Simplifying legs is a very important skill in orienteering. Most of us find it very hard to memorise the leg from the start so we have to check the map quite often (!), and this slows us down even if we’ve mastered the art of mobile map-reading. (And I haven’t, really.)

The most obvious means of simplifying a leg is by following a line feature, usually a track. WorldofO’s annual “Route to Christmas” series is a great chance to practice making route choice decisions. Often the choice is between going straight (in the terrain) and going round (using the paths) and the 24 exercises are a chance to learn about what can make one choice better than the other.

One of the clearest examples this year wasn’t really about paths though. On this leg from the Czech Republic, where the question was whether to run round the north or south side of the hill, the south side seemed to have better path options, but according to the results it was clearly much slower. To my mind the secret of this leg is the field east of control 2. It’s possible to run the first kilometre of the leg without checking the map at all, simply by running straight(ish) and fast till you hit the field. Then you pick up the paths towards the control from the southern edge of the field.

I suppose you could call the field a catching feature. We usually think of catching features as being beyond the control, stopping you from going too far past, but you can also use them to simplify long legs.

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