The Peter Palmer Relays are an annual junior team event held partly in the dark and partly in daylight. During the autumn of 2017, SYO received a slightly desperate email asking whether we would consider hosting the event as no other volunteers had come forward. As we have such a strong junior membership and knowing how much the juniors benefit from it, we soon agreed. Nick Lightfoot kindly stepped forward as planner and without remembering ever agreeing Jacky Dakin was suddenly wearing the organiser's hat!
Fast forward 10 months and the weekend of the Peter Palmer's was almost upon us. The doorbell rang constantly as headlights, a new generator, a big screen, batteries, maps and goodness what else arrived and the dining room was a hive of activity as Pete tried out the radio controls and results screen! No doubt the Lightfoot & Dakin houses were in a similar state as Nick bagged the maps and Jacky gathered all the paraphernalia required for organising the event!
Saturday 8th September dawned - the day of the Peter Palmer’s - but first only the matter of the Saturday Series 1 event at Endcliffe Park to get out of the way. Pete & I looked at the weather forecast and breathed a sigh of relief - it's due to rain, numbers will be down. How wrong we were! 549 runs, hundreds of new registrations, torrential downpours and resolution of a conflict at a wedding venue later it was finally over. Thank goodness for the many club members who stepped up to help, some for the first time, in very chaotic conditions.
By 5pm the cars had been loaded up with equipment and we were off to Tankersley in north Sheffield. The organising, planning and computing teams headed off to build the arena in the woods while Amanda and I established ourselves at the sports hall for meeting and greeting, not only all the SYO juniors, but also the club teams from around the country.
Eventually all 31 SYO juniors had arrived and laid out their sleeping mats and bags in our designated area in the hall; so we headed up en masse to take a look at the woodland arena so we knew what to expect in the morning. Then it was time for the 5 a-side football and banner making competition. Conveniently the Paces campus happens to be situated adjacent to state of the art 3G floodlit pitches so Paul was able to organise a fabulous football tournament complete with prizes.
After an hour of frenetic competition, it was time to gather for a team meeting. After handing out dibbers, numbers and going over important final details, it was time to celebrate Dom’s birthday with large slices of chocolate cake. Then the juniors climbed into their O kit ready for a quick get up and it was time for lights out.
In next to no time, 4.15am arrived and the first of the alarms were ringing. It was a hive of activity as people grabbed their belongings and adjusted their headtorches. Jenny, Amanda & I headed off to the arena with the 1st and 2nd leg runners, while Paul remained in the hall to hustle later runners up to the start at the right time.
The juniors quickly donned their facepaint and our 1st leg runners – Ryan, Max & Jamie - lined up ready for the mass start. The arena looked fabulous with fairy lights decorating the download tent and tea lights lining the run in. The minutes ticked down and suddenly it was 5am and the 21 first leg runners were off into the dark!
From the first moment Nick agreed to plan, he had a strong vision of what he wanted the 2018 Peter Palmers to be. In his mind it was absolutely vital that the relays were made as exciting as possible with live commentary, spectator run-throughs, radio controls and live results. He certainly achieved this with Pete, Jacky, controller Ranald and the rest of the team’s help and this really added to the wonderful atmosphere.
Within 10 minutes the first runners were through the radio control and excitingly included in that pack was Ryan running the first leg for SYO Killer bees. Thirty two minutes later WCOC 1 were back handing over to their 2nd leg runner and five minutes after that Ryan appeared handing over to Dom in 6th place having had a very good run. Dom then had a flyer gaining the fastest time on leg 2 and handing over to Sam C in 2nd place. Sam also delivered a fantastic run with the 2nd fastest time on the light green leg retaining SYO Killer Bees 2nd place. Next up was Imogen who also ran very well to clock the 2nd fastest orange time. She handed over to Alexandra and Freya, who were both 1st time Peter Palmer runners. Leg 5 is a yellow course and up to 3 runners can run at once. Unfortunately our 3rd yellow runner, Ciara, broke her finger badly just before the competition so couldn’t take part. Seventeen minutes later Freya was back to hand over to Euan on last leg. We were still in 2nd place overall but in first place on the Joan George (the competition for younger teams). As Euan appeared twice through the spectator run-through it was clear that WCOCs 2nd team were hot on our heels. Would Euan hold him off? Sadly it was not to be and they appeared in the finish run in together with WCOC 2 crossing the line just in front of Euan. However there is always a nervous wait at download, as it is vitally important to visit all the correct controls and unfortunately in this instance WCOC 2 had missed a control. SYO claimed 2nd place overall (behind WCOC 1) and first place in the Joan George competition.
Meanwhile the competition continued. How were SYO’s other teams doing? In the main competition SYO Bumble Bees were now up to 8th, whilst the Worker Bees were in 19th place. Over in the Daybreak Competition (a new 4 leg relay starting at dawn) our Honey Bees and Carpenter Bees were in 2nd & 3rd places respectively. Sadly the Bumble Bees had a mispunch on last leg (interestingly at the same control as WCOC 2) but the Worker Bees pulled up to finish 16th. In the Daybreak the Honey Bees (Isobel, James, Oliver, Emil & Alfie) finished in a brilliant 2nd place with the Carpenter Bees (Joe, Josie, Carys, Claudine & Toby) in a fabulous 3rd position.
Well done to all the juniors who took part, particularly those who were taking part in their first Peter Palmers. A special mention must go to Jamie & Max for stepping up alongside Ryan to run the very nerve wracking pitch black night leg; also to Matthew who ran a very good time on leg 2 and Alfie who managed the red leg in a good time with very little orienteering experience. The prize winners all received a good supply of chocolate which hopefully they shared amongst the whole team!
So it just remains to re-iterate our huge thanks to Jacky, Nick, Pete, Ranald (from DVO) and the rest of the SYO helper team for a fabulous job done. Thank you also to Rob Lines for the photos. The 2019 Peter Palmers will take place in the South East on the 7th & 8th September, where we shall very much look forward to just competing!