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CUOC take on the World University Champs Beer Relay!

After a long, tiring but ultimately successful week of racing at the World University Orienteering Championships in Switzerland, CUOC runners James Ackland and Peter Molloy (your author) swapped the red, white and blue of their GB kit for the black and light blue of their mostest favouritest orienteering club: our beloved CUOC. And the occasion? Why, none less than the legendary post-WUOC beer relay, which this year attracted over 50 teams from 4 continents. For those who have not yet had the chance to experience such a fantastic race format (although it’s got nothing on our very own Voi-rienteering of course), here’s a quick explainer. Two runners, three beers each, two courses each, gaffling, mass start, sweat, blood, tears, vomit, passion, glory. You get the gist. Buckle up, kiddos.

After many hours spent discussing tactics, burning the midnight oil, plotting like wronged backbenchers with an agenda and a blue tick on twitter, we decided that James would start us off before I would bring us home to potential glory. Having scoped out the high standard of our international competition and decided that we could absolutely railroad this heady mix of world championship medallists, James kicked us off. Chop done, James ran excellently to return solidly in the leading pack, exactly where the gaffer asked.

Having soldiered through his second chop, it was my turn. Now, I must admit that I am in fact a sober cobra and so was on the 0% beer grind, however I had been handicapped by my own teammate’s purchase of 500ml cans. Cheers, James, thanks for that. He must have heard of my chopping reputation, which is as legendary as it is non-existent. I soon fought my way back to the lead pack, mincing through two junior world champions (who shall remain unnamed for the sake of their own ego) to return firmly in the proverbial mixer.

James, now feeling the effects of 1 litre of God’s nectar, held our position with a commanding third leg, which meant we were now fighting for the top 6. Cripes. After a final and predictably foul chop of my now-toasty warm ‘beer’, I was once more unto the breach dear friends, once more. However, this leg was different. Now, I had legions of punters on previous legs to deal with, as well as my sloshing stomach. It felt like O-ringen, but different in quite literally every way. Such was my determination to bring glory to CUOC, I didn’t even stop to pick up my bucket hat. Don’t say I don’t care #Iwoulddiefor3points.

However, at this point I made the fatal error of trying to avoid the line of runners in my way, instead of just ploughing through them, as was the tactic of reigning junior world champion Basile Basset and highly successful Finnish runner Topi Syrjalainen, who both snuck ahead to set up an epic sprint finish showdown. I gave it my all, but couldn’t quite summon the required beanage and finished in 5th place, before swiftly and decisively rejecting the powerful urge to violently chunder. I believe that CUOC can be rightly proud of this stellar performance. To achieve a diploma in such a high-class field is a real achievement and we felt proud to stand on the imaginary podium next to our fellow Brits, who claimed 2nd and 4th places respectively. A fantastic advertisement for a dynamic, modern Britain which gives everything on the greatest stage of them all. Roll on next time folks.

CUOC goes to Jukola

Jukola is the biggest orienteering race in the world, a yearly relay taking place in Finland which should absolutely be at the top of any self-respecting orienteer’s bucket list. Having been rescheduled to August last year, the race was back in its usual midsummer slot, promising light well into the night, speedy forests and some epic racing. Even more happily, the organisers had been lobbied by the political communications wing of CUOC and DrongO to make sure it fell after the end of the Cambridge exams, and before the start of May Week, so really, everything was in place.

And so, Dom, Sarah, James and I (Peter), along with veritable gaggle of DrongO members, made our way out to Finland for the race, being held in the south-western town of Mynamaki. People arrived in dribs and drabs and thus were able to get some practice in the rocky, tricky terrain before the big race. The days before the weekend were glorious and your author even managed some post-training swimming in a small quarry. There was even some attempts at night O, which is rather tricky when it was still patently not dark at 1.15am! I could just hear the voices of those southern Cambridge students waxing lyrical about ‘how armarzzinngg it is in the summmarrr when it gets darrrk at 10 yaaaaa’ – the chumps.

Anyway, race day arrived, and so did the torrential rain. Yippee. First up was Venla, the women’s relay, and it was with great anticipation that we gathered to watch the mass start of over 1500 teams. It really was quite the spectacle, only marginally ruined by the *REDACTED* who held up an umbrella about 5 rows in front of us. If you ever find yourself in the crowd at a rainy Venla, don’t be that guy. Cos we will shout at you violently, and you wouldn’t want that now would you?

