oldSTAGER No.95
December 2005/January 2006

 

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Mapping, mostly

I have mentioned this before, but for anyone heavily dependent on 1:50000 OS maps, the digital versions by Memory Map (http://www.memory-map.co.uk) are perfect. The latest 2005 release comes on a single DVD and (optionally) loading on to your PC consumes a massive three GBytes, but then you have instant access to the area covered by the 204 Landranger series maps. From the opening screen, you can point, drag and zoom your way to an area; or search for the name of a place, which can be as small as a farm or hill. You can mark your own routes and text on the map and search by them too. Other features abound, but my favourite is the ability to transfer a cut-down version of the viewing software and map extracts to a PDA; for example, I permanently carry with me an OS map of Essex, which is perfect for local navigation, but does need a removable storage card to hold the 100 Megabytes of data.

I recently bought a Garmin Forerunner 301 (http://www.garmin.com) as an aid to my walking and jogging exercise. It looks like a large wristwatch and via the inbuilt GPS receiver, records my pedestrian TSD (Time, Speed and Distance). Iíve programmed the alert system in the Forerunner to beep after each mile, and to warn me if Iím jogging too slowly. But, from a navigator's point of view, the big plus is that the real-time data captured on the Forerunner can be permanently downloaded to, and displayed in the Memory Map software. I can view exactly where I've been (useful, since sadly I have even been known to get lost while jogging!), and study the elevation and speed profile to contrive excuses for my poor performance.

I've tried the device on car journeys too, and the TSD logging is fine. So in the future, I'll be taking the Forerunner on rallies to digitally record the route. If like me, you consult last yearís route on an event in preparation for this yearís, it will be a more convenient way than trying to decipher your shaky pencil markings on the maps. I'll be trying out my new toy on the demanding cross-country Preston rally in Norfolk in December. In the post-event analysis it will be interesting to see a) the route we took (correct or otherwise), b) where the controls were located or where we went off (periods of zero speed), c) the speed maintained along the tank-testing roads.

Using the Forerunner on a regularity event would be illegal, as it contains a GPS receiver, but thereís no rule against deploying such a device to passively record the statistics of your route. Besides, the Forerunner is primarily aimed at pedestrians and cyclists, and the display doesn't show speed, as in miles per hour; instead, it shows pace, measured in minutes per mile. Not particularly useful for those of us used to tracking mph, and the sampling rate and accuracy of GPS, would not match up to a well calibrated, continuously running trip-meter.

Between charges, the Forerunner battery lasts for about 14 hours, which should be ample for one-day or one-night events. The receiver will need to continuously point to the sky to detect the low power transmissions from GPS satellites, so tucking it under the navigatorís seat won't work. For testing, I Velcroed mine to the windscreen. And if you are rallying in dense forests, you may find occasional gaps in your recordings from breaks in the GPS signal, which manifest themselves as straight lined sections when transferred to a digital map.

The cost of these navigator's toys? For a Memory Map of the whole of the UK youíll have to pay £200 (though you can buy one of the 6 regional maps for just £50 each) The Forerunner 301 costs around £160, although non-joggers would probably go for the cheaper 201 (£120ish), which doesn't come with a heart rate monitor.

* * *

The mapping options on the Internet are becoming more prevalent. The popular route planning resources run by the AA, RAC and Michelin are being usurped by new offerings from MSN (http://mappoint.msn.com) and Google (http://maps.google.co.uk). Google's attempt to be a dominant provider of world information has taken another step forward with the introduction of Google Maps. I highly recommended this siteís intuitive way of finding your way from A to B by map, route narrative or if you are flying, with an overlaid satellite aerial view.

* * *

The Ordnance Survey website (http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk) really is a (free) resource for novice navigators. Several downloadable PDFs cover mapping and map reading.
There's an "easypeasey" document, which is a great starting point for teaching your children about map basics such as compass directions, grid references, map symbols and scales. "Map reading made easy" and "Introduction to maps" are adult equivalents. If you get very lost in daylight, the "Advanced Map Reading" document is a must for teaching you how to determine your location using transit lines, bearings and features, A good read, but perhaps more appropriate for hikers or pegularitists.

The "Map Index" is a particularly handy document that you can download or you can order the free paper equivalent. The Index shows the UK coverage of Landranger and Explorer maps with a place names cross-reference to the necessary map number, plus details about other OS products.

In addition, there are free outline maps of Great Britain and counties if you need them for a report or website.

* * *

Another free, but more targeted resource for rally navigators, is the Navigation pages on the table-top rallying website (http://table-top-rallying.org.uk). The site contains pages devoted to rally navigation plus sample route cards from many of this year's HRCR Clubman's events. There are also links to rally navigation articles elsewhere on the Internet.

* * *

If you want to give a navigator a present for Christmas, a bespoke Landranger or Explorer OS Select map centred on their home is a good option, particularly if he/she lives Ė like I used to Ė on the join of two conventional OS Maps. Price will be around £16, but as usual for any map purchases, shop around; the OS website is expensive compared to places like Elstead Maps, CentreMaps or MapKiosk.

* * *

That ultimate navigator challenge, the Internet Table-Top Rally Championship, will be with you again during 2006. Plans are in progress, so watch for the formal announcement by email or on the TT website.

* * *

Following my grumblings last time, I hoped my fortune would change on the Regis Rally; but another set of shameful navigational mistakes saw me scurrying away to a dark corner. Embarrassed again, I stepped aside for Torq-man (Paul Robinson) to provide better service to Paul Hernaman on the Palladwr. Their performance is probably chronicled elsewhere, but there was another significant happening. Paul H, whose nutritional payload during an event severely affects the Porsche's performance/weight ratio, had a mind-altering experience. Apparently, he reached an energy enhancing nirvana from snacking on Pineapple and Ginger Torq bars, which kept him focused during the mud and rain in Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset. Placebo effect aside, he says they really work, and he plans to force feed them to me should I re-emerge for the 2006 season.