All about Epunch
Epunch is a system used to record scores and times at most CROC orienteering events.
(This content, used with permission, is courtesy of our friends at the Bay Area Orienteering Club, baoc.org)
Upfront disclaimer: if you're new to orienteering and want to know all about scoring technology, keep reading.
If you just want to come out and try orienteering, you do NOT have to know all the stuff below. Our friendly event volunteers will tell you everything you need to know!
Electronic punching, aka “epunch”, is an electronic means to record the exact time and order that an orienteering competitor visits the control points on their course. It’s used at most CROC events, and has generally replaced the older style of pin punching and paper punch cards.
CROC uses the SPORTident epunch system, which has also been adopted by Orienteering USA for national level meets, as well as most major events elsewhere in the world.
The epunch system is basically two components, see photo at the top of this page.
One is called a finger stick, which is a plastic device worn on your finger that contains a small chip. It’s used to record your start and finish times, and all of the controls that you visit.
The second component is known as the control unit. This is a plastic box that sort of looks like a deck of cards with a hole in it. You’ll find one of these every control flag on your course. More on how to use it is below.
Each individual or group going on a course needs to have a finger stick.
If you’re going on the course as a group of two or more, you only need one finger stick per team, not one for each person.
If you do not have your own finger stick, you’ll need to rent one at registration for $5.00 (as of 2017)
If you go to more than several orienteering events per year, it's probably worthwhile for you to buy your own epunch. Prices vary from $35 to about $60.
This becomes your personal epunch (it has a unique ID number), and can be used at all events that use SPORTident controls — locally, nationally, and internationally.
Here’s how it works on the day of an event.
When you fill out your registration form, tell the registration volunteer if you need to rent a finger stick. They will give you one, and record the number of your finger stick.
At the Start Area
Request a start time from the Start official.
Then, while you're waiting for your start time, be sure to clear and check your finger stick before going out on your course. These will be control units, clearly marked, right near the starting area. The CLEAR unit deletes any old data on the stick that may cause confusing results, and the CHECK unit confirms that the stick has been cleared and is ready to be used. It can take a few seconds to clear the stick (so be patient), and less than one second for a check. Be sure and ask the start table volunteer if you need any help with this.
Adjust the elastic band on the fingerstick so it fits snugly around your finger. Right-handers typically have the finger stick on the top of the index finger of the right hand. You absolutely do not want to lose your finger stick while you are running the course! One, you won't get any results, and two we might charge you for losing it.
When you are told to start, or when your start time has arrived, be sure to punch the START unit before heading out on your course. This writes your start time to your finger stick.
On the Course
On a standard orienteering course, you have to visit each control in the proper order. Before you punch, be sure to check that the control number on the unit matches the control number on your course.
Insert your finger stick into the hole on the control unit, and wait a second or so until you hear a “beep” from the control unit.
Doing this transfers the control number and the exact time of your visit from the control unit onto your finger stick.
Pretty slick, isn't it?
If there is no beep or flash, the unit may be malfunctioning; it happens occasionally. If so, punch the edge of your map with the pin punch attached to the control flag to prove that you visited the control (and show the punch holes to the Finish area volunteer when you download your results).
If you punch a wrong control by mistake, or punch controls out of order, it does not matter as long as you eventually punch all of the controls in the proper order. Thus, for example, if you find and punch control #4 before control #3, it is okay as long as you then find #3 and punch it, and then revisit #4 and re-punch it before continuing on to #5. Also, it does not cause any problems if you happen to punch a control that is not on your course.
Be sure and punch the final control on your course—that is, the last control before the Finish. It is sometimes very close to the Finish, and may be easy to overlook, especially when you’re tired and not mentally focused.
At the Finish
Punch the FINISH unit at the Finish line. This writes the finish time on your finger stick. Then, the Finish area volunteer will ask you insert your finger stick into a special type of control unit. This does two things:
gives you an instant printout of your time and splits
downloads all of the data on your finger stick so the event organizers can confirm you found the correct controls in the correct order, and get an exact total time
If you rented a finger stick, be sure and give it to the volunteer at the finish station at the end of your race.
(The fingersticks are small and somewhat easy to lose or misplace, and they are quite expensive, so please be sure and get it back to us.)
In a few days, you can look at the CROC website to see the final results.
That's it, have a great race! And if you have any other questions about how finger sticks work, just ask any of the volunteers at a CROC event and we’ll do our best to answer them.