO offer holders Alice and Zoe, who were revising. On the way to midsummer common, DrongO offer holder Anna cycled by, probably off to do some revision. At midsummer common it was the strawberry fair, where no CUOCers were because they were revising.

After that, DrongO in law Pavel met us on Parker's Piece for a mini picnic, and Jeremy, who had been playing frisbee for the rest of the afternoon, joined us too. Then we went to pilates where Emma, Helen O, Lily, and Elizabeth had got their priorities just right by turning up.

This was followed by a barbecue on Jesus Green, during which Emma explained how you could tell that she wasn't wearing tights, and we played inverse piggy in the middle with Jeremy's frisbee.

British Champs 2018, Aberdeen


The British long and relay championships were held in Scotland on 19-20th May. James H provided accommodation at his flat in Aberdeen, finally making use of all the extra space by filling it with 10 people (6 DrongOs and 5 UBOCs).

Ben and Zuzka arrived by plane on Thursday evening, and Ben and James were keen to climb Mount Keen on Friday, so they did. Zuzka was also keen but had to work instead. Matthew V, Ben S, and Tom D arrived on Friday evening, Tom having another 4 Bristol people in tow. James decided that a 30k walk wasn't enough so went for a run which most people joined him for. Meanwhile Matt Pickering gave a sneak preview of a new, improved Trail-O scoring website.

Saturday was the long distance champs at Balmoral Castle. The Queen wasn't there, we were told she had gone to some wedding instead. We think she should get her priorities sorted. However, the assembly area was exquisitely mowed and ideal for lying in the sun. The area was steep and fairly rough running, with far more over-or-round route choices than you would normally get in the UK. In the men's, Matthew had a very good run to finish in 17th, in a time of 110:30, 18 mins down on the winner. James caught John by 6 minutes and they had fun overtaking each other several times in the last bit of the course. Ben W took a picnic with his broken arm and came last - his application to the 200 club was rejected by Ben S on the grounds that you have to get in by being lost, not broken.

After the race we walked up Scolty for a view from the top of a hill, while some of Bristol went swimming in the Dee. Then we cooked bolognaise with a special guest ingredient of broccoli.

The relays were on Sunday in an undulating forest with some very very fast bits, and lots of brashings in some sections. After discovering the Matthew was running for WCOC and we hadn't noticed despite him telling us, sqaDRON GOld this time was James H, John O, Ben S - finishing 13th of 22 teams. Matthew decided his men's short first leg wasn't enough, so ran second leg in a non-comp team with Zuzka and Ben too. Afterwards we climbed a mountain called Morven it was steep on the way up and slightly less steep on the way down. Zuzka lay on the floor at the top to shelter from the wind, which disappointed Ben S because he was trying to take photos with her silhouette in.

Zuzka gets rejected 3 times, and Ben makes a dog do hill reps


On 12th May Scott Collier and Anne Edwards of JOK got married, and some DrongOs were invited! Ben W, Zuzka S, Ben S and David M got the night train down to Cornwall, while Adam Bennett and Chris Williamson also made the journey by car.

The wedding was outside and there were camels and a peacock. There was a ceilidh which Zuzka was quite excited about but everybody either too boring or had a broken bone.

There was free camping at the farm where the wedding took place, and but amusingly the only campers were 5 DrongOs, 2 JOKers, and another couple.

The next morning there was a slow paced run. Ben W didn't go, and met one of the farm dogs who was extremely keen to play fetch with a stick. This included the dog doing hill reps up a knoll.

Then we went for a sunny walk along tracks (giving up on footpaths because they mostly weren't there on the ground) and got the train home.

Irish Orienteering Champs 2018


On early May Bank Holiday weekend, a relatively large group of DrongOs, a CUOCer, random guy from LVO, and DrongO parents headed to the Irish Orienteering Championships near Dun na nGall. It seems the capital letters in the middle of words are a thing in Ireland.

Ben W, Ben S, Zuzka S, Vicky S and Lily A flew together on Friday morning, joined shortly afterwards by Ben and Vicky's mum Sue, and John O. Various people drove to various airports and everyone ended up at the Pružina House for lunch, although the Stevens car ended up at not the Pružina House for a bit. We had a tour of the garden which included a trampoline.

The Irish champs has the same format as the JK (sprint, middle, long, relay). The sprint was in Sligo on evening. The area was harder than the JK area, but only just. Ben W walked and took photos of people overtaking him, but nobody got too distracted by it. Once everyone was finished we played catch in the sun using dandelions, watched the prizegiving, and went for fish and chips.

We were staying at Helen and Paul's uncle's holiday house, which had no signal or heating. It was great weather all weekend though and we lit a fire so all was good.

Starts were late on Saturday so we had a nice lie in. Everybody went to the middle race which was on marshy moorland, except Ben W who took his arm for a walk up a hill near the house. Paul came 2nd and Ben S came 7th, while Vicky came 5th and Helen narrowly beat her mum Steph into 9th.

In the evening we went for a short walk on a stony beach / headland where there were lots of fossils, which Vicky knew everything about. Unfortunately the bird poo didn't count as geologically interesting, and Zuzka found a bone. Ben S discovered that his waterproof shoes weren't waterproof when the water gets deeper than the height of the shoes, and many people hit a stone with another stone in mid air after many attempts.

