This year we see the first NZ Schools Rogaine Championships, being held in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua on the 9th of August by Orienteering Bay of Plenty.
Why is this a big deal? Well – it is one of the areas identified as a growth opportunity in our Strategic Plan. There is 3 reasons for that: (1) it provides another championship event in the schools space, which is where we have in the past targeted growth that has eventuated (2) rogaines provide a different type of challenge – one where we can offer a team product and one in which everyone starts and finishes together, helping the social side and (3) it is a true pathway that connects adventure racers into orienteering.
Rogaines are different than traditional orienteering. But the tactical aspect really appeals to many people and then the planning on the go during the race. Importantly it provides an opportunity for people to compete together, which orienteering generally doesn’t. A social aspect of rogaines is that people that do them don’t focus so much on how far behind the winners they were – they instead focus on their own race. With traditional point-to-point orienteering when you aren’t one of the top few, many people then get put off by the margin they end up being behind the winner.
Adventure racing in New Zealand has been going strong for a number of years now and we are seeing more and more activity in the school space. After a couple of races many of these kids (and their teachers) are noticing that navigation is extremely important, so there is no better way for practicing navigation than doing orienteering (or rogaining). By being good at navigation people generally perform better at adventure racing, with experience in many different terrain types being advantageous. We are fortunate to have some great role models in top adventure racing teams as well – Chris Forne, Brent Edwards, Aaron Prince and Jamie Stewart to name just a few, who have all been orienteers who have powered their way through adventure racing. But there are people who have come to orienteering from adventure racing, such as Stu Lynch and Nathan Fa’ave. No matter which way you look at it – people who do orienteering generally do better at adventure racing.
Previously the NZ Rogaine Championships (24-hour) were held in alternative years between Orienteering NZ and the NZ Rogaine Association, however in the last 5-10 years our orienteering clubs have really struggled to organise this event. This is because the amount of land coverage is so large for what is a relatively low number of participants, when compared to orienteering events. The Schools Rogaining Championships provides an opportunity to use areas that are much smaller and also to have many more people compete than otherwise would be the case.
Whilst this year is the first National Schools Champs, in future years we look forward to having more official regional events. The Taranaki Schools Champs gets circa. 1000 participants, which really highlights there is a market there for those who want some adventure.
So whilst this is the first event, we are looking forward to this event growing year on year. Make sure you enter your school and come along to what is sure to be a great event in Rotorua.