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Airienteers, Orienteering in Airedale and Wharfedale and Leeds and Bradford

Planners Guide

Last edited: Sun 4 Apr 2021

It is hoped that these guidelines will be of some help to planners of AIRE Events.

They assume that the planner has access to an internet connected PC and preferably colour printer. Even if you don’t have a colour printer you will be able to plan on screen. Whoever supplies your map, either Chris Burden or Tony Thornley, should be able to help you with printing if you cannot do it yourself.

Look at the Mapped Areas document on the Aire website to see who to get your maps from.

If you do not have any or all of this, all is not lost. Plenty of us over the years have planned perfectly good events using a few blank maps, black and white photocopies and a pen. If you are in this position get in touch with Chris Burden or Tony Thornley who will arrange assistance.

Useful Documents

Si Requirements Form V3- please complete and email to the SI Manager as soon as your courses are finalised.

Rules and Guidelines

All the downloads you could possibly need can be found at

Familiarise yourself with the rules.

Rules 5, 6 & 8 are most relevant to planning

Most important to read are.

Appendix 1: Course Planning

Draft Event Guideline B For Regional and Local Cross Country Events

Planning Principles

An excellent planning guide is Tony Thornley’s Art of Planning to be found amongst the Aire “Useful docs”.

At under “Planners Information” you can find a number of helpful guidelines. Particularly good are the Advice on Planning Junior courses by Barry Elkington.

The following are just a few personal favourite bullet points, and don’t claim to be a comprehensive guide.

  • Plan your White and Yellow courses first. They are most likely to determine where your start and finish can be.
  • Avoid unnecessarily long walks to the start or from the finish, but balance this consideration against the opportunities the area offers to provide the best courses.
  • Don’t use too many controls. Most District Events can be planned using between 35 and 50 controls.
  • Try and get all your courses flowing in approximately the same direction.
  • Avoid runners on one course leaving a control in the direction of ideal approach of a runner on another course. It runs the increased risk of some runners being unfairly shown the correct line of approach to the control by those leaving it.
  • For this reason avoid different courses having legs running in opposite directions.
  • Avoid dog legs, where runners enter and leave a control the same way. A short leg to or from a nearby control can resolve this.
  • Ask yourself the purpose of every control. Is it setting up a good leg or ending a good leg?

Technically Hard Courses

  • If the area allows, try and have 2 long route choice legs which take up about 30% of the course distance. These will be hardest to plan well, so plan them first and build the rest of the course around them.
  • Provide plenty of variation of leg length.
  • Provide frequent change of direction.
  • Try to vary the orienteering challenge throughout the course, so the competitor is constantly having to change the navigational techniques/style of running they deploy.
  • With electronic punching crossovers are not a problem, but try not to use them excessively. If the course presentation becomes unclear then use back-to back maps for Part 1 and Part 2 of the course.


  • You don’t make a course harder by using dodgy control sites, you make it unfair. Choose good clear sites which can be found by reasonable navigation. Brown features are usually best, green features worst.
  • The flag or the feature should be visible from within about 10% of the distance from a sensible attack point – only less if there are other navigating features near the control.
  • Take particular care hanging pit, depression and green/bracken controls – they should be on the edge of the relevant feature in most cases.
  • With electronic punching, it is better to have a single last control with a shortish tape to the finish punch than “navigate to finish” as you cannot put a description for the finish on the CD list and it may be unfair.

The controller

  • Agree with the controller well in advance what you will do when (and stick to it).
  • s/he will want to check your control sites. Tapes are not easy to find - it is best to put two colours of tape at each site, marked with the control number (for numbers see “Equipment” below). Dangly tape is better than PVC insulating tape. Plastic tent pegs work ok on moorland, but put tapes on them as well for visibility.

Event Organisation

For our Larger Events, called Regional Events, Aire will usually provide the full range of Colour Coded Courses.

If the event is targeting non-orienteering runners to give the sport a try, think about providing a Very Long Orange course.

For our Medium Sized events which will probably be called Regional rather than Local Events, Aire provide White, Yellow, Orange, Long Orange, Light Green, Green, Blue and Brown courses. We have a few areas which are too small to manage a Brown, but the use of back-to-back maps makes this an increasing rarity.

Give consideration to planning a Black course if the area size allows.

Make sure the controller and organiser know the courses you intend to plan very early. This is important for event publicity.

For small local events we plan a smaller range of course. There are separate guidelines amongst the “Useful docs” for these “informal” events.