Sunday was the long distance with a 2k walk to the start. Paul came 2nd and John came 9th, and Vicky was 2nd, with Helen and Zuzka 8th and 9th in the women's. Steph didn't come last. The area was rough open and physically tough with a 98 minute winning time for the 12k M21E.

Afterwards we sat in the sun for a while and some people bought a plate of some very impressive salad the organisers were selling. We went home and most people swam in the sea and decided that it was quite warm in the water compared to the breezy beach, upgrading to a tennis ball for a game of catch. We cooked broccoli with some other stuff for dinner. As it was getting dark we squeezed in a spontaneous trip to a cliff viewing point, where Paul's claims of a 600m high cliff were actually just claims of a 600m high very-steep-slope-with-integrated-sections-of-cliff.

Monday was relay day in very runnable sand dunes in a military area. Ben S brought the men's team back in 2nd after leg 1, with Vicky and John running next and finishing 5th overall. The women's field was small with only 4 full teams - Helen came back 3rd after leg 1, with the team finishing 4th overall.

Once again, amazingly, we sat in the sun for a while then started the drive back to Belfast. We stopped for a walk at Castle Cool, which had a suspicious rock, an unsuspicious bench, some interesting trees, a forest hide, a rope swing but no actual castle.

Vicky flew home in the evening, saying that she would see us at the big 5 O week in South Africa because she's going to do a postdoc there soon. Everybody else went back to the Pružina house to eat broccoli with some other stuff. We discovered we had left the teapot on the other side of the Ireland, and Zuzka tried to break the kettle by boiling it without water to make things worse, but then Pružina father Mark fixed it, alleviating guilt from Zuzka and alleviating tea withdrawal symptoms from all the Pružinas. Finally, there was time for Steph to give John some pilates instruction on how not to be deformed, then we went to bed and home the next day.

Thanks Helen and Steph for organising everything for us! The next chance to go the Ireland is the Mourne Mountain Marathon in September!

LOC Lakeland Weekend


On 14/15 April DrongO attended the Lakeland weekend of orienteering. We offered our help to LOC since they had been such a help in making the Harvesters happen last year. Saturday was a middle race on a really runnable and visible forest area. We helped collect controls afterwards, then went back to John O's house for the night. There was a trip to Lancaster wetherspoons in the evening followed by a SoberO in John's garden, helping us to be in an optimally hydrated state for the race on Sunday.

Sunday's race was at Lingmoor, an open fell with a 300m climb to the start. Various people were helping so started as soon as the start opened were off so they could help on second shift. About a third of the way around Ben W was running down a rocky slope and fell, breaking both bones in his forearm. A whistle came in very useful, and LOC first aid brought warm clothes. After about 2 hours mountain rescue arrived, gave him nitrous oxide gas, and carried him down on a stretcher. Two days later at Lancaster hospital they operated to stick it back together with titanium plates. The author of the article hopes Ben will be running again soon. Thanks to Simon Filmore, Mike Hooper and Bob Gibbs for their help on the hill. Meanwhile Ben S finished the course and was very pleased for a while that he hadn't been caught by Ben W.

JK 2018 - Cannock Chase


The JK festival of orienteering 2018 was held over Easter weekend on Cannock chase, just north of Birmingham.

A DrongO trip was organised with accommodation in the "Alpine Barn" - a small but cheap bunkhouse literally in the assembly area for days 3 and 4.

Day 1 was a sprint race in MOD Stafford. The navigation was very easy so it was basically a running race. After the race we waited around talking until 5 minutes before the prizegiving, when we decided to leave. However, the commentators announced that we should stay, so some of us did. They also called us CUOC even though everybody left was DrongO, so thanks for taking the blame CUOC. When we did leave, it started raining almost immediately, which was ideal.

Matthew and Fiona went shopping and the rest of us went to our bunkhouse, where we made a highly original meal of spaghetti bolognaise once the food arrived. We played games for the rest of the evening, and Matthew and Fiona kindly went out to the airport to collect Raphaelle and Cedric, who had flown all the way from Paris, and potential honorary DrongO-in-law Rona went to get John O from the station, who had refused a lift from Lancaster with his parents to get the train instead.

On Saturday there was a middle distance race in a nice but very hilly area. Chris (Matthew's cousin) missed a control out. Ben W made him feel better by missing one too. We spent the second part of the afternoon playing games again, including humming renditions of Uptown Funk from Ben, Bounce from Chris, and love songs at 6.03pm with Richard. We reaslised that the door to the bunkhouse didn't have a thing which beeped if it was left open, so everybody had to scream if it was open for over 5 seconds to keep the warmth in. In the evening we had a pub meal and were joined by a few CUOCers too. Most people bought a drink before the meal, but we think we slightly bewildered the pub afterwards because everybody just drunk a lot of water. Matthew and Ben took a diversion on the way home to collect Tom D and Zuzka S from an Easter church service, arriving with precise accuracy as they walked out into the street.

