The Baby Years 1976-1981

In late 1975 pioneers Peter Marks and Frank Smith ran a number of orienteering events in the Wellington area. By early 1976 they judged that the area was ready for two separate clubs, and at an orienteering event on Tinakori Hill on 18 April 1976 the Wellington and Hutt Valley Orienteering Clubs were formed. Peter led the Wellington club and Frank Smith was the anchor for Hutt Valley.

The story of the club is largely depicted by its maps, along with events that have been held on them and the members who have achieved distinction. At first Frank drew the maps (Tunnel Gully, Maidstone Park and Harcourt Park) and provided most of the equipment until the club could afford to purchase it from him. The first coloured maps were printed in 1977 - of Tunnel Gully, Maidstone Park, Waitangirua Farm and Ngaumu Forest in the Wairarapa.

Along with Wellington and the Red Kiwis from Palmerston North, HVOC ran the 1978 National Championships at Waitarere Forest, on a map drawn by Aucklander Ralph King. The following year the map was used for the area's first international event, the then-annual Australia-NZ Challenge. In 1980 the club produced its own top-level map, an enlarged version of the Ngaumu Forest Headquarters block, which it used for the National Relay Championships. For the first time other members worked alongside Smith to learn the techniques of orienteering mapmaking.

Growing Up 1981-1986

By 1982, club members were achieving success at national level, and events were being held monthly without reusing any area more than once a year, thanks to a vigorous park and reserve mapping programme. Without any help from Frank Smith, who had moved to Christchurch, the club produced another top-level map at Whitemans Valley, which debuted as part of a Queens Birthday badge event. In 1983 the club mapped Hidden Valley behind Totara Park for the 1983 Wellington Champs. And Linda Parker (now Linda Mead) represented New Zealand at the World Orienteering Championships in Hungary.

A second map near Ngaumu called Stronvar was used for a badge event and New Zealand team trial for the 1985 World Championships. Under Linda and Michael Parker's design, it was commended for its accurate simulation of World Championship conditions and performance analysis. Members travelled to Australia to watch the Championships and run in the associated events, fuelling a thirst for orienteering travel which has seen members compete in 20 countries around the globe.

Another Wairarapa map was made at Ruakokoputuna, near Martinborough. And to celebrate their combined tenth birthdays, the two clubs staged a re-run of the 1976 event on Tinakori Hill, plus badge events on Judgeford (WOC) and Stronvar.

Puberty 1986-1991

But 1988 saw even greater achievements. Not only did the club host the Area Championships on Stronvar, it ran the New Zealand Individual Championship on a highly-acclaimed map of sand-dune forest at Scotts Ferry near Bulls. And the five members selected to represent NZ contributed to a historic 14-5 win against Australia early the next year. In 1990 a third map near Ngaumu, Moores Taipo, was completed, and Michael Wood who had become the NZOF Coaching Director was awarded the Silva Trophy for services to New Zealand orienteering. Club membership peaked at 109.

By the time HVOC was 15 years old in 1991 it had produced 60 maps, with 23 in colour and 14 specifically designed for novices. Permanent courses had been set up at the Brookfield Scout Camp and the Wainuiomata Boys Brigade Camp. A vigorous effort at primary school level was being made under the Kiwisport banner, with Ian Donaldson involving 100 schools, 250 teachers and 6000 children per year. Ian later transferred his energy to secondary schools, initiating a regional secondary school series of events, an innovative multisport challenge involving navigation, and becoming the NZOF SS Coordinator.

The Teenage Years 1991-1996

The first half of the 90s continued the hectic pace of big maps an hour and a half away from the Hutt Valley, which ultimately led to a radical rethink. Another sand-dune map, Watchtower at Waitarere Forest for the 1993 area champs; a farmland map at Moonshine for the NZ Secondary School Relays; and the club's biggest ever, an event for 1000 orienteers in the Asia Pacific Orienteering Carnival in 1994. For this HVOC returned to the Wairarapa, extending part of the Stronvar map to become Jollies Bush. Key organisers were Bruce Henderson, Ted van Geldermalsen and Michael Wood.

Meanwhile, a small event in 1991 sowed some of the seeds of the diversification that has become HVOC's trademark. Called a rogaine, it was a 4-hour version of the 24-hour score format invented in Australia, using standard topographical maps. The pioneers were Jim Maxwell who had rogained in Western Australia, and Ted van Geldermalsen and Michael Wood who did one in Canada, got hooked, and have done every World Rogaine Championship since! By the 20th birthday which went un-noticed in all the activity, HVOC had run 6 of these close to the Hutt Valley, the duration had grown to 12 hours, and no mapping had to be done! HVOC's initiative has seen 8 clubs run rogaines including the fourth World Championship, a NZ Rogaining Association formed, and the rogaine take over from the mountain marathons run in the 80s.

The early 90s also saw the emergence of Phil and Antonia Wood as elite orienteers. Both coming through the strong NZOF Development Squad system, Phil moved north and joined WACO before representing New Zealand at elite level, but Antonia who remains a HVOC member first ran in the World Cup in Australia in 1994. (At the same time Bruce Henderson managed New Zealand's victory in the inaugural Southern Cross Junior Challenge.) A year later Antonia astounded pundits by qualifying for the final in her first World Championship Classic race in Germany, and in 1996 was part of New Zealand's best ever relay performance, sixth place in a World Cup in Norway! Marquita Gelderman who placed 27th in Germany also started in HVOC before moving to RKOC and later NWOC.

