The following is a brief review of orienteering rules. For a full setof rules, go to USOFRules. For an essay on cheating see Cheating.
The two most popular forms of orienteering are Score-O and point-to-point. Point-to-point orienteering is also called route or cross-country orienteering. One can generally enter either form as a competitor or as a non-competitor,called a map hiker. With both, you will be given a map showing thecontrol point locations, a control description sheet that describes thefeatures that you are looking for, and a control card which is to be punchedat each control to prove that you were there. Competitors will beassigned a start time. Be at the start area 10 minutes prior to yourstart. The start area may be a long way from the registration area,so be sure to ask.
With Score-O, the competitor has a fixed time limit, often 60 or 90minutes, to visit as many controls as possible in any order. Controlsmay have different point values, and the number of points earned determinesthe winner. A penalty, usually one point, is applied for eachminute or fraction thereof a competitor is late. A Rogaine is justa long Score-0 of 6, 12 or even 24 hours.
Point-to-point is the more common form of orienteering, and unless otherwisespecified on the entry form, the one you can assume that you are entering. All controls points must be visited in the order listed within the timelimit, usually 3 hours. The winner is determined by who has the fastesttime. In a two-day meet, times for both days are added to determinethe winner.
The following equipment is recommended: running shoes or hiking boots,long pants, protective eyewear, a watch as there is always a time limit,a whistle to call for help if you are injured, and a compass. A "protractor"-stylecompass with a clear plastic base is preferred. HOC has a limitednumber of compasses for rent.
The rules are designed to result in fairness to competitors and thesafety of the participants.
A missing or a wrong punch results in disqualification (DQ). Thereis no stigma associated with a DQ due to mistakes. Even the bestorienteers DQ from time-to-time.
There may be a "manned" control on your course, in which case the personmanning the control will punch your control card. For point-to-pointorienteering, where all controls must be punched in order, a competitorcaught with a control punched out of order, will be DQ'd.
Orienteering is an individual sport. Giving or receiving helpexcept in a non-competitive class is prohibited. Likewise, running withor following other competitors is prohibited. If competing, do notask for assistance unless you are in fear for your safety and willing tobe DQ'd. A competitor caught violating these rules will be DQ'd. Map hikers may receive help from anyone, preferably another map hiker. Map hikers, please do not ask for assistance from a competitor unless infear for your safety or over the time limit. Competitors or map hikersmust assist anyone in trouble. If you are the injured party and notin serious trouble, it is polite to allow the competitor to report yoursituation at the end of their run.
A safety bearing is a compass bearing to follow if one is totally lostand no longer wishes to continue. If this is not posted, you shouldask a meet official what the safety bearing is.
A whistle is a valuable safety tool to be used when injured. Theinternational distress signal is 6 long blasts followed by a long silence. The rescue reply is 3 short blasts. Do not use your whistle in anyfashion unless you are in distress.
Orienteering is not like some other sports, in that, it is against tothe rules to taunt participants. Anyone caught taunting will be DQ'd,even if the taunter has finished his or her run.
Not observing the following rules can result in disqualification aswell as a ban from future meets (these also apply to map hikers):