Sunday's classic race had the start about 20m from our front door, with the elite men running 17.9k and the women 11.4k. The terrain was less hilly than yesterday, but tougher with branches and bracken in a lot of places. Matthew reached the spectator control a minute ahead of Ben W but his jelly babies ran out so lost time in the second half. Paul P of CUOC did well to finish in just under two hours, while cousin Chris joined the 200 club running the furthest he had ever run.

We ate a lot of food afterwards, and Matthew had quite a long nap, then directed us in making veggie chilli from his bed. The evening was again spent playing games, and of course, eating more food. Ben W was branded "apple bitch" by Rona after he discovered there were a lot of apples left, so chopped them up which led to them being consumed. Ben S admitted that he would prefer to have rubbish thrown in his face than join in with the humming game. About 5 minutes after we turned the lights off, Phil and Chris were telling cheese jokes (what cheese coaxes a bear out of a tree?) and Dan and Bára arrived - they'd been in the Peak District and Yorkshire to go walking. Dan wasn't as loud as John was expecting so John probably complained silently to himself about something else.

In the morning Dan was as John was expecting, but it was OK because everybody was awake. We then noticed it had snowed overnight, and was now raining quite a lot. Luckily by the time the relays started, it had mostly stopped, although the assembly field (not to mention the entire forest) became very muddy. DrongO had an impressive four teams - SquaDRON GOld just slipped into the top 10 in the men's while the Outer DRONGOlia and Bosnia and HerzoDRONGOvina finished joint last in an identical time (but neither mispunched). The women's team, Democratic Republic of DRONGO also finished last, but one of their runners was injured and walking.

We finished by tidying up the bunkhouse, the owners inspected it by glancing in through the door for about two seconds and saying "it looks like you cleaned", and Matthew "auctioned" off the remaining food to the quickest bidder. Dan and Bara went to Stratford Upon Avon on the way home, discovering that the merchandise had a Shakespeare related item for every interest possible - including "an exploration of Shakespeare's world through maps". Thanks to everybody who came for making it a fun weekend and hopefully see you on another trip soon!

Sarah Gales has a good Saturday

Following on from when Sarah Gales had a good Sunday back in 2016, it has been reported that she recently had quite a good Saturday, completing at least the following three activities, which happen to begin with the word "got":
  • Got up
  • Got married to Riggas, thereby making the "potential Drongo-in-law" mentioned in the London City Race 2017 report a reality
  • Got driven away in a car the correct size for her. We still don't know how her new husband managed to fit in.
Further additions to the list are welcomed by email to captain at drongo.org.uk, as long as they begin with the word "got".

The wedding was near Wilmslow with the reception being at a place called The Colony, where Sarah's dad hoped that Riggas' family (from Australia) would feel at home. The whole occasion was very nice and the speeches were both heartfelt and amusing.



Day 1: Praga Magica

Ben W, Zuzka S, Miranda L and Dan S all flew out from Stansted for this weekend of orienteering. Dan was organising his race "back to the Goat" on Sunday, named after the famous Czech beer (Kozel, meaning goat) from his village, so he had flown out on Thursday evening. On Friday evening he went to a ball in Prague whilst the others were flying out, parking his van by a tube station so that Ben could chauffeur everybody back to his house afterwards. The roof in the car park was quite low, but not too low.

On Saturday we drove a few km to a station. Ben drove, because Dan wasn't sure if he had recovered from the previous evening yet. Unfortunately there was only one space left in the station car park, which was rather narrow, in contrast to Dan's van, which was rather wide. The 10 minutes spare we had disappeared as we aligned the vehicle in the spot, much to the amusement of some onlookers. This meant we missed the train and nearly missed the starts. Dan of course had somebody's phone number, who said that we would still be able to run.

The race was "free order" (like score, but you have to get all the controls as quickly as possible, rather than there being a time limit), and there were three categories: A, B, and C. All courses had the same map and you just went to a different subset of the controls, deciding which course after you started running, which was nice. Part of the course was around the old town, and part on top of the hill opposite on the other side of the river, which had nice views over the old town. One line of the final details was good: "Don't ask about the length of the courses, I don't know them, and the map, as is tradition, isn't even ready yet. If there'll be a map at all." As it turned out the map was good. Blanka and Mark Collis also came along from locally.

In the afternoon Dan, Miranda and Dan's younger siblings Sophie and Seb went sightseeing, and walked quite a long way, whilst Ben and Zuzka went to visit some friends.

We met back at Dan's house in the evening where we made dinner and some cakes for Dan's race the next day. We also helped to prepare some things for Sunday's race, which included Miranda imagining she was chopping people's heads off whilst using the guillotine to trim the control descriptions, and writing the numbers 1 to 150 on sticky labels.

Day 2: Opet na Kozla

Sunday was a forest race to the South-West of Prague in the forest next to Dan's house. Ben hung the shortest course by bike, while Zuzka started running straight away so that she could spend 6 hours on a train to visit her grandma for 3 hours. Isn't that lovely. The sun was out and Miranda tried to stay in the small sunny spot in the shaded assembly area. Dan and his dad dressed up as goats and sat at registration.

