We have been humbled by the concern that has been shown for the future of OMM after the event cancellation this year.
WHAT HAPPENED? – The full report
by Stuart Hamilton, OMM event Director
At this stage I am normally recovered from sleep deprivation, finishing the post event debrief/review and writing to you all with an update on how the event was delivered. Slight change this year, I would like to explain this years decisions that have resulted in us not getting together in Langdale this year.
In a normal planning cycle it takes roughly 18 months from the initial approaches to land owners through to delivery and take down of the event. The chicken and egg process begins as we submit initial plans, go through the test and adjust process with considerations such as grazing, environmental and ecological, stalking, forestry, access, course planning, logistics….. The cost of putting the event on varies slightly from year to year but currently costs in the region of £150 000 to deliver. The event is delivered on a not for profit basis.
This years event was originally planned to be held in Arrochar. But on the 11th July this year we discovered that we were not going to be able to hold the event at that location so the team put in a huge amount of effort to move the event to a new location in Langdale, only made possible by the support extended to us by the National Trust and the key stakeholders in the area and a willingness from OMM to take on the extra costs. Event back on.
On the 24th October the hill team started putting out the courses around the Langdale fells whilst on Tuesday 26th the event centre build began at Stool End Farm. The weather had been wet for a few weeks leading up to the event but nothing significant and we had been on site to see how the area was affected several times in the weeks leading up to the event, all was within acceptable parameters. The weather during set up week was damp to start, the forecast did not look great but was due to improve from Wednesday evening onwards. Heavy rain was forecast with winds up to 40mph.
By last light on Wednesday all but 8 of the course controls we in place
By last light on Wednesday all but 8 of the course controls we in place, giving the team the luxury of time in the lead up to the event for last minute checks and refinements. The marquee was built, toilets we being installed and things were progressing to schedule. One of the areas we look at as part of the Risk Assessment is the wind ratings on the marquees, we did have some issues last time we were in Langdale with some challenging weather, as I am sure some of you will remember and we made some changes accordingly. The marquee was rated for 60mph winds, the setup was belt and braces with all bases being double pegged, extra bracing strops and bars fitted as well as additional anchor points at numerous locations, with both marquees butted together for additional support if needed.
As the evening progressed, so did the rains, crucially the roads started to become waterlogged and progressed to flooded in a number of areas. The two viable routes into Langdale come via Newby Bridge and Rothay Bridge, both of which were passable at 1800 on Wednesday, but only with care. Other locations were flooded but there were alternative routes to avoid them. At 2245 we got a message saying that the marquee was gone, from the team on site. At 0200 heading back up the valley both routes in were only passable in a 4×4 and the road just past Chapel Stile was being lifted with the water coming up through the road, with a good sized pothole developing.
both routes in were only passable in a 4×4 and the road just past Chapel Stile was being lifted with the water coming up through the road
You will all by now have seen some of the images of the event centre so I won’t bore you with that, we recovered what we could from the site and moved down the valley to the hill team base to review all the options. The first consideration was that the weather was due to improve marginally although the outlook was unsettled, MWIS was forecasting up to a further 250mm of rain over the next 24 hours on the tops (143mm fell at Honister Pass during Wednesday) with Friday and Saturday becoming more showery with wind remaining below 40mph. Given the weather was likely to improve, if we could find a safe and responsible way to get the rest of the infrastructure, volunteers and subsequently competitors up the valley then we should be able to make something work. By 0300 it was clear that within the next 6 hours the roads would not improve sufficiently to make it safe for the first tranche of the volunteer teams and associated logistics (tower lights, water systems, lighting and sound) to reach the centre. Looking at the latest possible moment that they could arrive and we could still achieve a successful setup, the roads needed to reach a workable state by Thursday evening. Given the weather forecast, the balance of probability suggested that this was not going to be possible given that we needed to rebuild the event centre and the extra time this would have taken.
