Vetting

Vetting can reasonably be broken into two phases:  desk-top vetting and field vetting.  In each phase, there are different checks that can be made; however, the vetter's goal is the same during both phases:  to make the courses fair, appropriate and accurate.

 To do vetting, one must have the skills of a course setter (meet director) because the vetter is essentially acting as a shadow course setter, a second set of eyes, in making the courses for an event.  The vetter must be willing to express his/her opinions about the courses someone else has designed; and  in discussions with the course setter, perhaps occasionally be forceful about those opinions.  However, the vetter must keep in mind that the course setter has the last say.*

Desk-Top Vetting

This phase can be done as soon as the course designer (meet director) has put the courses on paper or into Purple Pen.  The vetter should be 

1. Making sure the course lengths are appropriate for type of participants that will be doing them; that is, making sure the lengths conform to the guidelines for beginner (white), novice (yellow), ... advanced (red) level courses.  

2. Making the sure the course climbs are close to or under 4% of the lengths.  For some venues, it may be impossible to make some courses meet the 4% guideline; however, the efforts must be made (by the vetter or course designer) to try to come close.

3.  Making sure each leg of each course is doable by the level of participant that is expected for the course.  That is, legs should not be made to require or entice participants to cross bodies of water, deep streams, substantial marshes or large boulder fields; to go through large patches of dense vegetation; to climb up or down dangerously steep cliffs; or to require going an unreasonable distance out of the way to avoid these hazards.

4.  Making sure that legs do not form "dog legs".  That is, having two legs that are at an extremely acute angle so that the expected direction for entering a control is not the opposite of a likely direction for exiting from the control.

5.  Making sure there are an appropriate number of water stops on the courses and that the stops are positioned reasonably.

6.  Making sure that possible weather at the time of year the event is held will not cause unexpected problems at controls.  For example, a control along a stream or in a marshy area could become inaccessible with heavy spring rains or a beginner/novice control in a rough open field could become much more difficult in late summer or early fall if the grass/weeds are 4-5 feet high.

The vetter should look at all of these issues and consult with the course designer to try to correct deficiencies.  The vetter should approach this phase as one in which s/he offers suggestions to the course designer.  The designer has ultimate responsibility for the courses.  Note:  The vetter is not a controller; a controller (used only on national events) has the ultimate responsibility and can override the designer's ideas.  The vetter's suggestions may be in the form of adding, deleting or moving controls.

Field Vetting

Once there is general agreement between the course setter and vetter about the course designs.  The course setter will mark the controls locations in the forest with ribbon/tape.  The vetter can then do the field vetting phase; this is normally done 3-4 weeks before the event.  The vetter should

1.  Go to each control site and make sure the feature is as described in the control descriptions.  This should include such issues as to whether the control flag is to be in specific location relative to a feature, whether the feature is described accurately, and whether the location of the feature on the map matches the one in the field.

2.  Traverse at least some of the legs of some courses (particularly advanced courses) to be sure that the terrain matches the map in terms of vegetation density and that no significant navigation feature has changed.  Features that might change would include such things as streams, ponds or marshes drying up, someone adding new trails through an area, someone cutting down trees or removing vegetation.  These need to be noted so that the course setter can add them to the course and map notes for the event.  It may be possible to get the mapper to make changes in the map to reflect the feature changes; but there is usually not enough time to do that before the event.

3.  Evaluate the map, especially in the vicinity of each control to be sure it agrees with what s/he sees in the field.  If it does not agree, the vetter should recommend moving the control  to a more accurate area.

The ideal course setter-vetter interaction for field vetting should go like this:
The course setter should have put identifying information on the ribbon/tape when it is placed in the forest.  At a minimum, this information should be the control flag number; having other things like "WPOC" or the date of the event are also good ideas.  By doing this, the course setter has created a situation in which the vetter upon finding an orange or pink ribbon at some feature can be sure that it is really the location marked by the course setter and not some stray hunter's marker or a survey marker.  The vetter should then leave his/her mark on the ribbon - a check mark, his/her initials, something to show that this is a correct control location.  If the vetter does not find a ribbon at the feature circled on the map or encounters the ribbon at a location different from the one circled, s/he must make note of it to tell the course setter.  The vetter may also do things such as place his/her own ribbon at the correct feature or move the setter's ribbon to the correct location.  Whatever s/he does must be communicated to the course setter.  

It is the course setter's job to resolve any discrepancies that the vetter reports before the event.  It may be necessary for the course setter to revisit a control location to resolve a problem.  The vetter cannot know whether the circle on the map was drawn wrong or animals/humans removed a ribbon or the course setter placed the ribbon incorrectly.  The vetter can evaluate the map and may report that it is inaccurate in the area of the control - this should cause the course setter to move the control.  If all of the course setter and vetter actions go well, the course setter will find the vetter's mark on the ribbons when placing the controls for the event and should be confident that everything is correct.


*The ideal vetter for an event is someone who has as much or more skill at course setting than the course setter.  Thus, the course setter should not  ignore the vetter's suggestions, comments, pleas, arguments, input.  By the way, skill at course setting should not be measured based on the number of courses set; it should be measured  using the inverse of the number of adjustments to courses the course setter makes based on vetting input.