The race was a mass start with no gaffling, except for a single "control X" which could be punched at any time during the race. However, since this was the Xth Kozel race, where X==11, the 16km A course was called X, and included all X controls from previous years, so there was a lot of choice! The forest was fast but also quite steep in places, and the courses were planned well. It was often hard which route to pick, with quite a few over-or-round choices. Half the map had been mapped remotely by Dan using Lidar data, Open Street Map, and his memories of the forest, and it was remarkably good considering it had all been done from the UK.

Ben switched down to B because his hip was hurting, and just won between the last control and the finish. Miranda and Zuzka's times were within a few seconds of each other, but Zuzka's time included running to the start. Dan didn't run because he was busy organising the whole thing.

The assembly area was in the courtyard of a pub, so after the race we ate food there and sat around for a while, then helped to collect controls. We didn't manage all of them before it got completely dark, but Dan found two other people who willingly offered to go out on another day and get them so that they would still get to run the courses.

We ate pizza in the evening "because it was Wednesday" and went to bed quite early, except Dan who increased his sleep deprivation by sorting out various other post-race things. Let's hope his siblings will clean his bike for him.

DrongO Doesn't Go To BUCS


In March 2018, DrongO didn't enter for BUCS, because the U stands for university, which DrongO is not. However, once Zuzka discovered that the party was (a) at Cosmo where you can eat all you like and (b) Harry Potter themed, she decided that attendance was acceptable, and so Ben and Dan planned to go too. Unfortunately it was cancelled due to snow, so they spent the entire weekend throwing snowballs with extreme accuracy at Dan's forehead. They didn't miss once, as can be seen in the video.

For a more accurate description of what actually happened, CUOC have spent their extra time writing not one, but two accounts of how they didn't go to BUCS.

British Night Champs

This article was inspired by the CUOC article

On 24/25 March 2018, the DrongO flat (Ben, Zuzka and Dan) and CUOC captains (Paul and Helen) got into a relatively spacious hire car and went to Wales. On Friday evening we drove to Ben's parents near Rugby and stayed there. Paul was understanding/obnoxious whenever Dan said anything. The next day we climbed a hill called Sugar Loaf next to Abergavenny, and spent quite a lot of time on the sheltered side of the peak, which actually wasn't that cold in the sun. Paul was sympathetic/mean whenever Dan said anything. We arrived at the night champs with a bit of time to spare for Paul to be kind/unpleasant. The sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr were very technical for a night race and lots of mistakes were made. Ben was 4th on the men's, but still 16 minutes behind GG. Meanwhile the CUOC women's captain got into the medals with a Bronze, having beaten three people. We enjoyed some veggie chilli before a failed World Record Attempt for the number of people sleeping in one Travelodge room.

On Sunday morning, once Paul had finished being amiable/insufferable, there was another sand dune race at Pembrey forest. It was technically simpler with some easy running long legs to get between the technical sand dune sections. Paul came 2nd having caught Ben by 5 minutes, so there was some fun head to head running for a few controls.

After a short while eating cake on the beach in the sun, sheltered from the wind by a dune, we decided we should go back. Paul was pleasant/nauseating for the entire journey. We stopped at Aldi for food, Ben's parents for food, and Shell to feed the car.

The moral of the weekend is that frozen mango is nice, but only after waiting a short while so that it doesn't stick to your tongue.

Varsity 2018


Individual Results | Individual Winsplits| Relay Results | Relay Winsplits | Photos (Individual) | Photos (Relay)

On 17th/18th February the Varsity Match was hosted by JOK near Sheffield. There were 18 DRONGOs, 16 CUOCs, 15 OUOC, and 8 JOK entered. The accommodation was in a slightly remote bunkhouse in the hills above Hathersage. There was a cow in the barn next door. The postcode wasn't quite the same as the bunkhouse, so several people managed to go to a random different farm first. Dan arrived at the wrong place as Ben was leaving, and failed to interpret Ben's hand signals. However, he too found the right farm not long after. John, keeping up his reputation, told CUOC they should sleep downstairs so that he could have more peace and quiet, and continued drinking his brew. Dan decided he wanted a brew too, then Zuzka decided she also wanted one. So Dan, who had already got up to make it, sat down again and asked Zuzka to make his too. Smooth. James H, who was driving from Aberdeen, had estimated his arrival as midnight, and he turned up with impressive accuracy.

Saturday was the main Varsity match at Hathersage Moor. The parking was at Surprise View. Once the mist cleared and the sun started to come through, it lived up to its name. The area was quite physical with some tough heather and marshes, and early runners had mist to contend with as well. The course was good though with a nice mixture of long legs and short technical legs. Dan was the earliest start and Matthew was the earliest finisher, having caught Dan up by 11 minutes and then overtaken him three times. Results were as could have been predicted: DrongO won the alumni, CUOC won the women, and OUOC won the men. Top DrongO man was Ben Windsor, about 2.5 minutes down on the leader, while DrongO local Jenny Peel won the women's alumni match. After the match Ed Catmur invited Ben for a 'warm down jog' - which actually meant collecting most of the controls and running further than the course itself!