The loss of the marquee was a secondary consideration as the condition of the roads was the deciding factor in making the decision to pull the event. I wanted to make sure that if we made that decision that we did it early enough to prevent people from travelling, putting themselves at risk, but also creating a potential burden for the emergency services at a time when they were already busy. I knew that making the decision early put us at risk of the weather situation drastically changing and us potentially arriving at a glorious weekend, I also knew that the opposite was true. Had we pushed on to try and deliver the event, I know there is a very real risk that we could have been dealing with a serious incident that would have presented a far greater risk to the future of the event than taking a more cautious approach and postponing the event. Myself and the team are used to working in these conditions, our job is to deliver an event where you can come to test yourselves in a way that we can responsibly manage. We are not here to put you in a situation where we feel we would not be able to deal with a serious incident should a team get into trouble. One of the key elements of the OMM is encouraging all who take part to own their decisions, including on what level of risk is acceptable. We are not here to do that for you, except in a situation whereby creating the event is no longer reasonable or safe to do so. The likelihood of risk to life if we had pushed on was too high for me and I am forever grateful that no one was hurt when the marquee came down. When I drove out of the valley on Friday the road at Rothay Bridge still had nearly 8 inches of water on it, the road on the way to Newby Bridge was similar.
Back in the early 70’s it was felt that the weather was not challenging enough at that time of year so the event was moved to the end of October
Back in the early 70’s there was much discussion amongst the organising team as the event had originally been held at the end of September. It was felt that the weather was not challenging enough at that time of year so the event was moved to the end of October. I hold the same view and accept that many of the ways we chose to run the event carry a degree of risk, not least the time of year and the elements that can present themselves. I also believe that the attraction of the OMM at the end of October provides a true test of character, teamwork, kit and humour, just that this year it was the organisation that had to retire from the field. The OMM event does not belong to me, or any of the team. This event started back in 1968 to test all the core skills required to operate in the mountains from navigation and fitness to a robust sense of humour and our job is to preserve it.
I have competed on events myself and spent some time in the hills, on occasion having to make the decision to retire for various reasons. None of those decisions were as hard to make as this one. I do know that without adversity and failure, success is not as enjoyable and I hugely look forward to welcoming you all back to Langdale in Oct 2022.
YOUR CANCELLATION OPTIONS
Below are the cancellation options available to competitors.
Option 1 helps the the event the most.
The 53rd OMM will take place on 29th – 30th October 2022 in Langdale. If you would like to carry your entry over to next year, do nothing!
If we don’t hear from you and the above code is unused by the end of this year, we will carry your team’s entry, plus any event extras, over to next years event.
If you want to make a team change then you can reenter. Enter the OMM 2022 online with the above voucher code using your new details!
We will honour a full refund to the value of your entry and any event extras. If you require a refund email firstname.lastname@example.org with your entry details.
If you have any queries or questions please email email@example.com
What does OMM offer on cancellation of an event?
OMM will always offer a 100% refund of the event entries or better. When we say ‘or better’ it is because refunding entries fees is a terrible outcome for OMM. We will have incurred costs and we also face a tough administration challenge to try and get funds back you. As such, it helps if we can convince you to leave your money with us while we recover. We have a policy of making no profits from event entries and spend all money received on putting on the events (or give it away), a deferral to a future event helps only helps the administration. Where possible we will try to convince you to buy some of the excellent OMM products where profit margins will help reduce the event losses.
How much of a loss does OMM face from the 2021 Langdales event?
We estimate £45,000. The event budget is £150,000 and at the point of cancellation just over half of these funds had been spent. Our suppliers are generally long term partners so they have been very helpful and have been reducing their bills wherever they can. Food that can be stored until the festival has gone into the deep freeze, toilets didn’t need emptying and maps and course plans will be rolled over to 2022 allowing us to not see those spends as losses. We’ve assumed around 20% of entries will be exchanged for product too and allocated the profit margin on the product to get to this figure.
How does this get funded?
In short – by selling OMM products. In 2008 when many of you will remember similar Lake District weather issues, the OMM business was 50% event and 50% product. Since then the product business has grown considerably allowing it to provide security for the OMM event. Our ethos as a group is that we love competing and organising Mountain Marathons and we also love our kit and gadgets so the two supporting each other is great.
Will the cancellation effect the event going forward?
It is commercially challenging to combine high cancellation risk events and guarantee a full refund policy. Insuring against cancellation for complex events, like the OMM, simply isn’t an option. The OMM is secure because it is part of the OMM brand but this poses questions about how smaller operators can securely continue to work with us. Simply put, somebody has to put up the money when the unthinkable happens and this will be more likely for more extreme challenges. So who can this be… a big organisation, competitors, price inflation to build ‘rainy day’ funds? It’s a challenge, but one that we are pleased with the options the OMM event has available to it.