Every year, the best rogainers in the world descend on what’s usually a rugged and remote location, to battle for world supremacy at the World Rogaining Championships. For those of you who are still scratching your head wondering what this whole ‘Rogaining’ thing is all about, and why they are having a World Championship, we’ll give you the cheat sheet.

Before IMG_0051

Imagine being given a map with a number of checkpoints on it, and a time limit to make it to as many of those checkpoints as possible in the allotted time, and you’ll have the general idea. Unlike Orienteering, there’s no set route, and no order you need to hit the checkpoints in, you just get to as many as you can within the time available. For the World Championships, that’s 24hours. Each checkpoint is worth a certain number of points, and as you can probably imagine, the more difficult they are to get to, the more points they’re worth. So there’s a fair bit of strategy required, and more than a bit of expertise with a compass as no GPS devices are allowed. It’s strictly old school for these guys.

Before IMG_1708

The sport was actually invented by three Aussies, but it’s since gone global, with this year’s World Championships returning to Australia, and attracting teams from far and wide. The 680 participants, in teams of at least two, came from Russia, Latvia, South Africa, Italy,  Estonia, Japan, Hong Kong, the United States, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and, of course, a good number of Aussies on their home turf.


The setting this year, was the East McDonnell ranges, about an hour out of Alice Springs, and it was a brutal, unforgiving course that pushed even the toughest competitors to their limits. And in some cases, beyond.

The day before the event was 29c, which had more than a few teams a little worried about carrying enough water and staying hydrated along the way. There were several water drops strategically located throughout the course, but that kind of heat reflecting off the rocky surrounds would have been tricky, bordering on dangerous. Thankfully race day delivered a much milder day in the low 20s.

Last Hour IMG_2503

After a frantic pre-race planning session where teams had their first glimpse of the course map, they then gathered for the 11am start which would see the more serious teams stay out on course for the entire 24 hours. As you can imagine, the variety of gear being wielded was as comprehensive as it was diverse. Hydration packs and drink bottles of all shapes, sizes and brands were filled to the brim and ready to go, while others had hiking poles, gaiters and an assortment of other gear to get them through the day and into the night.

Start IMG_1844

One of the unique things about an event like this, is that when the event starts, teams disperse in what appears to be almost random directions based on their own, unique race strategies. So the Ross River Resort base camp went from a thriving hub of activity to whisper quiet within minutes, as the 304 teams made their way out on course to start bagging their first checkpoints.

Moon rise that night was relatively late, leaving teams needing to navigate for almost three full hours in what was essentially complete darkness, making head torches more vital than ever and slowing most teams down quite a bit. Once the moon was up, however, navigating became much easier again, and the more elite teams were back into full steam ahead.

Night IMG_2195

One of the main challenges the course delivered was often impenetrable spinifex. Remember, most teams plot the most direct route between controls, which more often than not does not include sticking to established trails. These routes may save distance, but often involve some fairly serious ‘bush bashing’, and the spinifex in the area caused more than a few problems amongst the teams. Even those with heavy duty protective clothing ended up on the receiving end of some fairly prickly treatment. And many of their tops and pants, along with the people wearing them, looked worse for wear by Sunday morning.

Last Hour IMG_0841

Come sunrise, with four or five hours before cut off, it was time for teams to start plotting their courses back to base to make sure they arrived before cut off in order to avoid losing points as part of the late return time penalty system. Some teams were quite relaxed, wandering in with plenty of time to spare, while others went right down to the wire, sprinting the final stretch to try and sneak in before the midday finish time.

End IMG_1124

The wrap up saw a couple of Kiwis take top honours, bagging 4,400 of a possible 6,190 points that were up for grabs. To put this on context, winners Greig Hamilton and Chris Forne were more than 500 points clear of second place, so it was a truly dominant performance.

Keen to join the fun?? Book your tickets to Eastern Europe as the 2017 World Rogaining Championships is being held at Razna National park Latvia!!

Presentations IMG_3007

About The Author


Chief Swashbuckler at Swashbucklers Club & the author of the Swashbuckler Guides series.

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