JHI Report – Dom Dakin

The Junior Home Internationals: where battle lines are drawn between the 4 great nations of the United Kingdom. This is the definitive weekend in the Junior Orienteering calendar, when one of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is crowned the victor. Consisting of both individual and relay competitions, 24 juniors are sent forth from each nation, this year competing in the challenging Caledonian forests near Pitlochry.  4 Juniors from each of the M/W14-18 classes are selected to make up the team, sourced from every corner of the country. Due to an unfortunate clash between the JHIs and the Junior European Champs, several of the top performers had been called away to Switzerland. This left particularly the English contingent feeling rather devoid of runners, but after some digging the selectors managed to come up with my name, and so I donned my England top fresh from its packet, ready for whatever the Scots threw at us!

 

Due to the competition being held in a distant far-flung land, the England team opted to travel up in Minibuses (one from the East, one from the West), which was an excellent excuse to miss a full day of school – but I can assure my teachers, this was made up for in various attempts to do homework on the long and winding journey as we ventured north, gradually picking up team mates on the way.  Eventually though, we reached Pitlochry, ‘one of Scotland’s most beautiful and vibrant places to visit’ – but more importantly home to our two hostels, one chippy, a Co-Op and a vast range of other vital amenities – namely an Indian, Italian and Chinese. After being let loose on the streets of the town to source the evening meal of our choice, we returned to the hostel, where we caught up with the rest of Team England, and furtively eyed up the competition from the other side of the pool table!

Saturday came, and just as promised we were furnished with an excellent breakfast and packed lunch, provided by the organisers of the weekend. A short journey to the event, and it was time to show the other teams what England were made of! So out came the flags, facepaint, and various renditions of ‘Englishy’ anthems – Land of Hope & Glory? Jerusalem?

Errochty is a typical Scottish forest, containing areas of natural deciduous woodland on complex terrain, with a plethora of rock features in places. We’d been warned that the area would require full concentration, and so soon it was time to get my head in the game.

I found the area to be very physically challenging, with the constant slope of the area making for challenging long legs on which it was easy to drift down the slope. I was hampered by the mandatory autumn cold that weekend, and so I can’t say that this, combined with the hills, helped my result! Areas of complex contour & rock detail near the end of the course slowed the racing rather, with quite a bit of hunting and calling, but overall I was happy with my mostly clean (if a bit slow!) run.

There were some excellent results for the England team, with Euan (M14), Flurry (M16) and Evie (W16) taking 2nd place, and Stanley (M18) coming 3rd. Overall, this placed England 2nd, 20 points behind Scotland.

Following the Individual, we journeyed back to the hostel, where we donned our glad rags, ready for the highlight of the weekend – the much-anticipated ceilidh! After the evening meal and prizegiving. Little did the English know, but this was a cunning plan by the ceilidh-cultured Scots to make our legs hurt even more, after the trials of the area earlier! Great fun was had by all, with the live band and caller pumping even us English full of Scottish vigour – who knew so many Dashing White Sergeants and Flying Scotsmen could Strip so much Willow in just 2 hours!?!

Sadly, the sun did set, and as expected, it rose again the next day, rather too early for my liking! The ‘activities’ of the day before had certainly worn us out, and today we faced an even bigger challenge of the relays!

Bonkseid is (surprise, surprise!) also a fairly typical Scottish forest, but a rather beautiful one at that; quite like the previous day, but with far less hill, and far more contour! It was mostly very runnable coniferous forest, with a mix of rock and marshes throughout, making for an exciting relay competition.

From assembly, you could see the final few controls of each leg, making for a tense wait for the duration of each of the 3 legs of the relay. Each of the boys and girls relay made for an exciting start, with the M/W16 runners charging off down the field, plunged straight into the terrain.

After all the excitement of the first leg run through, the next leg was off, with the 14s generally holding onto the positions they had been sent out in, and soon handing over to the 18s to conclude the race. Interestingly, there was very little changing of position after the first leg, with many having relatively clean runs in what was a very runnable and high-visibility area on the whole.

Sadly, despite England holding up a good fight, the performances were not enough to get the better of Scotland, who took a convincing win, with 143 points to England’s 114. All that was left was the prizegiving (which of course wasn’t complete without some bagpiping!), before we commenced the long journey back home for some well deserved sleep!

Especially as it was my first JHIs, the whole weekend was thoroughly enjoyable – the ceilidh, meeting up with friends from all over the UK, and of course the races – all made for a fab weekend away, regardless of the effort required to get there, and reminding me that orienteering if far more than the course.

My thanks of course go to Jeff Butt for organising Team England, and to our team coaches/minibus chauffeurs: Nev Myers, Will Heap, Jacky Dakin, Pete & Jenn Hudd – without their efforts we literally couldn’t have got anywhere!

Results from the event can be seen here.

Photo Credits: Will Heap & Scott Bailey