The team over at iAdventure have raised an interesting debate in regards to map quality at Adventure Races. The question in debate can be read in full below, but in a nut shell they ask whether Adventure Racing risks becoming too soft if competitors expect the quality of maps common to orienteering and even rogaining?
Given the amount of time I’ve spent building maps for the Rogue Adventuregaines and other races (that is, hundreds and hundreds of hours), I couldn’t help taking a bite at this one. In a nut shell, I feel that surely a race should use the best available maps, in regards to accuracy, detail and quality of printing. If anything, more accurate, detailed maps should allow for more interesting control placement for organisers, opening up a greater range of route choice options and thereby increasing the difficulty of challenge. Poor quality maps only serve to offer advantage to teams with local knowledge of the race area, or discourage teams new to the sport who are more prone to making mistakes on the belief that a map should be an accurate representation of the terrain on the ground.
Ultimately, the challenges, both mental and physical, in an Adventue Race should come from a team competing against both the course and others. Accurate maps should far from detract from the navigational challenge. I agree wholly with the sentiment expressed by iAdventure that it shouldn’t just be the fittest and fastest teams that win an adventure race (as is typically the case of a multisport race), but the team with the best navigational skills, organisation, technical skills and team dynamics in conjunction with that fitness. And ultimately, it is the job of a race director to provide courses that provide these varied challenges, with the number one perogitive of getting check point placement in the correct location that can be found fairly using the map provided.
As an aside, I’m also surprised that there isn’t more overalp between attendance at the three navigational sports of adventure racing, rogaining and orienteering, at least at the events I attend anyway. All three complement each other so well, and as essentially fringe sports, they all need our support.
After racing in South East QLD for the past 7 years, I’ve seen some great maps and some that are less so. To highlight the debate, I’ve included some comparisons of maps from different races held in identical locations. I think it would be hard to find a navigator out there who wouldn’t opt for the better quality map in all of these instances (note that these comparisons aren’t a critisism of the original races themselves – I had a blast at all of them – they are just for illustration purposes).