Sidmouth’s Ben CHester in top four of the Jan Kjellestrom International Orienteering Festival.

11:24 01 May 2014

Ben Chesters in action

Ben Chesters in action

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Whilst Sidmouth Running Club has a membership which enjoys a variety of running disciplines, only a small number compete in Orienteering - a sport where competitors navigate around a course, finding control points en-route, writes John Perratt.

However, Ben Chesters is one of these and, over the Easter weekend, he competed in the Jan Kjellestrom International Orienteering Festival.

This is Britain’s largest annual event, attracting between 3,000 and 4,000 competitors, from the UK and abroad, which is held in a different part of the country each year. The event comprises of four consecutive competition days, encompassing various orienteering disciplines, and this year’s event was in South Wales.

The race on Good Friday was a ‘sprint’ race, which was held in the grounds of Swansea University. As this is not Ben’s strongest discipline, he opted out of the Sprint race to save his energy for the longer races to follow.

The following two days of competition were held on the Brecon Beacons, just north of Merthyr Tydfil, with Saturday’s race being held on the area known as Merthyr Common and Sunday’s race being held on the adjoining area known as Llangynidr. Both areas are highly technical, with many thousands of pits and depressions on the map, and areas of intricate contour detail. These factors, combined with tough running on the heather covered mountains, would make for a testing two days of competition. Saturday’s weather was favourable with bright sunshine and excellent visibility. Despite this, it was still necessary to pay close attention to the navigation to avoid significant time loss.

Despite making some small errors, Ben had a steady run and finished second in his class. With the times from the Saturday and Sunday events combined to produce the final results, there was all to play for the next day.

The weather for Sunday’s race was very different – damp and with thick fog reducing visibility to as little as 50 metres in places. This meant that it would be vitally important to maintain good map contact for the entire duration of the race, as relocation in such conditions would be very hard and, therefore, mistakes would be very costly. With the exception of one minor mistake, Ben executed this plan excellently. Unfortunately though, as the fog lifted for later starters, making the navigation easier and faster, his run was not enough to take the overall win. However, his fourth place on the day was enough to ensure that he maintained second place, out of 31, overall, with a combined time of 157 minutes and three seconds. A result that Ben was very pleased with.

Also competing in this event was Ellie Stone, the daughter of running club member Tess. Ellie had an excellent weekend competing in the Women’s 18 Elite class; she finished seventh on Saturday and third on Sunday, which meant she finished in an impressive second place, out of 43, overall. This result may put her in contention for selection for international competitions later this year.

The final event of the weekend was the relays, which were held on an area known as Pwll Du, also near Merthyr Tydfil. The sun was back, and Ben was representing his Salisbury based orienteering club, Sarum Orienteers, in the ‘Men’s Short Class’. A team consists of three legs, and Ben was running the third leg. After the first leg, Ben’s team were in 20th place and the second leg runner brought the team up to second place out of 59 – but it was close.

This left Ben to battle with the Team from Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club, and the local Swansea Bay Orienteering Club, for the gold medal. An intriguing race ensued, with the runners changing place a number of times. However, Ben’s team-mates were pleased to see him appear over the final hill, and heading towards the last controls, in first place. Ben simply had to get the final two controls right, and the comeback was complete! To the delight of his team mates, Ben achieved this and Sarum won the relay with 32 seconds to spare. A great end to a fun weekend in South Wales.

If you are interested in trying orienteering, Devon Orienteering Club is holding a local event on Mutters Moor on Sunday May 4.

See www.devonorienteering.co.uk for information. Details of Sidmouth Running Club’s activities can be found at www.sidmouthrunningclub.co.uk

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