TGOC23 opens for entries later this month so we thought it is time to share how next year’s Event will look. Largely, now we are hopefully free from Covid-19 restrictions, we are returning to the format that has been tried and tested over the last four decades. There are a few minor changes, some positives from the last few years, quite a few coming from Challenger feedback via the TGOC22 survey and one out of necessity. If you are new to the Event click here to find out more.
Entry Fee. Let’s get the toughest one out of the way first – the entry fee for TGOC23 will be £95. We know this will disappoint some as it is above the already rampant inflation rate and we appreciate finances are tight for many, but sadly it is a necessity. As well as rising costs the cancellation of 2020 and postponement of 2021 these has been a significant strain on the Challenge finances and also meant we, as coordinators, have also spent increasing amounts of time on administering the Event. Without the price rise the Event is not financially viable. So, the price needs to go up not just this year but probably in future years too. In case anyone is wondering we will not be working from a Caribbean villa over the winter! The extra funds will purely cover costs and allow us something close to a living wage for the time we spend. Why will it go up in future years? Well, the time will soon come for new Coordinators. It has become a full-time job for one person (though we think it works better as a part time job for two) and to give the Event the time it requires to thrive any new coordinators need to be able to draw a suitable wage.
Start arrangements. We were somewhat surprised by the survey results which showed a 50:50 split on whether the staggered start should stay or go – we had expected it to be far less popular. Reduced pressure on start points and natural pinch points, accommodation along the way, Tarfside and the The Park Hotel were the main positives, but many also valued more the interaction with other Challengers and the camaraderie of the Event seemed largely intact. There were downsides though. Although busier meeting points were often more pleasant those serendipitous meetings on hills and in glens, which are such a big part of the Event, were less frequent particularly for those who started earliest or latest and for those on less populated southern routes. There were tales of more Challengers than usual meeting no one at all. It was also more of a strain on those who offer services specifically to Challengers such as Gordon Menzies’ Loch ness Ferry, Ault-na- Goire, Tarfside and Callater Lodge.
So, this year we plan a staggered start over just two days with equal numbers starting on Thursday and Friday with 15 days to cross. Of course, you can still start on Saturday or later as long as you finish by the final Friday. This should allow more mixing and unplanned meetings along the way but spread the accommodation load more evenly.
Finish arrangements. The smaller dinners were slightly more popular than the big Thursday bash so we will stick with them. There will still be words about TGOC23, toasts and 10th and 20th plaques presentations, but we hope these will be evenly distributed across three nights allowing us to give a little more time to each of them. This may also allow us to keep Challenge Control downstairs in the section of the ballroom usually pressed into action for the big dinner. Our own entrance, more space and access to the garden have been a real boon over the last two years.
We are therefore planning celebratory dinners on the final Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for up to 100 people with a smaller dinner on Tuesday should there be enough demand. To ensure everyone who wants to attend a dinner can do so we will prioritise places for those who have planned to finish their crossing on that day. Regular Challengers need not worry if that isn’t Thursday – the Wednesday and Friday dinner will be exactly the same format, so you won’t be missing out. As usual those on their 10th and 20th crossing may bring a guest but other guests will only be accommodated if there is space on the day.
Other changes. These have all come out of suggestions from Challengers either via the survey or directly to us and include:
- Signing out by text if the start establishment is closed at the time of your departure.
- Removing the 9am start time so you can leave on your start day whatever time suits you – many people did anyway!
- A WhatsApp group as an alternative to texting Challenge Control – useful in places such as Clova where the hotel Wi-Fi is more reliable than the phone signal.
- A list of Phone-in points that will be automatically accepted – though additional points will be considered as well.
- No requirement for map numbers on the route sheet – a big relief to those who use digital mapping!
- An option to provide daily GPX files in a cloud-based folder. This is very much a trial so for now you will still have to give the usual detail on your route sheet.
Future Coordinators. This will be our 9th year as Coordinators. It has been a privilege and largely a pleasure, though hard work and there have been tough times too. In particular navigating the Event through the “Covid years”, has taken its toll on us and we think time to start looking for new Coordinators who can bring some fresh energy to this unique Event and see it through many more years to come.
It’s not goodbye yet – we will both be around for TGOC23 and beyond that we don’t have a fixed time frame as to when one or both of us will step down. It is more important to us that we hand over to the right person at the right time for both them and us.
As most of you recognise this is a job for somebody (or more than one person) who loves the Event and can nurture it. We see ourselves as custodians on behalf of Challengers rather than owners and hope any future Coordinators will see the Challenge in the same light. Trying to turn in into an event driven by profits, we think, would risk disenfranchising Challengers and we suspect would be doomed to fail. So although prospective Coordinators can take an income to cover their time don’t expect it to make you rich! It is a full-time job for one person though we think there are definite benefits to a job share or possible managing the Event as a team. We would suggest any solo applicants need to have others around them to bounce ideas off and support them during the more difficult moments.
If you might be interested, please contact us by email – email@example.com – or phone 07769 952085 (Sue) or 07786628105 (Ali) – for a chat and more details. We have summaries of the tasks involved and skills needed which we will share andfor anyone who is seriously interested we would, in due course discuss the financial and business side of the Event.
We look forward to hearing from Challengers old and new as applicants for TGOC23 or maybe even as our successors.