Afterwards went back to bunkhouse and some people had cold showers, some people got buckets of kettle water, and some people didn't bother. After many debates about the beer race, it was eventually postponed until 2 hours after dinner. Dinner was in a curry house in Hathersage, followed by prizegiving. Then the alumni went to the pub while the students went back to the bunkhouse with some cheaper booze, except Jeremy who was the only one to accept the offer from alumni to buy him drinks in the pub. Back at the bunkhouse, the lack of drinking receptacles meant most of the beer race was straight from cans. CUOC won for the fourth time ever. Looking forward to the second DrongO win ever three years from now.

Then the party continued with honorary DrongO DJ Philly V providing all three of his tunez. For the second year running, DrongO won the party, although CUOC did close the gap significantly from last year.

The next morning was the relay at Blacka. The terrain was more runnable but also more hilly than yesterday. Nick Barrable had armchair planned and the control sites hadn't been visited, however it still turned out to be excellent! It was quite cold so there were three mass starts 10 minutes apart. Well, four mass starts, because an unfortunate Fiona B from CUOC twisted her ankle, and so the nice people who stopped to help had their own mini mass start once she was safely back with her ankle surrounded by ice. We wish her a speedy recovery.

Once Dan had collected the majority of the controls, everybody was on their way back home!

Well done to Josh Milner for organising a VM with accommodation and relays, and we look forward to DrongO organising in 2019 - to be confirmed!

Luxembourg City Race 2017


Arrival (Friday)

At the start of November an astounding 10 DrongOs sacrificed their bonfire night to go to the Luxembourg city race.

This was the first public orienteering race ever organised in Luxembourg and was temporarily funded by club members until the entry fees came in...sounds a bit like DrongO! Luxembourg orienteering club only came into existence in 2016, and its first race in such a niche location proved more popular than they expected with 350 entries.

David Roach from JOK was the organiser, with the planner and several other helpers being Czech - living in Luxembourg though. The city was a great place, built into, above, and below cliffs 70m tall - indeed the route to the start included a public lift going up these cliffs. There were also very few tourists around at this time of year.

Ben Windsor, Dan Šafka, Richard Watkins, Rory Burford, Miranda Leaf, Sarah Gales and Harriet Burdett flew in on Friday night and Ben Stevens came by train from Cambridge! Dan wore his bike helmet because he was scared he might annoy somebody too much and get hit.

Miranda decided it was a good idea to bring a wheely suitcase on an orienteering trip. While we laughed at first, we later discovered this was a valuable opportunity to reflect on the impact a wheely suitcase can have on a trip:

Difficult to carry up stairs Guys offer to carry your bag up the stairs for you
Look out of place on a trip with orienteers Fit in well with normal society
Gets put in hold on Ryanair flights Gets a nice sticker attached to it saying "Free Hold Bag"
Only good on very smooth surfaces Don't have to carry any weight on shoulders
Difficult to squash into luggage sizer if slightly oversized Difficult to squash if a fat man sits on it

Upon arrival, it took Dan 108 seconds to use the toilet, Miranda 109, but Richard smashed them in a nippy 58 seconds.

We then got to the very nice Luxembourg youth hostel and then some of us went to find food at about midnight, ending up in McDonald's after finding that Luxembourg city centre is about the same size as Cambridge's. During the night Harriet dropped a phone on Sarah's head.

Training (Saturday)

On Saturday morning we walked out to a small forest on the edge of the city which had a lot of very well mapped knolls, and went training. This was planned by Ben with the map kindly supplied by David. There were 6 courses, each named after two of Luxembourg's 12 towns. Miranda twisted her ankle, but not too badly. Helen Pružina, who came by train from Germany, joined us at the end and we then went to the most amazing playpark ever, evidenced by the fact that even Ben Stevens came to play on the massive see-saw bridge.

Then we had the 'plat du jour' in a pub for lunch, trying to work out whether to try French, English, or German. It turns out that Luxembourgish does exist, and sort of sounds like German.

Next we caught the bus (buses are free on Saturdays!) to near the airport to another forest which wasn't properly mapped but was still pretty nice to run in. Here we were joined by Zuzka Strakova. There was a 7k course. Ben W ran first hanging controls and on return found some curious Luxembourgians wondering why our bags were dumped in the forest (not well enough hidden). We didn't need to worry though because according to the UN, Luxembourg is the safest place ever. Also their motto is very spritely: "we wish to remain the same".

Next we returned to the centre and spent the evening exploring the city walls, which also turned out to be the competition area, but hopefully this didn't help us too much! Having been on our feet for a long time, we went to bed relatively early and wrote a postcard for Dan, where we weren't allowed to know who the recipient was, and he wasn't allowed to know what was written.

The race (Sunday)

Sunday was race day. The courses were 3.7k and 2.8k for men and women respectively, but the actual distance was around double, with lots of climb and some really quite difficult "I haven't a clue" type route choices. Rory warmed up to his hour and a half long race prep playlist whilst intermittently pausing to take photos.

In the men's Ben W won despite several mistakes, but everybody must have made them! Ben S finished 4th with Rory 11th, Dan S 14th, and Richard unfortunately punching an extra control, not knowing that this doesn't matter in orienteering (it matters in canoeing) and so not getting a time. In the women's Sarah was 2nd, with Zuzka 6th, Harriet 10th then Miranda and Helen in 18th and 19th. Some good runs from DrongO!

