by David Hogg
May 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first official intervarsity competition in the sport that is now known as rogaining. The origins of this competition, and indeed of the sport of rogaining itself, can be traced back to a weekend in 1947 when the five members of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) embarked on a competitive 24 hour walk through the hills east of Melbourne. Despite the low numbers, the competition proved popular and was repeated the following year, this time attracting about two dozen competitors in teams of two or more.
The 24 Hour Walk continued to grow in popularity and remained a highlight of the MUMC event program for over 40 years, also attracting participants from the equivalent clubs in Melbourne’s other universities, Monash and Latrobe. The idea was also exported to Adelaide, when an MUMC member moved there and became active with the Adelaide University Mountain Club.
In the early 1960s, MUMC was the only club belonging to the Melbourne University Sports Union that did not participate in an intervarsity competition. The Club therefore initiated a move to establish an intervarsity 24 Hour Walk, with the support of its counterparts at Monash and Adelaide Universities. Unofficial competitions were conducted from 1964, while the Club endeavoured to gain approval from the Australian Universities Sports Association (AUSA) for conducting the event on an official basis.
A major early stumbling block was that the AUSA did not see the 24 Hour Walk as a ‘real’ sport, as there was no national sporting organisation with formal rules for conducting such events. A breakthrough came in 1968 with the discovery of the official rules of the English Orienteering Association, which had been formed when orienteering became formally established in England in the early 1960s. While occasional orienteering events had been conducted in several parts of Australia prior to that time, these were informal events with no standard rules or established organisational structure. (The current orienteering movement began in August 1969, with the Orienteering Federation of Australia established in April 1970 and its first official rules adopted later that year).
The English orienteering rules were adapted to suit the format of a 24 hour competition, and now the AUSA was prepared to accept what was termed ‘Intervarsity Mountaineering in the form of an orienteering contest’. The inaugural event was organised by MUMC on the weekend of 31 May 1969, and was based at Blackwood, north-west of Melbourne, using the Daylesford inch-to-the-mile military map. Teams from Melbourne, Monash, Adelaide, Newcastle, Macquarie, New South Wales and Flinders Universities took part. The format was a score contest, similar to modern rogaines, as the majority of participating universities favoured that over the traditional MUMC 24 Hour Walk cross-country format, which involved visiting controls in a set order. The perpetual trophies for the winning teams were old bushwalking boots, painted gold for the men and silver for the women, and attached to wooden bases.
The sport of rogaining itself did not exist at the time. This was to follow in the mid-1970s as a further offshoot of the MUMC 24 Hour Walk, thanks to the initiative of members of the Surrey Thomas Rover Crew. The initial rules of rogaining were based largely on those of the intervarsity 24 hour ‘orienteering’ contest.
As rogaining developed, the similarities of the intervarsity competition to the separately organised rogaining events became apparent, and by 1981 the intervarsity competition had become known as ‘intervarsity rogaining’. The rogaining movement, which by then was spreading to most Australian states, assumed much of the responsibility for conducting the event.
Intervarsity rogaining, however, did not enjoy a smooth passage as a regular event, and by 2000 had died out completely, with the trophies mislaid and written off. In 2007, the Australian Rogaining Association established a new intervarsity rogaining competition, named the Nigel Aylott University Championships. This event offered open entry for any university teams, rather than just one representative team per university, as in the original intervarsity competition. The event has since continued on an annual basis, commonly in conjunction with the Australian Rogaining Championships.
Rules and Organisation
The rules and organisation details for the inaugural intervarsity event were somewhat different from contemporary rogaines. Their main features were as follows:
- The competition was specifically directed at university mountaineering or bushwalking clubs, with representative teams limited to one men’s team and one women’s team from each university. There were no mixed teams.
- While the maximum team size was four, members could drop out (at a hash house) during the event without the team being penalised, provided that at least two members continued.
- The event was a 24 hour score event, but teams were required to plot the control locations from master maps and plan their routes within the 24 hours, so the time spent on the course was reduced by the time spent on that process. There was also a compulsory total of at least one hour to be spent at hash houses during the event.
- There were three hash houses spread around the course, and the start and finish were at different locations, which were separate from the hash houses.
- Teams started at two-minute intervals to discourage following, with the starting order determined by ballot.
- The control point markers were cylindrical red cloth flags with a diagonal white stripe, similar to those used for orienteering in England at the time and made from bunting by MUMC members. Control points were also marked with white cheesecloth and white fluorescent streamers to make them more visible at night.
- There was no marking device attached to the flag, but on the ground beneath the flag was a coffee jar containing a rubber stamp. Teams carried a control card and a stamp pad, which was used to stamp the control card. (Pin punches were not available at the time).
- The points awarded at each control varied and were generally not multiples of ten or related to the control number. Late finishers were penalised at the rate of one point per minute (although no teams finished late at this event).
The results of the inaugural Intervarsity ‘Orienteering’ were as follows:
- Melbourne - 230 pts
- Adelaide - 141 pts
- Newcastle - 123 pts
- Macquarie - 102 pts
- Monash - 97 pts
- New South Wales - 43 pts
- Monash - 57 pts
- Melbourne - 53 pts
- Flinders - Did not finish
Further information about the event is contained in the Victorian Rogaining Association archives and in a history of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club currently in preparation.