Bush whacking in Latvia challenges local orienteering team

Orienteering adventure a 24-hour physical and mental challenge

Bryan Chubb (left) and Leo Rankin at the World Rogaining Championship in Latvia. Connie Haeussler photo

Bryan Chubb (left) and Leo Rankin at the World Rogaining Championship in Latvia. Connie Haeussler photo

LeRae Haynes

Special to Tribune/Advisor

Two local residents have returned from the 2017 World Rogaining Championships in Latvia – an orienteering competition that featured 1,000 people and 450 teams from places around the world.

Leo Rankin from Williams Lake and Bryan Chubb from Big Lake took a map and a compass and headed off into Razna National Park for a 24-hour physical and mental challenge that included muscling their way through thick grassland, stinging nettles and 15-foot high giant hog-weed with sap that will blister your skin.

The word Rogaining is a combination of the names of the three Australian boys (Roger, Gail and Neil) who invented the 24-hour version of orienteering, according to Rankin.

He said this is the third time he’s teamed up with Bryan Chubb, whom he describes as a fabulous map reader, for a world championship. “We did one in South Dakota and one in Finland. We also did a North American championship in Merritt,” he explained, adding that although he’s only done this for five or six years, Bryan has been at it for many years.

“We’re pretty well matched physically, which is important for this kind of orienteering,” he noted.

You are given a map three hours before the start of the race, showing the 100 controls, and you plot your route, he continued.

“The goal is to get to as many of them as you can. Each control has point value, and you finish within 24 hours.

“The event starts at noon, and if you go over 24 hours, you lose points.

“You use a map and a compass only. The map contains descriptions of each control, such as a knoll or the base of a tower.”

He said that when you find a control, you both have to key your issued fob within a minute of each other.

“You have to stay together. If you’re not evenly matched, I’ve seen teams tie themselves together with ropes or bungee cords so the stronger ones can tow the others,” he stated.

“When looking for a control, you look for it as you work through the landscape. You can take a compass bearing from your last point and take exact direction, or follow the contours of the land and find an easier way to get there without getting lost.”

The area contained clearings, brush, trees and lakes. Rankin explained that the younger competitors ran the whole event, which is 130 kilometres if you hit every point.

He added that orienteering is Latvia’s number one sport, and said that during this event, people from the little villages in the park would line up and cheer you on.

“Bryan and I did about 60 km of bushwhacking – finishing in 23 hours and 35 minutes without stopping, except three times for water,” he said.

“It can be incredibly challenging. South Dakota was wet and cold, and in Finland I fell into a swamp and got hypothermia. In Latvia it was warm all night and there were few insects, which was nice.”

He said he and his wife thoroughly enjoyed exploring Latvia and Estonia and stayed for a bit of a holiday.

The next world championships will take place in Spain, followed by California.

They were in the Ultra Veteran group, coming in fifth in their class. He said the winning team had 350 points.

“The Latvians took the first three positions in the Men’s Open, and took 15 of the medals. Estonia took 11 and Russia took eight. There were a total of five Canadians there, but only two full Canadian teams,” he said.

“You cannot make mistakes if you want to win. If you get lost, or take too long to find a control, you lose. In one case, we had to go to a canal, and we got on the wrong side. We had to backtrack and it took a half hour. In this, 30 minutes matters. You should get a control every half hour, and every minute matters if you want to win. A couple of mistakes is a game breaker.

“It’s a challenge to maintain your mental focus for 24 hours,” he said. “If you can make it until dawn, you’re okay.”