Just how good are you at maintaining average speeds? Some drivers have the knack. My regular pilot, Paul Hernaman, appears to have a metronome in his head. When I say: "On your own at 25 mph" – he can be pretty well spot on. Of course, he has a speedometer and a rev counter to help him, plus an odometer and stopwatch for the occasions he is mentally able, but if he didn't, how would he fair? More on that later.
Navigators are spoilt with their toys: programmable tripmeters, multi-function stopwatches and average speed tables. Take away any one of those and how good would they be at mentally judging their average speed? I'd love to see a regularity section run with no driver or navigator aids. What should we call it, an Irregularity?
Policing an irregularity would naturally be a headache. Try separating a navigator from his computational power and you'd get a romer inserted in a painful place. And, putting tape over the speedo, revo or odo for a driver is probably road illegal – unless you run the irregularity over private land. Now there's an idea for organisers who have a disused airfield's worth of tracks.
Officials would need to cover the key displays of speed and distance. I'm sure the devious ones could design some kind of universal covering, which could unleash a few thousand deterrent volts if a crewmember tried to remove it. More practically, just masking tape might suffice with passage controls to check compliance and destroy mental rhythm. No need to prohibit the use of timepieces; recording time in isolation would be of no benefit unless the length of the irregularity was negligently made obvious by choosing an easily measurable route on the map.
To place the onus firmly in the crew's control get them to nominate their own average speed – within reasonable limits such as between 15 mph and 25 mph – before they start. Without visual or numeric aids, I think you might be surprised how much time a crew might lose even on a one-mile section.
Taking this idea a step further, why not separate the driver and navigator? Set a regularity where the start and finish are about a quarter of a mile apart. The driver would have to drive the section on his own, with the route arrowed so that he didn’t get lost. Call this section an INSularity (Interfering Navigator Superfluous). Arrow a different, shorter walking course for the navigator with a speed selection between, say, 2 and 4 mph. Call this a NODularity (No Driver). Let the crew choose their own driving/walking speeds, start them at the same time and then add together their penalties at the finish control. Collectively, these would have to be termed Singularities!
While on the theme of historic rallying innovations, organisers could try this too. Convert some of your special tests to memory tests. Don’t issue the test diagram with the Road Book. At the test start, issue a start time and count the crew down as normal, but at GO, hand the navigator the diagram. Now, they must study the route and remember where to go. When they are ready, the navigator hands back the diagram to the start marshal and the crew attempts to complete the test correctly. The time to memorise will obviously add to the test time, so beating the bogey time will be harder than usual – ideal if the test is on a fast course.
Originally, I didn’t invent these innovations for rallying, so to lead you into what evolved in my head we need to take the rallying analogy one stage further.
The final step in removing a crew's equipment is to prohibit use of the car! Now we move away from car rallying and into the world of personal rallying or Pegularities.
* * *
Pegularity is derived from Pe(destrian) (re)gularity. The first ever event took place on July 17 at my home and was attended by a varied group of rally enthusiasts and friends. I had access to a field, woods and a ménage covering two acres in total as my play area, and over the months leading up to the Pegularity event, I carved out tracks through the tall grass and trees, and constructed digital maps of the areas. Five Pegularity courses were designed: two that visited the field and woods; one that used the lane past my home, and two in the ménage designated as “memory” Pegularities.
The concept was simple. Competitors had to walk (or run if they preferred) each Pegularity, attempting to maintain an average speed that they had selected before starting.
I had given guidance in the Final Instructions of how competitors could determine their average speed, and at the venue I had laid out a calibration course.
There were scores of available paths so the routes were defined by reference to via points on the home-grown maps. To ensure the competitors had followed the correct route there were Route Checks, which comprised miniature codeboards containing 3-letter words.
I had created a set of regulations for the Pegularity. Interestingly, the rally competitors had read these diligently, but the rally-disadvantaged were bemused by detail required to define the rules for such an event. The questions at the start briefing ranged from “Will a closing walker pull me out if I get stuck somewhere?” to “Is timing on sight at a control?”