Back at home things weren't so rosy, with increasing difficulty finding committee members and event organisers, and no candidates for president or secretary at the 1996 AGM. Nevertheless significant milestones included the first real school orienteering team (St Pats in 1994); the club's first computer-drawn map (Camelot, for the 1995 Regional Night Championship); the introduction of twilight events; a Youth Development Fund (both 1995); and the Quattr-O format for urban events in 1997. Under parent (and later HVOC Secretary) Philip Calvert's organisation St Pats was to win several Intermediate and Senior Boys relay titles at the national SS championships, and the students involved were vital in the club's response to its coming crisis. Camelot was NZ's first map laser-printed direct from OCAD, and short-run printing has revolutionised orienteeering map production.

The Twenty-Somethings, 1996 to 2000

1997 was a year of ups and downs. The NZ Short-distance Champs were run on "A Map Called Wanda" next to Watchtower in Waitarere Forest, said to be better than the classic area. But while leading in the chasing-start afternoon race in W21E, former member Marquita Gelderman ruptured her cruciate ligaments and had to be airlifted to hospital. An OY had to be cancelled because organisers could not be found. Antonia Wood finished 26th and 30th in the World Champs in Norway, and contributed to 9th place in the relay. And a proposal was made at the Annual Meeting to wind up the club, citing continuing difficulty filling the necessary posts. Membership in the 40s wasn't particularly bad but enthusiasm was low.

The subsequent discussion and Special Meeting decided instead to withdraw from the expectations which had built up over the years, and to run events only after members volunteered. The decision was influenced by the willingness of three St Pats students to serve on the committee, and a new, leaner, club was born. Membership started to rise again and the balance shifted away from traditional events a long way from home and requiring controller, planner, coordinator and lots of helpers, to close-to-home events that could be run by one or two people. Into this category fall rogaines, afterwork events (which adopted the O-Max format in 1996) and street events with question-and-answer controls known as "Quattr-O" introduced in 1997.

Another low-effort event type is MTB-Orienteering for which only the tracks need to be mapped. Race organiser Brent Hoy ran the first of these at Scotts Ferry in the early 90s, and included MTBO in his 1998 and 1999 winter race series. Working with Brent, HVOC developed this into a series for 2000 including a Wellington Champs. All-day rogaines continued, but Mark Copeland had a brainwave in 1999: a close-to-home afterwork event where there's nothing at the controls and visits are taken on trust! Labelled "shoestring rogaines" these 3-hour events in or just outside suburbia have become a regular fixture, attracting off-road runners and adventure racers as well as traditional orienteers.

The low-key emphasis seemed to have worked. There was a much more enjoyable feel about the club, without the millstone of obligation. And yet hands did go up to organise, and for some larger events as well: a pre-entry 2-day on Watchtower and Wanda at the end of 1999; and the area relays planned for 2000 (although eventually run in 2002).

On the competitive front, Antonia Wood achieved a World Cup placing of 16th in England in 98, finishing the series in 35th place and earning the NZOF's Silva Performance Award. Although her 1999 WOC was disappointing, she scored a 27th and an offshore NZ-best 7th place in World Cup races in Australia in 2000, before being sidelined with a chronic tiredness problem. Ted van Geldermalsen won the Brighouse Trophy over the regional and national championships in 1999, before moving to Australia. It looked like HVOC was, er, "out of the woods"...

New Century, New Look, 2000 to date

The story continues with alternative forms of orienteering providing activity with modest volunteer requirements, while nurturing the conditions for traditional orienteering to return to the calendar. Indeed the National Secondary School Championships were run in 2001 with the help of controllers from neighbouring clubs, OY-level events in 2003 and 2003, and the WOA Long-distance Championship in 2004. Former St Pats students continued to be prominent in club affairs, mapping and coaching at the college and even running a school website.

Andrew McCarthy emerged as an elite prospect, competing in the Junior World Championships in 2001 and subsequently joining the National Orienteering Squad. Bill Edwards who represented Ireland three times at World Champs arrived to live in the valley. Chilton St James and St Pats had active school teams, producing results and new members.

Meantime rogaining continued to grow. HVOC's pioneering was taken up by other clubs round the country; but when the 100th rogaine was run in Dec 2004, Hutt Valley had run one third of them! MTBO was a similar story, with the most regular events in the country and 8 areas mapped. Suddenly, another piece in the jigsaw snapped into place. The MTBO maps could be used for shoestring rogaines, and for street or trail courses on low-key Sunday events such as Quattr-O.

And with that came a whole new approach to mapping the local area. Instead of discrete maps with awkward boundaries or overlaps, the whole valley was put into the computer at a scale of 1:15,000, using the MTBO maps and the collection of street and park maps built up over the years. From this, any area could be used for a given event. By 2004 over 300 sq.km had been built up, distortions removed, and the knowledge in various heads of tracks and public shortcuts added to the resource.

The other development was in city parks. The O-Max afterwork events developed into a series, with the help of neighbour Wellington OC. Course designs to challenge experienced orienteers in small familiar areas flowed from creative course planners, the PA system created atmosphere, and participants exceeded those on "standard" courses! NZOF followed with a national sprint-orienteering championship!

And in 2004 the national body bestowed its "Club Development" award. Whether it was innovation or recovery from oblivion to run traditional events again is not known. But we must be doing something right!

Written by Michael Wood and updated on 19 Dec 04.

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