Recent alumnus Fiona Bunn was running for her Swedish club on first leg and did a stellar effort to finish comfortably in the top 30, mixing amongst some real BNOCs of Scandi orienteering. Sarah Pedley found herself on second leg for the DrongO team and ran a cracking leg to pull them up to 447th, before Helen Ockenden finished off on fourth leg to take 244th, a great result for team! Venla was undisputedly thrilling to watch, and now those racing in the night were extremely excited/nervous/terrified (delete as appropriate) for what lay ahead…

At this point, your author must make a confession: I was running for Kalevan Rasti’s second team, and was thus granted the privilege of staying in an extremely nice house literally 200m from the start area with all the amenities any Finn could dream of: sauna, hot tub, surround decking, lack of humour etc (just kidding about the last one). Obviously, I was forgoing the true Jukola experience of military tents in the field like the rest of my comrades, but to be honest in the rain I was rather glad of this.

Soon it was time for the Jukola relay, starting at 11pm. The atmosphere and tension in the arena were palpable – I can quite safely say that I have never been so hyped in my life. With a 6 gun volley from the Finnish Defence Forces (personally I would rather like more things in my life to start with such a serenade), we were off for what would ensue to be 80-90 minutes of utter chaos: pushing, shoving, fighting over Emit punches, falling, shouting, swearing, more fighting and even some orienteering in there as well! Special credit should be given to James ‘Balboa’ Ackland, who started in 1213th and managed to work his way through 900 other competitors in the first few kilometres. I am reliably informed by eyewitness Luke Fisher that he was ‘literally swimming’ through middle-aged people up towards the start kite – apparently, some of them even survived his deplorable, unhinged violence.

The first leg was an unbelievable experience, and the torrential rain and not-so-far-off rolls of thunder only added to the surreal feel of it. I finished in 80th, having lost around 30 places late on owing to blindly following some angry Finnish men through practically impenetrable patches of dark green forest when we could have just run round the path – silly me. James should be commended for gaining nearly 1000 places from start to finish – there aren’t many races where you can say that!

Later on in the early light of the morning, Dom Dakin boshed round no bother through the forest to gain over 100 places on 6th leg and bring DrongO 3 up to the 500s, and special mention should be given to recent alumnus Luke Fisher who not only pulled the DrongO team up to a very respectable 127th place finish, but also got the 67th fastest split on his leg – seriously impressive stuff from the wee man in the blue, even if your author did have to dissuade him from going in the start pen about 90 minutes before his sixth leg runner was due. We have to remember that since Luke has not been orienteering since birth, he is in fact a complete beginner, so this sort of amateurism is excusable to an extent.

And with that, Jukola was concluded. An amazing weekend of racing with thousands upon thousands of Scandinavians with stupid little folding stools which they insist on carrying around everywhere – what could be better? Now, thoughts turned to the upcoming May Week, with Dom even managing to get from Finland back to Cambridge for Emma May Ball that same day. Rumour has it that if you open him up, he is made up purely of red bull and blue smarties…

CUOC goes to the British Sprint Championships

On the weekend of the 11th and 12th of June, some CUOCers found themselves competing in the northern powerhouse of Leeds, host of this year’s British Sprint Orienteering Championships, featuring both the Mixed Sprint Relay and Individual disciplines.

First up was the relay at Leeds Beckett University campus, whose main feature appears to be being nowhere near the centre of Leeds. Having survived a berating by messenger by James for his choice of train, your author made it to the arena with 4 minutes to spare before the mass start of the elite race, which featured a wealth of international and domestic talent, as well as James Ackland. His namesake was appearing for his home club and posted an extremely impressive performance on second leg which saw his team leapfrog into second place. Although they ended up in sixth, he can be glad that he didn’t end up with the same fate as my team, who were disqualified after a late mispunch. This is now the second year on the trot that my team has been disqualified from the British MSR (not my fault!), so I look forward to coming back next year as an honorary EUOC member so they too can be eliminated. Mwah hah hah.

All eyes turned to the individual races on Sunday which came in the format of heats and then a final. James cruised through to the M21E final, despite the organisers’ best efforts to pretend that the Aussies and New Zealanders were in fact from Blighty. Sarah Pedley ran well, but unfortunately just missed out on a place in the final in what was a highly competitive women’s field featuring some now world championships medallists. I had a slightly more interesting morning when I was forced to run another course due to lack of maps before then having a nervous wait to see if the results would indeed acknowledge my existence. In the end, it all turned out fine.

The final awaited, in and amongst the multi-level mayhem, the underpass unbelievability, the intricate inexplicableness, the technical treasures of the main Leeds University campus. Geeking (the art of being a bit of a nerd and preparing for the race beforehand) would prove crucial for competitors wishing to move at high speed through this urban jungle. I managed to clinch the victory on M20E by virtue of being the only one who actually went the correct way to the first control, and James finished in joint 14th place on the open category, tying with the first gentleman of British orienteering, Mr Ben Mitchell. Sarah seems to have been disqualified from the B final, but I cannot for the life of me seem to see why: punching an official maybe?

Jokes aside, this was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend of sprinting which just about all ran smoothly, despite the British rail network’s very best efforts. It also served as a nice warm up for what was to come for the more intrepid members of CUOC…

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