There was amazing home made food available cheaply in the event centre for afterwards, as well as Czech beer actually brought by car from Czech Republic! We enjoyed this for a while then helped with control collection.

In the afternoon we visited the network of tunnels inside the rocky cliffs which was exciting, with spiral staircases and windows out of the cliff faces. It has some historical value but the rest of the internet (or Sarah) can tell you more.

We then followed a chocolate walking tour of the centre from the internet which visited 6 chocolate shops, half of which were closed. We went into one for hot chocolate and cake.

Before our flights home we had time to return to the hostel for some bananagrams and dinner. Luxembourg was a very unusual city and we recommend everyone to go to the next Luxembourg city race which is planned for two years' time!

British Sprint Championships

Heats Results | Finals Results

On Saturday many DrongOs attended the British Sprint Championships in Milton Keynes. It was great weather. Ben, Zuzka, and Dan had all missed the entry deadline but offered to help, and were allocated the job of spare helpers who do whatever needs doing. Sarah Gales, who had also offered to help, somehow did have a job though, wearing a trendy fluorescent jacket. After a while, it became apparent that WAOC were incredibly well organised and nothing else really needed doing, so they went to Bletchley park instead. It was 2 for 1 if you travel by train (one stop from MK to Bletchley), but only printed vouchers would be accepted. After a trip to a non existent print shop which Google claimed was half way down a very residential looking street, they abandoned that plan and got a bus. Dan said something in the queue and had to do press ups. We decided the museum's favourite phrase was "vital" because almost all the signs claimed the thing they were describing was "vital" to to the winning of the war.

Back to orienteering, the author of the article assumes everything was very successful and everybody had a wonderful time. Many of the elites were missing due to a clash with a world cup race in Switzerland - we are unsure how BOF didn't realise this when scheduling it. Quentin Harding won M55 and we discovered that Nigel Bunn, 4th on M50, is also a DrongO! In Men's open no DrongOs made the A final, so the best result was Ben Stevens 2nd in the B final. Meanwhile Jenny Peel won W45 with Lucy Wiegand in 5th. Sarah Gales came 15th in the A final for the women's open.

London City Race 2017


Friday - Sprint, Wapping

The 2017 London City Race weekend consisted of three races, as usual. Friday evening was an evening sprint which not many DrongOs went to. Dan Šafka came 15th of 26 on elite, and Katrin Harding planned the courses very well! There was a route choice where it would have been quicker to cross the canal then to run round, but nobody did.

Saturday - Main race, London

The main race was based at the three-level Barbican. Most courses had the tricky bit at the end, hard because you had to do it when you were tired, but also easier because you had the whole rest of the course to think about it if you wanted to. Some of the shorter courses went there twice.

DrongO's best results of the day came from Sarah Gales and Eric Roller. Sarah came 4th on women's elite, 3:21 behind the winner, albeit from a slightly disappointing field size of 14, and Eric won silver on men's vet! Ben Stevens, despite his adversity towards urban orienteering, was top DrongO in the men's elite, finishing 15th, with Dan Šafka in 37th. Honorary DrongO Phil Vokes decided that the best route for 7-8-9 was not to go to number 8. He did realise at about control 23 but didn't go back and repeat most of the course, for which we are highly disappointed in him. We also bumped into a few other DrongOs there such as Miranda and Adam Leaf (Adam looked like he had spent a lot of time in the sun over the summer) and Rob Campbell. We also met 'Riggas', a potential Drongo-in-law, for whom this was his fifth orienteering race - he ran ultra vets but he will work his way up!

After the race we went to have beast pizza at the Dickens Inn, but they no longer had it on the menu! On request however, they made it for us! We were also joined by Fiona and her dad. Having consumed three beast pizzas between eight of us, we were very full. We discovered from Strava that CUOCer Paul Pruzina had made a mistake at the SHIs. He claims it was 10 seconds but we disagree. Then we started walking towards The Map Shop in Covent Garden because Phil wanted to get a map. However, only Phil and Fiona actually made it there because the others needed to go home before that. The idea of having a barbecue back in Cambridge afterwards was cancelled due to us being too full from pizza, and it getting dark.

Sunday - Ultrasprint, Victoria Park

On Sunday there was the ultrasprint in Victoria Park. There were three heats to be completed in any order, each about 1k long. The top four in each class then had a gaffled head to head final in front of spectators, with the rest of the field running afterwards. In the men's heats Ben Windsor finished first despite getting one 30s penalty, followed by Phil Vokes. Katrin also ran the men's because she didn't have an entry and swapped with somebody. The finals came and Ben and Phil had the same first gaffle. Phil got ahead at the start and held Ben up for a few controls with his version 5 dibber. They then split, and coming into the maze just before the finish Ben was a few seconds ahead. Ben then ran the wrong way towards the finish, Phil was distracted by him and also ran the wrong way, before both corrected it with been punching a second before. However, the print outs gave the same time (probably because Phil's slow dibber took a second to register the start), but Ben was awarded the win. Fiona P also turned up as an enthusiastic spectator, and sat on top of a cut down tree to cheer. Three other DrongOs also fluttered into the tree to join her later. In the women's final one woman had left early so Katrin self-nominated herself into the final as a replacement, and came second, but non competitively, behind soon-to-be-CUOCer Fiona Bunn. Eric Roller also made his final, but unfortunately missed a control, realised several controls later, forgot it was a penalty and not DSQ for missing a control, and retired.

