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Postcard from Portugal

O in the sun

Published: Thu 5 Mar 2020

Already seasoned orienteers on the continent, Andy Rimes and Rosie Wych are have been testing themselves in sunnier climes at the Portugal 'O' Meeting 2020. Read on for reports and a video from their first few days there.

POM website

So it’s February and it’s back to Portugal again for Rimes and Wych. POM is getting bigger every year- this year there are about 2500 entrants from all over Europe and further field. The event is the biggest in the Portuguese Calendar and moves location each year.

This year’s event is centred around the port and city of Sines, about 200km south of Lisbon. The event is multi day with four forest days of different lengths, two urbans , model and training events and even pre-o for those interested: all squeezed into five days total. Due to the irregularity of flights from Bristol to here this time of year (low season) we flew out to Lisbon on Tuesday this week and enjoyed a couple of long and tiring but ultimately rewarding days traipsing the tourist attractions of the capital from our apartment base in the old town area of Baixa.

Training event

Lots of grotty prickly undergrowth- not ideal in shorts...

We drove down here and went straight to one of the training events on offer to sample the typical terrain. These training areas provide a simple event, self managed with an all controls map and basic kites on the ground, no timekeeping etc. The idea is to provide an opportunity to sample typical terrain to be used by the event days in a low key manner at your own speed.

The area was forested dunes with very subtle landform details and lots of grotty prickly undergrowth- not ideal as I had elected to jog around it in shorts due to the temperature (sorry to gloat but it’s full sun and mid-twenties here all this week). Lots of loose sand and the heat combined to make the climbing damn hard work where there was any- not a great area and hopefully not ‘too’ typical of things to come...

Model event (Day 0)

The day started poorly for Rosie due to an upset stomach with bouts of vomiting all through the previous night so she was definitely not going to be doing this and stayed in bed all morning until I returned. As I was on my own, I had a quick breakfast and set off early. The area was only a couple of km from where we are staying so when I arrived there were only two other cars, no organisation personnel yet and an air of abandonment.

However as I was getting ready two chaps piled up, confirmed the event was set up to go and began the preparations to park the several hundred cars and coaches soon to start arriving. I set off and obviously enjoyed complete solitude for the first hour or so in the sun dappled woodlands.
This area was much nicer to run than yesterday. It was on stoney ground rather than sand with lots of open areas mixed with cork woodlands but very much hillier and with a huge amount more contour detail.

Enjoyed complete solitude... in sun dappled woodlands

Again as a non-competitive model training event it was nice, and good useful practice, to pocket the compass and just read the map detail to navigate the self managed course I chose to follow. by the time I had finished I had covered 14km by my GPS, it was getting quite hot and much busier- when I got back to the car parking my little Fiat 500 hire car was now lost in a vast collection of other competitors’ vehicles- it was nice to leave them to it after the solitude I had enjoyed earlier.

In case anyone is still reading this and is concerned for the welfare of my travelling buddy, I can confirm when I returned at lunchtime she was up and although very tired and drained, no longer ill and hopefully with rest able to compete the two events tomorrow...... a lazy afternoon by the shore gave her the opportunity to rest while I explored the coast path and rocky inlets nearby.

Competition proper, daytime event (Day 1)

The first official event, a middle distance urban/parkland around the hilltop town of Santiago do Cacém with start times around lunchtime so the sun was already high and the temperature fierce. With the hilltop castle dominating the town it was inevitable courses would work their way up to and around it so we were prepared for climb.

The event centre was based in the town sport centre, with all the facilities expected and on site parking. My course initially started in the newer part of town with lots of symmetric apartment blocks with canopied cut through, then parks and communal areas all connected by flights of steps.. lots and lots of steps!

Lots and lots of steps, winding streets and alleys, all on cobbles

A straight steep climb led up the hill to the castle in which was a small complex area of park with several controls before descending down into the old town. This area comprised as expected small winding streets and alleys all on cobbles with lots of controls scattered around so concentration was paramount. From the old town a gradual climb back up to the sport centre in the north of the town led through the newest developments where more apartment blocks were located amongst areas of rough open and wooded areas still awaiting development.

It was here where a stupid mistake leaving a small park via the wrong exit then having to relocate and continue caused me to lose three or four minutes- enough at this level of competition to lose 25 places in the standings- quite frustrating on an otherwise clean run and only 300m from the finish. Otherwise an excellent urban venue and event, well planned and a good prelude of things to come.

Later this evening was to be the second event of the competition, an urban night sprint around a nearby town......

- Andy

Nighttime event (Day 1)

After the day event, there was time for some relaxation and an afternoon stroll before a night sprint. Disappointingly, I was still feeling somewhat drained and queasy and the delights of two events in one day were not ideal! However having jogged round earlier and survived I was hopefully on the mend.

One of the most challenging but rewarding urban events we have done

The night event was a sprint with complex built up areas and urban parkland. Controls came thick and fast and it was necessary to keep a sense of impending disaster at bay if you lost contact with the map. Almost 1200 competitors and controls everywhere added to the interest. Concentration was certainly key and both Andy and I thought it was one of the most challenging but rewarding urban events we have done.

A good flavour of the day can be found on the event website Facebook page in a short film - one certainly admires the event organisation which already has hundreds of photos on line, course maps and the bonus of a live results service.

So, day 2 is where it gets real with the long Forest stage - Andy is looking forward to the prospect of a 9k event. Blue skies continue.

- Rosie


With six events over four days they came so thick and fast that it was hard to find the time to do more than recover! For most of the time I was just happy to get round - especially on the one long event when typically we had late starts and it was somewhat hot believe it or not. My run was ruined by going straight to the first control site which was supposed to be a large depression and just not seeing the control flag in the depths of a tiny depression. Then wasted 15 minutes looking everywhere else!

I only really began to feel anything like approaching normal on the last day, so all in all was not too discouraged by my results as most of the time I felt I was running through treacle! Andy unfortunately will be the first to admit it was not a good event for him - which is sometimes how it goes. Typical occurrence was having the map folded on the urban, going to number 6........unfolding the map to discover it was 16............

the nighttime parade seemed an excuse to dress up, with scantily clad Egyptians and a male Dolly Parton

Despite this it continues to be possibly our favourite event and nice to be in the company of various BOK, SBOC and Kerno contemporaries.

The whole event was also enlivened by coinciding with Sines carnival - apparently one of the largest in Portugal. We went to the nighttime parade, which quite frankly seemed an excuse to dress up (anything from groups of gyrating scantily clad Egyptians to the individual male Dolly Parton*) and dance for the crowds fuelled by large quantities of Portuguese beer. We left them to it still going strong after two hours.

Next year the events are all close to Lisbon (even an urban in one of the old city quarters) which makes for ease of access - hopefully we will do better and others may be inclined to join us?!

- Rosie Wych

* please tell me that wasn't Andy? - QO Website Editor