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CUOC goes to the Junior World Orienteering Championships

In the first week of November, two members of CUOC, Olly Tonge and Peter Molloy (your author), made a trip out to Portugal to compete at the rescheduled forest races of the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Aguiar da Beria, a region known for its beautiful forests, stunning scenery, and mayor who loves a never-ending speech or two. Excitingly, on the basis that CUOC has doubled our numbers at JWOC since the last edition, it will be only 7 years before every single competitor is from CUOC. The statistics speak for themselves.

Now, it should be said that the two of us were coming at this from different places, both metaphorically and geographically. Olly was sacrificing precious time in a packed term of second-year chemical engineering, slaving away at online lectures most nights, whilst I was coming from Georgia, where I am spending my year abroad, and had no work to do whatsoever cos I really am on a one-year holiday. Unlucky, mate. Anyway, after a couple of days of valuable training, we felt well and truly back in the swing of things and were ready to give it our all over the middle, relay and long races.

First up was the middle race and Olly coped handsomely with an extremely early start to record a solid forest debut in GB colours, taking a highly respectable 57th place finish in the end. I, having spent 4 hours shivering in quarantine, posted a 26th place result, which could have been a lot better if I hadn’t got stuck in some of the worst vegetation known to man on the way to the fourteenth control. Although, considering that it didn’t even manage to rip my bib off (the gold justification standard for orienteers complaining about getting stuck in grotty vegetation) you can choose not to believe me, if you’d prefer.

The next day dawned, and the thoroughly exciting prospect of the relay loomed large. I was on first leg for the GB first team, with Olly put on second leg for the second team. I’ve done many first leg shifts this year and was very excited to have one last chance in 2022, and was thus beyond delighted to come back in first, with a mighty, commanding, astonishing 7-second lead over the rest of the field. Dropped. I then proceeded to do lots and lots of very loud shouting, as this is the only natural reaction at this point. It was a fantastic moment, possibly one of the best of my life, but it still doesn’t even come close to setting out our very own Olly in first at the BUCS 2022 relay – I’d do anything for the light blue. Unfortunately, Olly’s first leg runner, who shall remain unnamed for legal reasons, set him off a long way down the field, but he still was a credit to the team and gained positions over the course of the leg.

The competition rounded itself off with the fabled long distance, for which we returned to the same arena that we’d each sweated off multiple stone back in the burning hot summer races. Luckily the drizzly, cloudy, grey, utterly uninspiring conditions were right up our alley. Olly was again lumped with an early start and performed well, unfortunately losing time on a particularly fiendish control hidden at the bottom of a cliff in the middle of a boulder field along a steep forested slope. I just wonder why he didn’t practice this skill more when he was in Cambridge – I mean, really, it’s not that hard to find similar terrain to that nearby… Meanwhile, I posted a 17th= finish, equalling the time of last year’s long distance winner and old enemy of the CUOC WUOC beer relay team, Basile Basset. I therefore infer that had I been allowed to go to JWOC last year, I would have won. Try convincing me otherwise.

After a successful week for the CUOC lads, where Olly should be commended for an excellent forest debut for GB in some seriously tricky forests, it was time for the afterparty. Now, the ensuing events would make for some fantastic CUOC website content, however I have no desire to be sued for libel and so will keep schtum. If you see me at an event some time soon, do ask me what happened. That being said, all CUOC members behaved with poise, dignity and grace throughout the evening. Well done us.

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…

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