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What Types of Events Are There?

Orienteering has four official divisions, Foot-O, Ski-O, Mountain Bike-O, Trail-O, and numerous variants.


Foot-O is what most of us think of as just plain "orienteering." Most BAOC events fall into this category. There are several variations on the theme:

The standard format, used for most events and all formal competitions. Competitors find several control locations in a specified order; the winner is the person with the fastest time. Competitors start at different times, usually separated by 2 to 4 minutes to discourage following. There are usually several courses available, from beginner through advanced.
Competitors visit as many controls as they can, in any order, within a specified time limit. The controls are worth points, sometimes different amounts based on difficulty. There are usually penalty (minus) points for each minute (and fraction of a minute) that you finish over the time limit. The winner is the person with the most points; scoring ties are broken by the faster time.
An event that is held after dark is called a Night-O. The event might have the format of a point-to-point course or of a Score-O.
When the Score-O format is used, and depending on the season (and the phase of the moon), there might be a small number of "vampire" participants who do not have a score card until they steal one from a "normal" competitor, which turns that person into a "vampire" (and the former vampire becomes normal). That format is called a Vampire-O. The winner of a Vampire-O is the person who finishes with the highest scoring card, regardless of the history of that card. (The event announcement will indicate whether or not the event is a Vampire-O, so it won't be a heart-stopping surprise while on the course. However, you might be surprised if you don't read the announcement and Course Setter's Notes carefully.)
A long-distance endurance event that is usually a point-to-point course. In addition to increased length (and climb), a goat usually differs from standard point-to-point courses by having a mass start, and often includes special rules such as permission to skip a control, the option to select which of two "equivalent" controls you want to visit, and a group of controls that can be visited in any order.
There is often a long-standing tradition associated with goat events. BAOC has held an annual Golden Goat event since 1996. There is a shorter Golden Kid alternative for people with less stamina (and possibly more sense) than those who tackle the full goat. Typically, the Goat and Kid start at the same time, and share the first controls. Thus, participants can decide "on the fly" which course they want to complete.
A really long Score-O event, with time limits of 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours, generally using really large maps. The acronym "ROGAINE" was invented in the 1970s from Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance​—​or from a combination of the inventor's names (ROd, GAIl, and NEil)​—​depending on who you ask.
Similar to point-to-point orienteering, except that competitors are not allowed to carry a map. They must memorize the course, either in whole or in part. Sometimes there is only one map at the start; sometimes there are maps at one or more of the controls on the course. Participants are permitted to visit the maps as many times as they want, but a lot of time can be lost by going back to look at a map.
This is a variation on the standard format in which multiple (often three or four) team members run successive point-to-point courses, with a map hand-off from one runner to the next (i.e., the “finishing” runner grabs the next map from an array for the teams, and hands the map to the next runner). The Relay begins with all the first-leg runners doing a mass start, but with “forking” of the courses done to discourage following. After all the team members have run their courses, every team will have run the same courses, but in different orders because of the forking. The winning team is the one that finishes the last leg first. The hand-offs and the finish are often quite exciting for the team members and the spectators.
This is another variation on point-to-point orienteering in which the competitors pass through the start/finish doing multiple short loops (each with a new map) to create a long course. This format is often used on a small map to create a longer course. Named after the city of Motala, Sweden.
Labyrinth-orienteering involves a point-to-point orienteering course in a maze. This is usually done in a small section of a field or open area, where the maze is created with flagging tape, for example. Each competitor is handed a map at the beginning of the maze, and the map shows the maze either printed over an orienteering map or just on a blank page. The controls are indicated with the usual circles, and the competitor must go to each, in order, without crossing over the "walls" of the maze.
Yet another variation on point-to-point events, in which the runner does not have a map, but instead gets information by cell phone from a partner who has the map. An interesting aspect of this format is that the partner can be anywhere in the world!
This variation of a point-to-point course does not have the control locations shown on the map. Instead, there is a line drawn on the map that the participant is supposed to carefully follow. The controls are encountered along the way. Sometimes the competitor must mark the control locations on the map, and they are judged by how accurately they mark the locations. Scoring is usually done by counting the number of controls found. If a tie occurs, time on the course is used to determine the order in the results.
This is another variation on point-to-point events that has portions of the map blank. Thus, the participants must navigate "blindly" across those areas of the map. In the extreme case, the map shows only a small area ("window") around each control. This format is used mainly at training events, but it is occasionally used at regular events.
This variation of a point-to-point course is for very young children. Instead of a map, the participants are guided by a string that runs from control to control around the entire course. (Ideally, there would be a String-O course at every BAOC "B" and "A" event, but currently nobody has offered to organize such courses [hint, hint].)


Ski orienteering (http://orienteering.org/ski-orienteering/) is similar to point-to-point foot orienteering, except that competitors are on cross-country skis. BAOC hosts a couple of Ski-Os each winter, usually at Bear Valley and Royal Gorge.

Mountain Bike-O

Orienteering on mountain bikes is an endurance sport attracting both orienteering and mountain bike enthusiasts. It's the newest of the orienteering disciplines. Mountain Bike-O (http://www.orienteering.org/brief_m.htm) is not a regular part of the BAOC schedule, although we've had a couple of events.

Precision Orienteering (Trail-O)

Precision Orienteering, or PreO, (also known as Trail Orienteering (http://orienteering.sport/trailo/), or Trail-O) was developed to give those with limited mobility​—​folks in wheelchairs, with arthritis, etc.​—​a chance to enjoy the map-reading aspects of orienteering. No athletic ability is required, and speed is not an element of competition. Instead, you must accurately identify, from a distance, which of several control flags precisely matches each control location shown on the map and described in the control descriptions. A more thorough description of PreO is available here. It's not as easy as it sounds!

PreO is not a regular part of the BAOC schedule, although we have events from time to time.