Aire always provide over-printed maps for all courses. Current policy is to have pictorial control descriptions on the front of all maps. If this means the map does not have a legend/key event publicity will make it clear that these are separately available at Aireport.

The planner should supply the Organiser with sufficient loose pictorial control descriptions for all courses. For White, Yellow, Orange and Long Orange Courses please also provide a similar number of loose text descriptions, so the runner can decide which best suits them.

Steve and Alex Watkins can post the descriptions on the website if it is agreed that is advisable for your event. There is some debate about whether or not this is a good idea.

If using ocad, to do this it is best to copy all the descriptions together onto a separate ocad file. Change the purple colour to black (see how to do this later). Export them as a pdf. file before emailing them to Steve and Alex.

Maps are usually printed on waterproof paper these days.

Only for small Local Events (informals) do we know use non-waterproof paper. There is a supply of plastic map bags available for these events should the weather be damp.

Planning Software

There are 3 programmes in use within Aire now.

Purple Pen

This is freeware and is downloadable at Many clubs use no other system now. It has proved very intuitive for planners, and few first time users have needed help in getting to grips with it.

It can be used with Ocad maps but unfortunately not with Illustrator maps. It is also has limitations compared with Ocad and Condes if you are planning courses in 2 parts.


Many of our maps are drawn in Ocad 9. The licence agreement means that the two copies we have can only be open on I computer at a time. As a result the clubs mappers have the two copies, and cannot share them out.

However the club have two copies of Ocad 9 course planning file. Both discs at the time of writing, are obtainable from Tony Thornley. If you have your own copy of Ocad 9 you won’t need this.

If you are using Ocad 9 to plan on an Illustrator map, Tony Thornley will send you the map in .tif format.

If your controller has Ocad 9 it will make life much easier. (Most clubs will have a copy available.) When you email him/her the course planning file or exported course maps always remember to also send the map you have used as a the background map.

If the controller does not have Ocad you will have to print courses off and send them to him/her by the most convenient method you can agree on.


The club has a club wide licence for this planning programme. The disc is obtainable from Tony Thornley.

The Map

Please do not alter the map that you use as the background map. This is only possible if you have the full Ocad 9 programme and an Ocad map. Only alter the course planning and exported course files.

You may notice inaccuracies on the map. You will very likely notice changes to the area that need to be shown on the map. Get in touch with the cartographer, usually either Tony Thornley or Chris Burden, and give them details of what needs to be revised. They will advise on how to handle any changes. This way we can keep central record of the changes to areas and maps.

You will be able to replace the map template with a more updated version at any stage of the planning process (prior to exporting the course maps) without it causing any difficulties.

OCAD overprint and other OCAD points

The purple overprint within Ocad is actually magenta and appears very red. It causes difficulties for the significant number of people who are colour blind.

If the maps are being professionally printed the colour settings should be changed. (The result may not look better on your home printed maps, but it will be if they are professionally laser printed.)

On the course planning file go symbol>colors>purple (the actual colour block). Change the settings to:-

cyan 20%

magenta 100%

yellow 0%

black 0%.

Repeat the process for transparent purple.

If either Chris Burden or Tony Thornley are printing the maps there will be no need to change the colour setting.

Cut your control circles in the planning file and then you will not have to do it for each course.

After that it is easiest, and safest (i.e. you escape any danger of your changes correcting themselves!) to edit the purple overprint on the maps or descriptions by first exporting the course maps (course>export> course maps – they will save in the same folder) and then making the alterations. This is best done towards the end of the planning process, as you will not be able to save these changes back into the course planning file. Send these exported course maps with the background map to whoever is doing the printing, after the controller has approved them.

Text commands

If you wish to put in a text command in the descriptions anywhere e.g. “Cross Road with Care” insert a mandatory crossing. Use the “Insert” button below “Preview”. When you have exported the course map delete the symbols within the box and replace with your typed message.

Courses planned in 2 parts are now very easy to set up. As above, use Insert >map exchange. When you export the course maps you will automatically generate Part 1 and Part 2. These can be printed back-to-back.

If you have any difficulties working with Ocad, Chris Burden or Steve Watkins have the most experience in using it as a planning tool. Get in touch with them, or with anyone who has recently planned an event.


