When the details for the Scottish 6 Days were released, we thought ‘not NE Scotland again’ and started looking for alternatives. We wanted something that didn’t require 1000+ miles of driving and a time machine to arrange accommodation. Following my enjoyable coaching trip to Norway last summer, we looked at Scandinavia and realised that when booked early enough, flights to Copenhagen are great value: 20 minutes on the train and we could be in an Airbnb in southern Sweden. We entered the Ӧsterlens 3 Days and planned some sight-seeing in the Copenhagen/Malmo/Ystad area.
Karen and I last orienteered in Sweden in the 1990s and in those days this required posting Eurochecks to addresses found in the back of CompassSport and driving around Swedish minor roads hoping to stumble across the event centre as road maps at 1:1 000 000 aren’t great for finding hamlets and farmsteads named in cryptic event details. In mid-90s Sweden, everywhere closed at noon on a Saturday and didn’t re-open till Monday and when shops were open the prices were eye-watering. Fast-forward to 2023 and orienteering in Sweden is a really easy undertaking now. The Eventor entry system is really easy to navigate and while Swedish clubs sort out entries for their members, as foreigners we were encouraged to simply enter on-line and sort out payment at registration when we arrived, which worked perfectly. Obviously, sat nav has taken away most of the hunt and seek aspect of finding the event though ours was also well signed from the major road. Swedish events have always enjoyed a high level of creature comforts and ours did not disappoint. There were hot showers, an event campsite (which included a communal tent full of microwave ovens, fridges, freezers and phone charging points), commentary of the races, barbeque and food stand, even hot water to wash hands at the proper flushing toilets! [I’m thinking the club equipment store must be an aircraft hangar somewhere…]
The competition area was a nature reserve, and really pretty. It was unusual by Swedish standards in comprising mostly mature beech forest and large rolling contours, and so it felt quite English in character. The 3 events were all middle distance and start times were from 5:30pm each day which left plenty of time beforehand for sightseeing: exploring Viking-era standing stones, quaint pastel-painted towns and busy harbours along the coast.
Karen and my aims at the outset of the competition was not to be last (not a direct reaction to our previous experiences in Sweden, but coloured by our time-distorted memories). Each day I achieved respectable results on H55, so was quite happy. It was only when I spent more time looking at the results from the comfort of home that I realised that different people had beaten me each day so that my three top-10 finishes actually delivered an aggregate fourth place overall. We didn’t wait for the prize-giving; I would have been miffed to find I’d achieved a podium position and not stayed to celebrate it. As is common in Scandinavia, there were no ‘short’ courses, so Karen ran the middle-length open course. It turned out that this was almost the same length as D50 but as one of only a few courses accepting entries on the day this attracted a wide array of competitors ranging from the very good (25 minutes for 3km) to the somewhat slower (nearly 2 hours).
We really enjoyed our return to Swedish orienteering and have promised ourselves not to leave it so long before we return again.