When You Arrive At The Event

Suncoast Orienteering events are almost always two events in one. You will see large numbers of high school-age orienteers, usually wearing the shirts and logos of their JROTC unit. JROTC stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and is a high school credit program available in many high schools across America. The JROTC program is very popular in Florida.

The JROTC students are competing among themselves and for their teams in one part of the event. The JROTC schools handle their own registration through the primary POC, as shown on the event schedule.

Parallel to the JROTC side of the event, we have a public (sometimes called “civilian) orienteering event. The public competes on the same or similar courses, use the same start and finish areas and the results are posted the same way, just in different categories and without the JROTC medals and trophies.

As a civilian, when you arrive, check in at the Registration Desk, complete the registration form, sign the waiver, pay your fee, and pick up a timing stick, whistle, and compass, if you need them. If you need a quick tutorial on what to expect and how to read the map, look for a newcomer instructor/greeter near the Registration Desk.

Important Things To Note When Coming To An Event:

  • We strongly request you preregister for the event using the link provided on the schedule. The pre-registration entry cost is $10 per person. Registration on the day of the event costs $15 per person.
  • If you are planning to enter as a group, one person with one map can take three others at no extra cost. Families of parents and children can all go together.
  • Extra maps for the same group are $3 each. Hint: the fun of orienteering is to be able to read the map as you go.
  • If you need to rent a timing (finger) stick the cost is $4. However, if you own a timing stick simply register it with your entry.
  • If you prefer to go on a course and not be timed, there is no need to rent a timing stick, but your timing is your own responsibility. You still need to check in at the START and Finish points so we know you are safely off the course.
  • If you need to rent a compass, the cost is $4.
  • Regarding START TIMES, we are very different from Florida Orienteering (FLO) events. We need you to start your course by 11:00 AM or by the last JROTC start, whichever is later. We need you to finish the course and return to the registration area by 2:00 PM.
  • Courses are offered for all levels of ability. The Novice course is about 2.5 km (about 1.5 miles), the Intermediate course is about 3.5 km (about 2.2 miles), the Short Advanced course is about 5 km (about 3.1 miles), and sometimes there is a Long Advanced course which is between 7 km to 10 km (about 4.3 miles to 6.2 miles).
  • No matter which course you go on or who you are with you must sign a waiver absolving Suncoast Orienteering and the land owner/manager from responsibility for anything that might happen to you. Those under 18 years of age must bring a waiver signed by a parent.

Interval Starts

At an interval-start event, there is a start window (usually 1-2 hours), meaning that you can start anytime within that time window. Participants start one to two minutes apart. The start is at a line, usually with chutes coming out of it, with one chute for each course. Why have an interval start? It provides some flexibility to the day, and it discourages orienteers from following each other. After all, the neat thing is doing one’s own map reading and making one’s own decisions about which way to go.

The Start

At the start, dip your timing stick into an electronic box that says “Clear” (it should “beep”), and this will clear the old data from your timing stick. Then, dip the timing stick into the box that says “Check” (again, it should “beep”) to make sure the data has been cleared. Dipping your timing stick into the electronic box is called “punching”, because prior to using electronic devices, “punching” a card at each control point was the norm.

Find the chute with your course (color) labeled on it. When it’s your turn, follow the start volunteer’s instructions.

For first-timers, get your map and make sure it has the correct course. You can use the time until you start by studying the map and asking questions if you need some assistance.

Experienced orienteers will have one minute to study their map before their start time.

And finally, the start volunteer will tell you when you can proceed to the start, which is an electronic timing box a few meters ahead with the label “Start” on it. Insert (dip/punch) your timing stick and when the box beeps and a light flashes, your start time has been recorded on your timing stick. Now it’s time to get going to the first control point.

Mass Starts

Sometimes, like with Score Orienteering or a Relay event, everyone starts at the same time, which is very exciting. You will still clear and check your timing device, but will not need to punch at the start. Arrive at the start area 10 minutes before the start time to receive the Meet Director’s final instructions.

Navigating The Course

Alright, the race has begun, now what?

  1. Find the start on the map which is a magenta triangle.
  2. Orient the map, so that it matches the terrain.
  3. Put your thumb or compass tip on the map, to track where you are.
  4. Find the next checkpoint (called a “control point”) on the map, choose a route, and off you go!
  5. When you get to the correct control point (you will know by the number on the timing station which is also marked on your map), insert your timing stick in the box or place your timing card on top of the hole. When the light flashes and the box beeps your time has been recorded on your timing stick. If you find a control point that is not on your course DO NOT punch in. It does not lead to disqualification (DQ), it just uses up some of the timing capacity on your device. The important thing is to get to the correct points in the correct order.
  6. In the usual Point-to-Point Orienteering you visit all control points in the order marked on the map.
  7. In Score Orienteering you have a time limit to punch in as many points as you can in the set time limit. It’s totally your choice which order you select to visit those points.
  8. Once you’ve found all the controls on the course, head to the finish, which is marked with two concentric circles on the map. Once you punch the finish, your race clock stops.
  9. Then, proceed directly to the “Download” station where your timing device will be read, your results will be recorded and you will receive a print-out of how you did on the course. And, very importantly, the organizers will have a record that you have returned from your course and they will not search for you at the end of the day. If you have rented a timing device, it needs to be returned at the “Download” station.

Control Descriptions/Clue Sheets

The first column numbers on the clue sheet (course descriptions) indicate the order in which you must find the checkpoints. The second column shows the number that you will find printed on top of the electronic box on top of the control. The other columns have strange hieroglyphics that aren’t important to understand quite yet.


If the number in the second column of the control description matches the number you see on top of the control, then dip your timing stick into the electronic box. The box will flash and beep as confirmation. In the rare case the box does not flash or beep, use the red pinhole-punch dangling from the flag to punch your map (it does not matter where). It’s okay if you punch the wrong control, as long as you eventually punch all the correct controls in the correct order.


After you finish, go to the Download station (there will be signs) to download the data from your timing stick. If you’ve rented the timing stick, you can return it there, or at the Registration desk where you picked it up.

Once you’ve downloaded the data, you’ll get a receipt that shows your split times, which is the amount of time between each control point. Part of the fun of orienteering is comparing your splits with friends, and discussing the routes you took between each control.

Even if you have not finished your course, you MUST return to the Download station, so the event staff can confirm that you are not on the course. If you do not download from your timing stick, a search party may be sent after you.

That’s it, you did it! That’s Orienteering!

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