Pegularity 1 had 12 Route Checks and was 0.7619 miles long. Accurately measuring the distance was important since a typical walker will cover 1.3 metres in a second, so I used a trundle wheel that measured to the nearest 0.1 metres. Most competitors selected a target speed of just slower than their calibrated speed on the basis that the unfamiliar territory and codewords hunting would slow them down.
One non-rallying woman, who was adept at map reading, chose the minimum allowed speed of 2 mph and arrived at the finish control 67 seconds early. However, the concept of having to find route checks had not registered with her, but despite picking up further penalties of 10 seconds per check, she still registered the best performance. A stage rally co-driver also set himself a modest 2 mph, but eventually clocked in over 16 minutes late! He couldn’t believe that he had been in the woods for almost 40 minutes. A power walker declared she would walk at 3.8 mph and then got completely lost, had trouble finding codewords and was 25 minutes late. Only three rally folk recorded all the codewords correctly.
Pegularity 2 was the first of the two “memory” Pegularities. These were held in a sandy ménage – renamed as Memage for the day. At a competitor’s start time, they were shown a diagram of the route to follow. They had to memorise a tour around cones and start when ready. I thought the route was easy: straightforward shapes to follow clockwise then anticlockwise, with a total distance of a quarter of a mile, but nobody got the test right. Time penalties were high – too early because some forgot the route and cut to the finish, and too late as others walked unnecessary laps.
At the lunch halt there was heated debate about tactics for the afternoon.
Pegularity 3 was a simple one-mile there and back on a public road. Despite the warning not to “drink and walk”, the lunch time cold beers were too attractive for drowning morning sorrows, and I’m sure I saw some Pegularitists stagger into the distance. On a straight tarmac road with just three hydrants to note as route checks, performances were much better. Four competitors were within a minute of their target. However, the star performance of the day came from Paul Hernaman, who paced himself to be within 2 seconds of ideal. The Pegularity wasn’t without problems. One pedantic competitor insisted he had found a fourth hydrant hidden in grass, and some others overshot the turning point and ended up in the next village.
Pegularity 4 was another tour around the field, but different woods. This time the codewords were not so visually obvious, and despite everyone lowering their target speed, penalties were still high; up to 25 minutes – the power walker again.
The final Pegularity was another quarter mile in the Memage; this time competitors had to spell a six-letter word. The route round the cones to trace each letter had been made available on the official notice board for competitors to memorise. The tricky bit was that every time a cone-to-cone section was re-used, the competitors had to walk backwards. Despite the ribbing and riots of laughter from on-lookers, four actually completed the manoeuvres correctly.
While the remnants of food were finished, the results crew laboured in a shady place. Predictably (?) the rallyists took the top placings. The international stage co-driver (Robin Hernaman) was fourth; the national historic road rally driver (Paul Hernaman – Robin’s brother) was third; and the international historic rally navigator (Chris Towers) was second. First overall went surprisingly to Alan Lee (a long-retired stage rally driver of an Imp in the ‘70s) with a total penalty of over 24 minutes. This was much to the chagrin of his wife, Dee Rampling, a long distance walker and recent joint winner of Experts Internet Table Top Rallying Championship. A modern road rally driver, known for getting stuck on whites and ignoring codeboards came last.
With medals presented, the happy mood of competitors (termed by one wordsmith as the Jocularity for the Popularity and Spectacularity of the Pegularity) seemed to indicate that this experiment in personal rallying had been a success. You can read more about Pegularities at the website
Sadly, it’s probably too late to include the sport in the 2012 Olympics, but the social secretaries of motor clubs might like to consider a Pegularity for a future club night.
* * *
Anyway, briefly back to car rallying. The HRCR Clubmans Championship is a marvellously diverse series. Every event has it’s own peculiarities and to win it demands great versatility from the crews. How long will it be before we see Irregularities, Nodularities, Insularities, Singularities and memory Regularities appearing on events to further test their abilities? Soon I hope, I have some experience of them already.