AIRE has its own stock of stakes, kites, gripples and pin-punches, and approximately 100 SI blocks owned jointly with CLARO. The SI blocks are numbered from 161 upwards, but some numbers can be changed to allow for unused or duplicate control numbers. For multi-day events it is likely that extra equipment will have to be borrowed from neighbouring clubs using a different range of control numbers. Contact the SI manager for your event to determine what numbers will be available.

The SI manager will programme the control boxes and setup the AutoDownload event software with the control and course details. You will need to send them the course details in an XML file to do this (use the planning software to create an XML export file, e.g. Course>Export>Courses(XML) menu item and email the resulting file.)

All the equipment you need for setting out course controls can be supplied by the SI Manager for your event. In order for the SI Manager to know exactly what equipment you will need, complete the Si Requirements Form V3 and email it to the SI Manager along with the courses XML file.


We have used Alan Halliday, Nigel Benham or Guy Patterson to print weatherproof maps for the larger events.

You can go to them directly if using Ocad or consult with Chris Burden or Tony Thornley first if you prefer.

Alan’s maps use Pretex, which has softer matt finish. Guy uses Nevertear which is glossier and harder to fold, but feels better when wet. It is also easier to wipe mud off Nevertear. BML use a similar, if not the same paper. With Nevertear there have been some recent examples of the printing wearing off, which are being investigated.

It’s best to forewarn the printer a couple of weeks before the event, even if the files are not yet ready to send to them. If using Alan or Nigel, give an address that the maps can be received at during the working day. It will save you a journey to the courier’s depot. Talk to Guy about arrangements for collecting maps he prints.

Alan and Nigel can usually get the maps to you within a couple of days of you emailing the maps to them. Guy sometimes likes a little longer. All are competitively priced. The BML website has a particularly helpful section for O printing in relation to colour setting for their Xerox printer. Don’t follow this advice if you are using Alan to print the maps.

The club prints its own maps for smaller events. Chris Burden has the club laser printer and can Ocad and Purple Pen based Course maps. Tony Thornley also has a laser printer and will print the Illustrator based maps.

It is best to send the exported course files. Remember to also send the map(s) used for the template. Try and avoid sending the Course Planning File. It can sometimes be unstable.

Chris Burden keeps a record of attendances at Regional and Large Local Events and can advise how many maps to order. It is usually best to have a small supply of blank maps in case we underestimate numbers on any courses.

We will be able to print extra Ocad based maps at the event if the event centre has a mains electricity supply – check with your organiser! You will also need a blank map or 2 to give to the organiser for display at registration and at the start.

Before you send any Ocad files it is always best to click extras>optimize/repair>ok.

Check the maps when you get them back, even more so if you send the course planning file. Although it is usually ok, there have been occasions when gremlins have got into this particular file and control numbers have gone missing or migrated.

If there are any mistakes get straight back in touch with the printer.

On the Day

It will be best to prepare a map or maps showing the order in which you will put out the controls. A copy of this will also be very helpful for the controller. You can do this on the Course Planning file.

It is possible to carry about ten stakes – an external cylinder carrier is best as they fall out of a rucksack. Boxes can be threaded onto string or tape to keep them in the right order and carried in a rucksack. Depending on distance and experience, allow around 5 minutes per control to put out plus travel between control sites.

On the day your responsibility is for everything from the start kite to, and including, the final control(s). Everything else is the responsibility of the organiser.

Be prepared with spare stakes, kites, SI boxes etc.. You will have some back-up SI boxes if any fail or go missing. These will have a blank label on the top with the internally-programmed number on a smaller label on the back. When replacing a failed or missing SI block, write the control number (with a permanent marker) on top of the spare SI block and make a note of the number on the back. You MUST let the SI Manager know these numbers a.s.a.p. when you return to Assembly so that they can add the number of the spare SI block into the event software - failing to do this will results in competitors mispunching.

The most vulnerable time for vandalism, is near the end of the competition when there are few runners left. Give forethought as to when you should start collecting certain controls in, and discuss it with the controller. Try and arrange help for this task in advance (if you are lucky Aire will soon have a dedicated team for this task!)

You can prepare maps for anyone who is bringing in controls during or after the event, or for anyone who is needed to patrol.

Bring a mobile phone and make sure you have exchanged numbers with the controller and organiser.

During the event you should be able to go out into the area and view how the competitors are managing your courses, or hang around the finish or assembly, whichever you prefer. Barring accidents, until it is time to bring in the controls, your job is done.


Tony Thornley or Chris Burden are more than happy to offer learner planners advice or help if needed.

Chris Burden December 2008

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