BAMA at Bovington Armoured Training Area

An early start saw us depart for Bovington in Dave's 110 "Big Red" at 6:00am after a brief look at the map to determine exactly where we were going. Almost three hours later we rolled into Bovington Army base only to find nothing - no sign of the BAMA event and no one admitting to know anything about it - not good. A frantic few minutes driving around the side streets revealed nothing except two squaddies trying to fix a Land Rover. Luckily they too were heading for BAMA so we asked to look at the map, unluckily these two were the worst prepared soldiers in the British Army – no map! So much for their motto “Be The Best”, we left the hapless wana-be-mechanics to it and set off at high speed in a random search for the BAMA event. On the verge of the scrutineering cut-off time we were about to give up when we literally stumbled across the assembly point for the BAMA event - phew! We signed on as the last car but then about twenty minutes later the two lost soldiers “Major Disaster” and “Private Part” rocked up in their limping 110.

Bovington is brilliant, its’ a wide open area of off road terrain of varying difficulty that is fantastic to drive at speed. The speed limit was 30mph which is more than enough to rattle your brain let alone trying to stare down at the clipboard in your lap and try to work out where you should be going!

First stage of the day was a scatter. Find letter boards using an aerial photo of the off-road area taking no more than 30 minutes using any route you like through woods and along tracks. Great fun except we hit some water Big Red cut out on us and we stopped right In the middle of a large waterlogged track. We were going to get rather wet if we got out of the vehicle now but Dave saved the day by using a clever combination of the ignition key and a four letter word (who needs WD40 eh?). We did okay on this stage missed a few letter boards but more importantly we made it back to the main checkpoint with only a 25 seconds to spare (being late is worse than any other penalty and puts pressure on your start time for the next stage).

Orienteering next, across the main road to another large training area with huge tank obstacles. Our mission was to find the punches and punch our card, it’s just a CCROC winching event but without the winch and the card is not strapped to the vehicle either (okay so it’s not the same really). The advantage is that you can get out and stamp the card while the navigator plots the course to the next punch. We only missed two punches on this stage, we knew exactly where they were supposed to be but sometimes they the set up crew are devious and hide them. There’s no point wasting valuable time looking so we baled out, carried on and went back for another look when we were ahead of time – nope, still couldn’t find them.

RTV stage next, six RTV sections in total on the day. These were excellently prepared by the Dorset Land Rover Club. Dave cleared five but the other was too tight for a 110 and since most vehicles on the day were 110’s we took a par 6 on that one. There were two lady soldiers taking part, are they Squadettes? Solldieresses? I don’t know, however they had a 90 but were pretty useless in it. The other soldiers referred to one of them as Mrs Stig but we nicknamed them “squeals on wheels” after the very unprofessional noises they made after finally managing to clear a section later in the day.

LRO were taking part in this event but had to retire with a broken Discovery 3. I know the D3 is a capable vehicle but this was Bovington and in my opinion it’s too extreme for an expensive luxury car. I don’t doubt it can be driven competitively in a D3 but it was always going to take some big hits. There is no way Dave could have kept us going in a D3 the way he drove “Big Red which apart from the water scare performed faultlessly without any taking any damage.

After lunch we started a sequential, it’s like a scatter except you have to find the letters in sequence. In fact all was going well until we came across a traffic jam caused by an unexpected locked gate. This was a surprise to the organisers too so stage was scrubbed and all competitors returned to base for further instructions.

Next up another scatter but in a different area and using a map rather than an aerial photo. Good progress was made here but again there were two letters which absolutely refused to be found.

Finally the safari. This is always the longest and hardest exercise and left till the end when you are already fried. The instructions diagrams and maps for this were surprisingly vague and a different scale to those we had used earlier. This was probably the hardest stage to navigate on all BAMA events we have done. It was quite hair raising trying to make up lost time along the tracks after taking too long to fathom out the instructions. Major Disaster and Private Part tried to follow us after having given up trying to understand the instructions, but they couldn’t keep up ha! We passed Squeals on Wheels at one point because they were reversing towards us having given up hope they were on the right track. Turns out they were on the right track but had started to lose faith in their own map reading. We pressed on regardless and we too had doubts but suddenly ended up exactly where we expected to be – result! Then it all went a bit pear shaped for a bit. As instructed we traced our route but couldn’t find a correct sized map to staple it to. We took another map drew the route free hand and put in some “hammer time”. Break neck speed through some woods saw us pull up sharp behind a gaggle of stationary competitors. Sorted, Tulip diagrams next and it all went further south. I spotted E2 on the map and we tried to reach E2 as directed but the directions made no sense. Starting to sweat now and I discovered another E2 on the map – oh no we were in the wrong place! Now it was a case of more speed Mr Collins! Two more stages to go and not much time left. The first part went okay but we were well down on time. A quick stop to read the map and we devised a short cut and made it back at full speed and clocked in with about a minute to go!

Back at the assembly we valeted the V8 and awaited the results with not much enthusiasm, the same as everyone else as it turned out. As the scores were nailed up we saw to our surprise that we had managed 6th place – woohoo! – our personal best to date. We had set ourselves the target of beating the Soldierettes and the two lost souls behind us which we did with ease. Three teams dropped out during the day for various reasons but that shouldn’t put off anyone in CCROC from taking place. It may seem frantic at times but if you have off-road experience and can make it from one place to another using a map with a specified time then you would enjoy this sort of thing.

Dave and I concluded that driving is the easy part. Navigating with your chin on your chest most of the time means you sometimes don’t see the bumps coming, it’s like being on a boat in a choppy sea. Three hours later I was sat at home and could still sense my body bouncing back and forth, I eventually got my land legs back the next day but I loved every minute of the event and look forward to going back there again. Next up Salisbury Plain in the dark – any takers? All the hard work is doen before you set of on Salisbury, Dave and I can help you plot the route before you drive, go on, you know you want to…

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