SI Air+

Background

Orienteering in New Zealand generally uses the SportIdent electronic punching system, where the orienteer carries an SI Card, often called a dibber, on their finger. They insert this into a station at each control which writes the time of their visit to the card. The control times are read out after the finish line to determine their race time and whether or not all controls were visited in the correct order.

In the last few years many clubs have started supporting the SI Air+ contactless punching system, allowing orienteers to take advantage of the SportIdent Active Card or SIAC. Rather than having to insert their card into the control station, a punch is recorded when the orienteer brings their card within a short distance (roughly 50cm) of the station. The station will beep and flash in the usual way, and the SIAC beeps and flashes to confirm the punch.

SI Air+ also allows for run-through finish gates, where instead of stopping to punch a finish control, orienteers can pass through the gate at full speed and still have their finish time recorded.

Orienteering Wellington believes that SI Air+ is a great addition to the sport, allowing runners to concentrate on navigation, running and good flow rather than fumbling to get their dibber into the hole. We use the system for most of our club events.

If an event is run with SI Air+ it is still fully compatible with older SI cards – the same control stations are used and orienteers can insert their card into the stations to punch as usual. Likewise if an orienteer takes a SIAC to a non-SI Air+ event, they can insert their card to punch as usual.

Fairness

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of contactless punching is the way it allows orienteers to flow through a control without needing to slow or stop to punch it. This makes a small, measurable improvement to leg times over traditional punching. In a traditional forest event these improvements do not have a significant cumulative effect on finish times and placings, but in a sprint event they definitely do.

To give a level playing field in the Nationals sprint event, SIACs will have Air+ mode turned off for all classes except those for elite runners (M/W21E for seniors and M/W20 for juniors). If you are competing in these classes and do not already have your own SIAC, we will loan you one for the sprint at no cost. That means that whichever class you enter in the sprint event, you will only be competing against orienteers punching the same way that you are.

To encourage adoption of SIAC, in the long and middle distance events Air+ mode will be turned on for all classes and if you have a SIAC you will be able to enjoy contactless punching.

What this means for you

If you already have your own SIAC, supply your SI number when entering as usual. You can use the same card for all events, and start officials will take care of turning your card’s radio off if you enter a non-Air+ sprint class. You will be able to air punch where your sprint class allows it, and in other events.

If you have an older SI card, supply your SI number when entering as usual. You can use the same card for all events. If you enter the M/W21E and M/W20 sprint classes you will be loaned a SIAC for that event only.

If you don’t have an SI card, you can hire a suitable card from us as part of the entry process. We will ensure all M/W21E and M/W20 sprint entrants have a SIAC, other entrants will be allocated one where possible.

Thinking of upgrading?

Contactless punching is getting more popular all the time and is going to become the standard for future events. Orienteering Wellington recommends that you buy a SIAC if you are considering purchasing an SI card or upgrading from an older model.

As with all other orienteering equipment (such as shoes, compasses, control description holders) using the right gear can remove little points of friction between you and the sport, allowing you to concentrate on your navigation, flow and speed.

Note that SIACs have an internal battery which will eventually run out. You will usually get several years of use from your card before this happens, as the battery is only drained when you’re out running on an Air+ enabled course. When it runs out the card will continue to function as a normal (but fast) SI card. You can send the card away to SportIdent for battery replacement.

In New Zealand you can purchase a SIAC from:

Overseas, they are available from a wide variety of retailers including most places which sell orienteering gear:

If you’re buying a card for Nationals, make sure to order it in good time for delivery!