Many of the world’s top orienteers converged on Deeside last weekend for the third race in a four event “Race the Castles” series at the Balmoral Estate near Ballater.
Taking place after races in Edinburgh and Stirling, and before the last race at Forvie Sands, the Balmoral races organised by Mar Orienteering Club, were part of the build up to 2015 World Orienteering Championships to be held near Inverness.
This was the first ever orienteering event held at Balmoral and the estate managers were very helpful in facilitating the event and offered superb car parking and assembly areas.
The elite courses attracted a star-studded field with seven male and two female recent or current world champions, and several other global championship medallists competing. Indeed the elite race fields were probably the strongest for any orienteering race held in the UK in the past 15 years. In addition there was a full program of Scottish Orienteering League courses for all age groups and the final race entry stood at over 700 and included competitors from more than twenty countries.
Adding interest for UK competitors the race also hosted the Senior Home Internationals, with teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales battling it out in the annually held competition.
Overnight storms temporarily disrupted the race arena but once the tentage had been recovered and re-erected and the sun had come out a superb setting greeted the athletes. Technically challenging courses and tough running conditions across the area tested both the international contingent and local athletes alike.
It was the current world number two, Daniel Hubmann from Switzerland who triumphed on the 14 kilometre Elite Mens course, finishing some two minutes clear of Oleksandr Kratov (Ukraine) with brother Martin a further half minute back. Top ranked Olav Lundanes from Norway finished sixth with the top UK athlete being Hector Haines from Edinburgh in 12th.
It was also the world second ranked athlete who triumphed in the Womens Elite race with Ida Bobach from Denmark turning the tables on the world number one, Tove Alexandersson of Sweden by 49 seconds over their 9.5 kilometre course. Claire Ward, also from Edinburgh, was the top UK competitor in 8th place.
The Home Internationals competition resulted in a 5th successive win for Scotland, with England in second.
In addition to the the race weekend there were training courses laid on in eight local forests from Aboyne to Braemar.