After the race Ben, Dan and Phil went for a barbecue. Dan was dangerous/annoying to the public by running in the market so we banned him. Since Phil was the only one without a bike, he joined the banner pole sitting on the back of Ben's bike for a while. On the way back from Sainsbury's (to buy bbq food), we came to a dead end. But the nicest Londoner ever was just leaving his house, and he he opened the private access gate for us to let us back onto the canal towpath! Whilst barbecuing by a lake in Victoria Park, we saw Moorhens diving for fish, and some tourists in a rowing boat rowing in the wrong direction so that the boat moved backwards and they could see where they were going.

After this we went our separate ways and the weekend was done! The next city race is Cambridge on 28th October!

Pěkné prázdniny (Nice Holidays)


Day 0 (Thursday)

Jeremy and Dan set off from Stansted airport on a flight with one catch, that it didn't actually go to Prague. Dan put all effort into securing a window seat without paying for it. The people he sat next to were quite concerned he was going to upset the balance of the plane. The flight arrived early (big surprise) so Dan and Jeremy went to do some site seeing. Dan insulted everyone on the bus when describing Brno, which is known in Czechia for having a phallic statue. They went up a church tower and were deafened by the bells ringing. The journey to Prague took rather longer than expected with a two hour traffic jam on the motorway. Fortunately this was compensated for by a nice meal at Dan's grandma's. Jeremy spent the night in Dan's parents bed with bae.

Day 1 (Friday)

John had spent the night sleeping on a bench at Manchester airport although not much sleep really happened. The flight landed on time because it wasn't Ryanair. He then traveled into Prague on the metro to meet Jeremy who was very excited to have travelled on a double decker train. They went for a walk around the old town and Charles bridge which was packed with tourists. After a quick stop for lunch and to see the geological institute they travelled to the outskirts to catch a lift to the races. Dan had spent the morning mowing head-high grass in his garden.

About an hour later we arrived at the campsite, which was a field on one side of a quiet road, with the assembly area opposite. The first race of the weekend was a middle race. The terrain was steep and rocky. John had a accident when he slipped down a slope and caught his arm on the SI box holder, which resulted in a purple/black bruise. He ended up 3m below the control and had to clamber back up the slope to punch it. SI Air+++ would have been useful. Dan had entered the ultimate long (UL) course which had a special (messed-up) map. Today the map was missing paths and yellow areas. After finishing the UL course he did H21E as well. Jeremy managed to finish the course.

In the evening Dan received a delivery of bread, drunk lots of beer and woke everyone on the campsite when he was trying to find his sleeping bag. John and Jeremy drunk some beer and easily located their sleeping bags, where they had left them in the tent.

Day 2 (Saturday)

We woke to find some of the locals were already drinking beer in the assembly area, and one man ordered a shot of Jeigermeister for his breakfast. The start was again a short walk from the assembly area. The terrain today was steep and rocky, and the elite class had a long race with 780m of climb in 10km. The long course was technically not too difficult, and was mainly about route choice. The UL course used a combination of different maps of varying ages. Whilst the contours hadn't changed much, the vegetation was significantly different.

In the afternoon we went for a walk to Trosky castle which was on top of the hill overlooking Friday's race area and the campsite. The castle is built on two basaltic plugs, the result of an igneous intrusion when material in the mantle underwent decompression melting. After having ice-creams we returned to the assembly area to take part in the punching competition. This consisted of 9 controls in an area of flower pot stones. Each control had a pinch-pun which had to be completely within the box on the control card. Dan was one of the quickest 16 people and proceeded to the knock-out finals, but unfortunately he was knocked out in his first heat.

In the evening we met some Finnish people who were glad to talk to other people who didn't speak Czech. We bought some tea, drunk some beer, watched the video footage taken of the races, and headed to the race party. There was a mixture of Czech and English music, some of which seemed an odd choice for a party. God provided a lightshow of high level atmospheric lightning. Fortunately none of it came close to the campsite. Jeremy and Dan drunk some bread liquor. Dan managed to locate his tent and sleeping bag quietly.

Day 3 (Sunday)

Dan was woken by a group of small children standing outside his tent, who were naming the different types of dinosaurs on the tent fabric. He offered to sell them the tent, but as they were at primary school and still unemployed they declined. The terrain was very steep and very rocky, and could be quantised into about two different elevations. The elite course had a middle race on a 1:7,500 map. The UL course map contained only rocks and contours, although not always both. There was a surprise refreshment point on the course, where Dan had some beer and grilled meat. The forest was really nice and parts of it reminded John of CUOC Norway trips. Several controls were in an incredible rock labyrinth, creating interesting route choices of either navigating the labyrinth's narrow passageways or climbing over house size boulders, which was complicated by the often tricky descent back into the passages. John had a fastest split on one control, and Jeremy again completed the course.

