Long O- history
The first 10 years: 1997 - 2007
Bill Vigar recounts how the series came about and a summary of the first 10 years of Long O, by year.
The Arthur Vince years 1997 - 2003
According to the comments in the results of the first (1997) event, Jenny Tennant had suggested the idea to Arthur Vince and he, being basically a 'long event' person, responded.
1997 - Dunster
I'm not sure why Dunster was chosen instead of the Quantocks, perhaps it was so that the event centre could be at the Hagley Youth Hostel. This idea of having a building of some kind as a centre has been used ever since, village halls have been popular.
This first event itself is probably best remembered for one of the control sites used on the long course. This was a veg. boundary in a semi-open area. It had been a very good year for bracken growth. Fortunately it was before the time of electronic punching, so there were no splits to show how long people had taken on this leg.
There were only two courses, a long of 21.7k with 1430m of climb and a short of only 17.5k with 1110m! Winning times were 4:35 on Long and 3:42 on Short. It was a hot day and had certainly been tough, there were 8 finishers and 9 retirals on the Long and 9/15 on Short. Some had not appreciated the meaning of the phrase 'significant amount of climb' in the final details. With a first event such as this, would anyone come next year? Of course they would, word spread that there was now a 'proper' Long-O in the South West…
1998 to 2000 - Quantocks
so for the 1998 event, on the Quantocks that year starting from the village hall at Holford, there were a few more entrants. Furthermore they now knew what to expect, so the finishers/retirals improved to 15/4 on the Long and to 20/7 for the short, which was 15.2k with only 810m climb. Twelve of those who had retired the previous year came again and finished this one. Although the Long was about 500m longer, with the same climb as the previous year, the winning time was 27 mins less. It was wet rather than hot that year.
The pattern was now set, the next two years were also on the Quantocks starting from Holford but using different parts of the hills, there were bound to be certain common features due to the limited size of the area.
2002 - Dunster
The 2001 event, scheduled to be Arthur's last and due to return to the first venue at Dunster, had to be cancelled due to the Foot & Mouth outbreak that year. The courses were already planned, so they were used the following year. Our clientèle must be getting the hang of things by now, although the details for the Long were about the same as the 1997 event, the winning time was 46 mins less. I had actually taken 6 mins more, so allowing for advancing years it must have been easier than the first one, it was another wet event.
Bill Vigar, July 2008
The Andy Rimes years 2003-07
As I recall it, when Arthur announced his 'retirement', Andy was quick off the mark with his offer to continue the series.
For his first event, Andy chose the western end of the Quantocks, using the village hall at Bicknoller for the event centre. We had a short course that year for the first time. Arthur had previously declined to provide one, as he felt it not in keeping with the spirit of the event. Having taken delivery of our e-punching equipment just before the event, we decided to trial it on the short course. A certain person remembers this well, as I managed to clear his dibber before reading it, and to make matters worse, although his start time was known, his finish time had not been recorded! lvor Powell was going well that year and took over 1/2 hour off Andy's expected winning time for the long course to finish in 3:31:20. Pete Maliphant won the medium in 3:03:30. The total entry was 66 with only 6 on the new short course.
2004 - Holford
For 2004 we retumed to Holford. For some reason, my records for this year are a bit weak. I seem to remember it was very hot, the drinks point ran out of water due to people refilling their camel- backs, and 13 out of the 19 starters on the long course retired, perhaps it was the 1410m of climb that did it, as only 5 from the 37 starters on medium retired. Simon Beck completed the long, over an hour ahead of the next competitor in 3:29:05, but declared himself non-competitive (n/c). Brian Pearson won the medium in 3:26:19 by 8 minutes from Jackie Hallett. The short was more popular that year with 16 starters, of whom only 3 retired. Another n/c, Sue Gard & Millie were the first finishers, one minute ahead of Nick Hockey.
2005 - Blackdowns
For 2005, I had persuaded Andy to use the Blackdowns as a venue. This was not wholly successful, for one thing there was no suitable event centre within walkirrg distance, so a self-bussing system was used from the hall at West Buckland. The area was largely wooded, so the event was more like a very long orienteering event than the previous ones. Due to the logistics of the event, it was the first one I did not run myself. The number of starters was also down a bit at 50. Again, we had a runaway winner on the long, Ben Chesters winning by 65 minutes from Richard Sansbury.
2006 - Carhampton, Dunster
It was a return to original style for 2006, using the Dunster area with a new start/finish in the NE corner and an centre at Carhampton. Simon Beck won the long, but only by 10 minutes in 3:39:33. Arthur V must have had a premonition about the time he might take; he was the first away, but we still had to wait over an hour for him at the end. Millie got two runs on short that year, running firstly with me and then with Sue. Some 63 started that year.
To conclude, 2007 was another innovation, Exmoor using a special purpose map at a scale of 1:30,000 with the Pinkery Centre as the HQ. As there was only 840m of climb, Andy had increased the distance a bit to 26.7k. This was also the first time we combined with Devon OC to make the event part of the Two Moors Challenge. It seemed to work, as the numbers were up a bit at 75. There were also more runners from outside the region, Jeff Green of Chigwell winning the long in 3:42:27 from Tim Britton of BOK by seven minutes.
Bill Vigar, September 2008