The Australian Orienteering Championships will kick off in Daylesford this Saturday (September 24) with two events, one centred on Jubilee Lake and the other centred on the Daylesford township. Other events are scheduled in the Central Highlands over the coming week.

The event will attract over 800 runners with 200 from Victoria, 500 from other states and 100 from New Zealand.

And even though it’s an Australian Championship, locals are invited to come and have a go. For Free!

Orienteering is an endurance sport in which competitors run (or walk if they prefer) around a prescribed course using maps made especially for the events. The sport combines the physical challenge of running at speed through native bushland with the mental challenge of navigating to a series of checkpoints which have to be found precisely.

The areas chosen are often hard to navigate because of the complexity of rocks, gold diggings or complex spurs and gullies. Other formats include running at speed through complex urban landscapes such as schools or university campuses. There is also a mountain bike variant.

Orienteering is an unusual sport in that all age groups compete at the same event. There will be “age classes “ for students from 10-18 and “masters” type competitors in five-year age brackets from 35 to 85! Some families will have three generations all competing on the same day but over distances and courses appropriate for their age. Some competitors in the “masters” type classes have been competing against each other for forty or fifty years and the rivalries continue!

The Daylesford and Hepburn areas have a great tradition for hosting quality Orienteering events. The surrounding forests from Sailors Falls to the Blowhole and up to Mount Franklin have been mapped for Orienteering competitions. The area has some particularly good Orienteering maps because of the complex landscapes left behind by the gold diggers. The mullock heaps, earth banks and gullies make for complex and unique “gold mining” terrain. It wasn’t just the architecture that the miners left behind. They left a legacy of great Orienteering terrain even if some consider that legacy negligent on the part of the miners.

Daylesford will host two events on the same day to kick off the 2022 Australian Championship carnival. This is the first time two events have been held on the same day and will test the stamina and recovery powers of competitors. The morning event is the Victorian Middle Distance championships on the unique and complex forest south of Jubilee Lake near the caravan park. Middle distance orienteering events are roughly thirty minutes duration with many checkpoints set in areas of complex terrain. The Daylesford forests are perfect for this style of event and many hours of specialist mapping have gone into surveying the area, setting courses and ensuring all checkpoints are correctly placed prior to the race start.

The afternoon events will provide even excitement close to town for locals and tourists here for the long weekend.  These races are slightly shorter (20 minute winning times) and include forest and urban terrain combined. The Grand Prix competition will start and finish at Daylesford Primary School and take competitors around the lake and through the primary school grounds. The courses have been deliberately set to be spectator friendly from vantage points behind the School.

Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie, will open the Grand Prix event. “We are excited to welcome so many visitors to our wonderful Shire for the Australian Orienteering Championships, particularly the Victorian Middle Distance Championships and the Orienteering Grand Prix events being hosted in Daylesford,” he said. “Hepburn Shire is the home of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state.”

Everyone is encouraged to come and watch or even enter a competition suitable for their ability. For locals who want to come and have a go, they can enter beginner friendly “on the day” entry courses at both events. Coaching and guidance will be available. Entry will be free for anyone who can show they live in Hepburn Shire or surrounds. All events are free for spectators.

On Sunday, the Australian Middle Distance championships will be held on a course near Blackwood. Other events will follow throughout the week near Kyneton, Harcourt, Castlemaine and Maldon. See the Australian Orienteering Championships website for a full list of events and locations.

For those who want to try something more local, there is a permanent Orienteering course at Cornish Hill with maps available from the Daylesford and District Visitor Information Centre.

For more information, visit the Orienteering Victoria website.