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OPERATION Red Flare 2014

Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th March 2014 - Full Results Spread Sheet

Operation Red Flare attracted 180 competitors - Explorer Scouts, Scout Network members, and Senior Section Guides - in 34 teams this year, the second highest number on record. They came from Croydon, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, and Wimbledon and Wandle Districts in GLSW, and beyond - from Maidstone in Kent, Hellingly in Sussex, Dulwich and Eltham in GLS, and Bromley in GLSE.

For the first time in several years the route was point to point, starting at Cowden and finishing at Broadstone Warren, a distance of 24.5 kms and involving 600 metres of ascent. As usual there were a number of checkpoints along the way, and at most of these an activity to test teamwork, skills and mental and physical capabilities. After checking in, depositing tents for onward transfer and having the rest of their equipment inspected, teams were set off at 3 minute intervals. The first team left at 6pm, and soon the first part of the route along footpaths and bridleways was busy with teams making their way to Holtye, Ashurstwood, Upper Hartfield, Chuck Hatch and up onto Ashdown Forest itself.

It is hard to believe after one of the wettest winters on record, but the weather was ideal for walking - dry, clear and with no wind. However, ground conditions were still very unforgiving and paths extremely muddy. The route itself was navigationally challenging, and required accurate use of map and compass, and slick decision-making especially where there were a number of possibilities. Errors were severely punished, and one or two teams missed some checkpoints altogether.

Central Control was located at Gills Lap, one of the highest points in the Ashdown Forest. It was here that the search and rescue team was based, on call to locate and give assistance to teams as required. At the rear Simon Keen acted as sweeper or 'tailend charlie' to ensure no teams dropped back out of range.

The first team to arrive at the finish did so at 2.25 am and the fastest overall time was 6 hours 49 minutes. In all, fourteen teams completed the whole route and the activities, including the tent-pitching at the finish. Then it was time for a few hours sleep before breakfast at 8.30am and the presentation at 9.30 am. Our special guest this year was Alex Minajew, UK Commissioner and County Scouter in GLSW. First up to loud cheers all round were the 1st Orpington Ranger Guide Unit to collect the coveted wooden spoon, after which tensions rose as the placings were announced in ascending order. Only 9 points separated the first four teams. In 8th place with 325 points were the winners of the Ladies Trophy, the 28th Wimbledon Guides. In 4th place were Sutton Network and winners of the Network Trophy with 381 points. Just three points ahead on 384 were newcomers Dulwich Explorers, winners of the Explorer Trophy. Runners-up were Eris ESU, an 'open' team on 386 points, and this year's winners were All Saints ESU from Croydon, another 'open' team on 391 points. All participating teams received a special colour certificate designed and produced by Tony Crackett.

Congratulations to all who took part, and thanks to the 40 Leaders who made it all possible.

Next year's event is on Saturday 7 March 2015, and information will be released early in the autumn.

We would like to have your / your team's feedback of the event.

Please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/orf2014

Details and Application Form here

As of 9th January we have received 15 entries (6 are from Sutton), including two from Units which have never entered before. This is most encouraging, and the likelihood is that we will be full in advance of the closing date. Please remind all Units and Networks to apply before the deadline to avoid disappointment - we are strictly limited to 35 teams in total.

This year the route is linear, in other words the start and finish are at different locations. Tents will be transported in vehicles to the finish so that teams don't have to carry them, but they will of course have to pitch them when they reach the end !

As usual, the event will be very labour intensive, and we need as many Leaders as possible to step forward and help in one way or another. Paul Seward is i/c staffing and will be contacting those Leaders who have already offered to help. Let's hope the weather will be a little kinder than of late.


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