The biennial 6 Day event is the largest event in Scotland. Over the years it has peaked at over 5000 competitors (in 1999 when it was held in conjunction with the World Championships) to about 2500 in 2001 when the event was cast into doubt by the occurrence of foot & mouth disease.
Since 1995 (and for some of the years before that as well!) I have taken on an official role in the event. This has ranged from co-ordinating Lochaber 2001 – yes that year of foot & mouth – to organising the coaching during the week prior to the event. What was my experience of Tay 2009 like?
Tay 2009 began about four years ago for me when I became the 6 Day Company Director link with the Central Organising Team (COT). The main role here is to attend meetings and get a feel for how the event is taking shape. Gareth Bryan-Jones and his team form FVO and TAY put their own ‘stamp’ on the event and required little guidance. They were an innovative lot and some very good practise came from the COT. Gareth led the COT well and disagreements were few.
In March 2008 I was appointed as the Senior Controller for Day 6 – Loch Ordie. There were various reasons for this – they wanted someone who could chivvy the planners along to have all the ground checking complete by the end of March 2009 (after that there was an embargo until 1st August 2009 due to ground nesting birds) and, as it was quite a remote area with no vehicle access, they wanted a fit young person. Well, I matched the first of the criteria!
Planners and controllers visit ‘their’ area a year before the event so 1st August 2008 saw me at Loch Ordie. I didn’t get out of the car as it was pouring down and the mist was over the moor. It would be a waste of effort to go up onto the hill. I returned a couple of days later and familiarised myself with the area (general lay out, vegetation etc). The planners then got to work and eventually produced the courses with almost everything running to timetable. I test ran the draft W55 course and gave the planner feedback as it took me almost twice as long as the ELT (expected average time of the first three in the class). Start locations then changed dramatically to reduce the climb. The tagging of control sites took place in February and I had another couple of days on the ground checking the tag locations (and the accuracy of the map) as well as test running another version of the W55 course.
A lot of time is spent at the computer, checking the courses (there are about 40 to check), checking control descriptions, ensuring that the circles are correctly centred on the feature, looking at the flow of competitors around the area and also eliminating contra-flow at controls. Paper proof copies of the maps come through and are checked to make sure that all the requested corrections have been done. Then it is checking the paper proof copies of the course maps. All this is over by the start of July or there about.
There is also a site meeting with the day organisers, string course co-ordinator, team leaders and planners. This took place during a lovely day in June – when we all also did the tribal dance to ensure the weather would be as good in August for Day 6.
I am a strong believer in the value of training and coaching so volunteered to run the coaching week immediately before Tay 2009. Steve Barrett sorted out the areas and the location of the control sites along with suggested TD 4 and TD 5 courses on each area. I had hoped to put out controls at the locations in the Tay valley (Faskally, Hermitage & Craig a Barns) but a knee injury meant that rough ground was difficult for me. I was also aware of the fact that I should be saving myself to do the controlling for Day 6 as that was heavy heathery ground. I ended up putting out Tentsmuir as the ground was easier – great onion pies at a bakers in Cupar and the ice cream shop in Milnathort is worth a diversion!
The coaching week went well with a variety of coaches helping each day. It is great working with adults who are looking for tips to help them to improve – and tips about handling the Scottish terrain!
Tay 2009 then began on the Saturday. As I have volunteered to do the enquiries/information role at Oban 2011 I was looking on to find out what happened in the Event Centre on the Saturday. I also spent 5 hours (in fairly small blocks) attempting to check that the overprint register on the 4250 maps printed for Day 6 was OK. I found two where part of the map was OK but the other part of the map was well adrift. The other controller spent 4 hours checking the courses I felt I might not have been as stringent on but we still missed at least 4 maps that I have heard about where there seems to have been some kind of ‘twist’ in the printing process.
On Day 1 there was a hospitality tent where various sponsors of the event and landowners were invited to. I felt I should go there both as part of the COT and as a director of the 6 Day Company. After my run I spent an interesting hour or so there talking to a variety of people. The finger snacks were very nice as well!
As well as being a day official, it is possible to compete on the other days of competition. There is a bit of a sting in the tail though as you also help on your club’s day. The senior controller for each day is usually from a club that is not part of the team for that day. So, Day 2 saw EckO at the assembly field the previous evening helping to set up, Paul & I manned the road crossing on Day 2 for a few hours before Gill & Dave took over. We then ran and stayed until all the forest was clear and the T bars and units sorted out. A couple of long days!
Many people look forward to the rest day so that they can do alternative activities, visit local sights, chill out or compete in the Mountain Bike O and Sprint O. However if your day is day 4 or 5 or 6 then this is often a working day for you. I spent 8 hours at Loch Ordie checking the location of the T bars the planners had placed on the previous Saturday. Some minor movement was required (about 5 metres, but I was being very particular). I did find this a long day which was not helped by dropping my water bottle about half way round. The knee stood up OK but was quite tender for a couple of days afterwards.
After my run on Day 5 it was then straight back to Loch Ordie, checking out a few more bits and pieces like the crossing points, start layouts and taping on junior courses.
Day 6 was a 6am start to be up at the yellow/green start by 7:15am and then begin to wake up some of the S. I. units. Back to the assembly area for about 8:30am and check that the organisation is running smoothly. No blank maps for display – find out who has them – leave a voicemail message – eventually they arrive! Time for a bacon roll! Up to the red/blue start, everything OK there; walk along the hillside to the other starts and back down the track. How are things going on the assembly field? Talk to some of the finishers. Look at winning times and compare to ELT. Chat to friends. Eat an organic beef burger – very nice. Answer the phone and asked to be part of the prize giving presenters. Present prizes. Watch everyone go home. Sort out the T bars etc when they come in. Eventually depart at about 7pm.
Yes another long day but very many positive comments from people about the whole week. It is then back home, write to all the COT, send out the planner & controller reporting sheets and only the Tay 2009 COT reports to read and the ‘wind down’ meeting in September to go!
Now why did I volunteer information/enquiries for Oban 2011?
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