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Varsity Orienteering

Varsity Orienteering

This weekend, the Cambridge University Orienteering team made the journey to the Isle of Wight to take on Oxford in the annual Varsity competition. The journey down was relatively easy, with cars leaving from various locations around Cambridge and converging at the Red Funnel ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare. It was just a short drive on the other side from the port to the accommodation at Calbourne Community centre and everyone settled down to sleep (or attempt to sleep) on the hard sports hall floor.

In the morning, after a good breakfast, we met Oxford at Ventner social club, which was to be the assembly area for the race (luxurious to be inside, with sofas, pool table and darts to take our mind off the upcoming race!). The terrain was varied, with courses starting into a labyrinth of gorse bushes, before a fast section across the open moorland that required a change of pace. This was followed by a physical section on a steep wooded slope, with an interesting and decisive route choice for both the mens and womens course, finishing with a loop that included a brutal climb of about 150m and a fast downhill run-in.

The Cambridge orienteers ran well, taking 1,2,4 in the Womens race with Fiona Bunn, Helen Ockenden and Heather Muir to take a convincing win over Oxford for the 2nd year running. The men faced rather more tough opposition, with strong runs from Aidan Rigby, Paul Pruzina, debutant Luke Fisher and Simon Warrener enough to secure 2,4,7 & 13th positions respectively, but not enough to beat the Oxford challenge. The team result may have been a closer call, but a disqualification for Cambridge’s 3rd runner James Ackland (mispunch), and differences in the team order from selection races (captain Jeremy Knott finishing higher than those in the selected team but not able to count for us), gave the win to Oxford by a considerable margin.

Paul P starting the Individual Long race

The following day the teams were mixed amongst the universities and genders by a handicap scoring system for the relays at Tennyson Down, overlooking the famous Needles. The elevating winds of Storm Freya did their best to blow us away, but everyone had a great time and it was good to see some strong team spirit from the spectators as each leg had multiple spectator passages through the arena. The winning team was primarily CUOC; Paul Pruzina and Emma Crickmore (CUOC) running with Noah Hurton (OUOC).

The return journey was slightly less successful, with talk of disruption to the ferry service due to the storms, and then a break-down in the queue to the ferry. Despite temporarily leaving one car on the Isle of Wight awaiting a breakdown vehicle to be jumpstarted, everyone eventually made it back to Cambridge safe and sound, albeit slightly windswept and tired!

Special mention must go to all the debutants on the team who tackled the new terrain well and will have gained some valuable competition experience, as well as everyone who helped to drive the team down. Also thanks to all the alumnae and the overall organiser Ben Windsor who put in a considerable amount of work to make it a great competition and an enjoyable weekend away for everyone.

Full results can be found here: https://new.drongo.org.uk/Varsity/VarsityDetails.aspx