At the prize giving the course winners won beer, bow saws and axes. We packed up the tents (Dan's was a real mess) and caught a train to Pilínkov (near Liberec. The train got a bit lost at the station we had to change trains at, and we ended up on the wrong side of the tracks from the platfom thanks to a confusing track layout, courtesy of Czechwork Rail. When we reached Pilínkov, we went to the pub for some food and beer, which was much nicer than the stuff on sale in the assembly area, and only cost about £7 total for three people!

We started walking up a mountain and hid the bags in the forest at about 800m elevation, before continuing to the summit of Ještěd (1012m) to watch the sunset. There is a restuarant in the hotel tower at the top, where we went for some more food. We were given menus in English, although after a while Dan asked for a Czech menu so he could provide a better translation of some of the dishes. At this point he discoved that the Czech menu contained some cheaper options not present on the English menus. We ate Svíčková, a traditional Czech dish (beef, dumplings, gravy, cream, cranberry sauce) which Dan said would be nice - it was. We walked back to the bags in the dark and put up the tent.

Day 4 (Monday)

We got up really early and walked to see the sunrise, which was cold and hidden by a cloud, but thankfully there was a handy ski chairlift to sit on. After a breakfast of bread and jam, we walked down to Liberec. John and Jeremy took the tram (and the bags) to the train station, and Dan ran, arriving only a few minutes later.

John left (to return to Prague) and made a surprise appearance about 10 minutes later. Even though he managed to decode the Czech shortcut for 'Bus Terminal' - well done - his bus was booked from another stop. The bus was awesome with free onboard films to watch. Dan and Jeremy spent significant time (and space at the train station) repacking to leave stuff behind and go for a day trip. Dan was also cutting his bread, using a sizable bread knife. Once finished, he wandered around the station cluelessly, still holding the bread knife. Dan and Jeremy discovered a cafe, where they both got a large latte, had their bottles refilled, charged phones and connected to WiFi. Dan was so excited that they almost missed the train. The train journey involved Dan further bragging about a race he attended last November, which involved taking a train to the start. The train journey ended in a village called Hejnice, where Dan and Jeremy visited a large church and Dan reminisced of his stay in 1998 (Jeremy had been born then, so Dan didn't feel too old). Dan suggested a detour to waterfalls, which were ok.

Dan then got distracted by billberries and started collecting them and very much slowing down the walk progress, eventually winding Jeremy into helping - seemed like the only way to get back to Liberec before the luggage storage closed. The rest of the journey involved several snack and drink stops, some dam stories from Dan - since they were near an infamous site of a bursted dam - which happened 101 years ago and the neverending forest only ended at a tram stop.

Dan and Jeremy then collected their luggage, spent some time in a nice pub before boarding the awesome bus to Dan's great Auntie. She turned out to have the dough for the blueberry cake ready so there was some late night baking going on, finishing a mere 5 hours before waking up for the airport. Jeremy much appreciated a tea by Dan's great Auntie, brewed at 4:20 am.

Equipped with cake, bread and rolls, Dan and Jeremy left for the airport - Jeremy's adventure continued in Germany, Dan's back in Cambridge

DrongO guesses colour of skin


Rory came to stay with Ben and Dan this evening in Cambridge. Ben and Dan held the usual Cambridge Wednesday training on their own, and Rory joined for pizza. Ben forgot to go to Aldi so they had pizza from Tesco instead. Rory is going for an interview with BAS tomorrow, so there's a chance >0 that we'll see him back in Cambridge soon!

This somehow lead to a game of "guess the RGB value of your skin". Each participant gave guesses at their RGB value. Colour pickers were forbidden. A photograph was then taken of the competitors' arms, and their guesses evaluated. The results are shown below. Ben won on total value difference, with Rory just beating Dan into second place.

Ben guess rgb(140,100,80) Error 38
Ben actual rgb(138,96,48)
Rory guess rgb(225,180,101) Error 95
Rory actual rgb(174,142,95)
Dan guess rgb(200,100,100) Error 97
Dan actual rgb(149,108,62)

DrongO goes table dancing


A couple of weeks ago Ben and Zuzka went to the Isle of Wight, and since Dan wanted to repeat his previous experiences of sitting in the back of a car with part of a bicycle poking into him, he also came.

Some amount of sailing and a large amount of cycling happened, but the highlight was going to The Folly Inn, where allegedly there would be dancing on tables at "about 9pm". Having been there since about 6pm, the dancing finally began at around 10.30. Dan, not wanting to feel like the third wheel, charmed a rather passionate 60-year-old on the tables.

Sunday's cycle began with five of us (including Zuzka's parents on a tandem) but after lunch we split into two groups, arranging to be back at 6.30pm. Ben's watch ran out of battery so Ben and Dan didn't know the time but thought they had lots. It started raining and everybody got cold, and upon return the "fast" group, who also had the house keys, discovered they were about 50 minutes late, and that the "slow" group had already been waiting for a while, been shopping, and then gone to the pub to avoid hypothermia.

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