Helen, Nicky and Simon take in some winter sun and training in the Canaries
A growing contingent of DVOers (plus a few hangers on) have become converts to the Gran Canaria O Meet – a week of warm weather orienteering between Christmas and New Year in The Canary Islands. Now what’s not to like?!?
I first went to the event back in 2021 and was instantly sold on the idea of making the most of a Christmas break and getting some high-quality orienteering in the sunshine! This year Nicky Hart & Simon Brister, joined myself, Andy Leedham (my partner – LOC) and Philip Cooper (my dad – WIM) in attending – it was great to have a small DVO camp at each event!
The opening event of the competition is always a night sprint race. In the past this has always been held in a town, but this year permission had been obtained for a race on the oldest golf course in Spain! After a day spent in the Gran Canarian mountains and a refreshing dip in the pool, we headed up to the event just as the moon was coming up. There was the usual level of razzmatazz – promo videos for the event, music playing and a great assembly area within a couple of minutes’ walk of the start. The golf course provided a great area for the event – not too tricky (no one wants to be out for hours on the first day!) but still confusing enough to keep you on your toes! There was some very, very quick times and some more modest efforts, especially from the DVO group, but at least no disasters!
Day 2 was the Trail O day, for those who wanted to enter (not part of the main competition). Dad, Andy and I had a go, and, despite a bit of organisational chaos, it was one of the best Trail Os I have done for a while. Sometimes Trail Os can be a bit pedantic (in my view!) and rely on the minutia of rules, distances and angles. You felt with this one however, you really could work out the answers to the problems – even if you did get them wrong in the end!
Next came the two days right on the top of the island in Lllanos de la Pez, a rocky recreation area all covered in Canarian pine. It was a long and twisty, but picturesque drive from the coast to 2,000m above sea level. The area was stunning orienteering terrain – beautifully runnable but hugely complex!! And all made even better by the sunshine filtering through the trees and the balmy 15C, even up at this altitude!
I went off with high hopes, as I love a bit of technical terrain! A slight error at number 1, but not more than a minute followed by clean running thereafter, left me anticipating a great run, until disaster struck at number 12. Glancing at my control descriptions as I left 11, I thought I was looking for 53. I quickly found 51, exactly where I was expecting number 12 to be. Confused, I then ran around for 10 minutes trying to figure out where I could be and where 53 might be. Just as I was about to give up completely, I looked again at my descriptions and saw the number 12 was indeed 51 and it was number 13 that was 53! I was very annoyed to say the least! 10 minutes wasted on something that wasn’t even navigation related!!
The long race was on another part of the Llanos de la Pez map and was more technical than the middle. The rock detail around number 6 and 7 was particularly challenging, but with a bit of concentration I got through it. The real problem was numbers 3 and 9 – the same control that we visited twice. Despite a careful compass bearing, it took me 10 minutes to find it the first time. I thought it might be easier the second time, but that wasn’t so, and another 5 minutes were wasted finding it again! It didn’t seem like the best choice of control site – a tiny semi-distinctive tree in the middle of lots of thick bush! But nevertheless, I enjoyed the course and the views from the higher parts of the map made up for any gripes about nasty control sites!
The final race was an urban event in the town of Santa Brigida. The navigation was relatively straightforward, but this was made up for by the variety in the course – the first section urban and then the second section on rough open land. This was my best run of the week, but not enough to make any contest for the podium positions overall!
The assembly area and finish were in the local sports hall, and this made for a great run-in and atmosphere. It’s a shame we can’t/don’t have more arrangements like this in the UK.
After the race, the prizes for the overall competition were presented – these looked amazing, worth making an effort for! Each of 1st, 2nd and 3rd received a basket of local goods and a memento which was made from a thumb compass baseplate!
GCOM was over for another year. Most DVOers soon headed home, but Andy and I took advantage of the great sunny mountain walking on offer in The Canaries and headed over to La Gomera for an extra week. Along with the great orienteering, the walking in The Canaries (particularly Gran Canaria, La Gomera and La Palma) come highly recommended. And staying a while extra, or coming slightly earlier, to take in the Canarian mountains, is a great way to avoid the more expensive Christmas and New Year flight prices!
It is looking like the DVO contingent may build further for GCOM 2024 – lots of people have said they are looking at coming along. With pretty much guaranteed sunshine, great orienteering terrain, stunning scenery, modestly priced accommodation, and great food & drink who wouldn’t want to join!
The 2024 edition is to be centred around the south of Gran Canaria and if previous years are anything to go by, will be excellent fun! Why not come along and let’s see if we can make DVO the largest club attending!