Coursemarker Guidelines

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Right Sizing

OK, I have a draft rallye. Is it about the right size? Here are rules of thumb:

  • two "alphabets" of CMs (52 CMs max).
  • 28-35 good CMs (full-credit + partials).
  • 20 to 35 RIs are typical, but this count is no proof the length is right.

Driving the entire route to "read" every CM pole (both the good and the bad CMs) will take something like as long as actually running the rallye. If this drive is already too long, the rallye is too long.

Font Choices

Periodically the question comes up about fonts to use for CMs. Feel free to play around and come up with thematic fonts on your CMs -- it'll add a nice touch.

The important criteria are:

  • 1, I and J look different
  • 0, O and Q look different
  • VV should not need a space to differentiate from W (but sometimes does)
  • Wide stroke (legible at a distance)
  • Double-letters (especially WW, MM, OO, etc.) fit the page

Some people prefer, because they're easier to read:

  • Serifed (tends to go with 1, I, and J being well differentiated)

Successful fonts that have been used are:

  • Swiss 721 BT
  • Goudy Extra Bold
  • OCR-A Extended
  • Copperplate

Things that have worked OK but not great:

  • New Century Schoolbook (strokes are too light, VV runs into W space)
  • Helvetica (strokes again too light, no serifs make distinguishing some letters harder)
  • Helvetica Narrow Bold (VV and II look better with a space between the letters, I has no serifs and could be a 1; however WW fits the page even at 360pt)
  • Comic Sans (some characters came out funny, but I don't remember what)

Some fonts that give trouble:

  • Gill Sans (1, I indistinguishable in some larger sizes)
  • Arial (ditto)
  • Various weird titling fonts for various reasons

General Layout

Set the margins in your document small, and be prepared to fiddle with the paragraph/line spacing. The font size is "huge". A standard 8.5"x11" page is 612 points across and 792 points down. The exact font size to use varies substantially with the font, though. Something in the range of 300 points is a good starting place, and then you'll need to tweak.

Get as large as you can. Something most people don't realize is how large street signs really are.

Open Office Spreadsheet

Using free StarOffice/OpenOffice (from, Dean used a spreadsheet with two columns: one for the the letters and one for the numbers. Both were in 96-point (the largest available) bold and both used Vertical orientation Middle, and both used text direction 90 degrees (so V looked like >). The letters used Horizontal orientation right. The numbers used Horizontal orientation left. Ideally, the CMs are produced in marker visitation order.

Dean then set the Page Format (Sheet Tab) to Scale choice "reduce/enlarge printout" at the maximum size that fit on the page (about 300%). Enabling View->Page Break Preview allows easy confirmation that only one marker will print on each page.

Rallye Preparation

During preparation (writing) of the rallye, as you drive the route, select exactly which poles will be used for CMs. Consider whether it will be lit by a street light (generally a good thing) and its visibility: it should be visible when driving by (of course), but usually not visible from the other side (telegraphs its existence) or from the intersection at which a decision should be made. Normally, a rallyist should have to decide what to do before seeing the CM(s). Seeing a CM should not influence decisions about what to do. It matters a lot whether the CM will be beyond an intersection or not, as the SUPP (or SI) may need to refer to the 1st OPP or 2nd. Sometimes, negative CMs are left more visible to sucker rallyists (a "big, juicy" CM).

Record whether the selected pole is wooden.

Posting Coursemarkers

Before the rallye, the RM and an assistant normally drive the route erecting all the CMs. It is helpful to have a list of CMs in visitation order, which typically differs a bit from rallye (critique) order. The non-driver normally applies duct tape to the back of markers prior to arrival at the pole. Using the list of pole types, the non-driver can avoid taping CMs destined for wooden poles, as they are easily stapled.

Staples on Wooden Poles

On a wooden pole, staple the marker using a staple gun "marker parker". Though there is a small piece of metal strap that could hold the marker during stapling, you may want a small loop of duct tape to stick the marker first, and then staple it. Stapling requires a forceful blow with the staple gun, which can make it difficult to simultaneously accurately place the marker.

Duct Tape Loops on Metal Poles

Duct tape loops work well on most poles. Orient the loops so the open ends are at the top and bottom, to ease removal (with the weed puller tool). A narrow duct tape loop in the center of the marker fits over the weed puller. Orient the marker so the duct tape loops are away from the paint roller. Use the weed puller to stick the marker in the correct place. If necessary, adjust its angle a little. Then turn the marker parker around and roll the CM firmly against the pole. Work from the center out or from one side to the other, so the CM will lie flat against the pole. The dual-roller tool presses markers better. The gap between the rollers helps keep the tool centered on the pole, rather than slipping to the side of the pole, as the single-roller does.

A dry sponge mop might be used to wipe dust or dirt off the pole before attempting to stick the marker. This has not been tested.

Good Luck on Concrete Poles

On concrete poles, duct tape is not reliable. If you try using duct tape on concrete poles anyway, then cover the entire back of the coursemarker with loops of duct tape. Press the coursemarker against the pole with the roller only once; rerolling seems to work the duct tape loose, rather than sticking it more firmly.

More reliable techniques wrap something all the way around the concrete pole:

  • wrap clear packing tape around the coursemarker and the pole (both at the top of the CM and at the bottom)
  • apply a few loops of duct tape to the back of the coursemarker (as with metal poles), but wrap a long cable tie (aka "zip tie") around both the CM and the pole to keep the CM from peeling away from the pole
  • staple the coursemarker to a wooden paint stirrer (or similar inexpensive stick), then secure the stick to the pole with tape or a cable tie

Note that these techniques require a step stool or ladder, otherwise you will not be able to mount the coursemarkers out of reach of passers-by. Using a ladder is slower than using our normal coursemarker tools on extension poles.

In theory, the cable tie could be looped around the pole, then raised into place using a pole, then pulled tight. Has this theory been tested? (Suggestions for improved coursemarker tools are welcome!)

Removing Coursemarkers

Most markers can be removed with the narrow weed puller tool. Angled away from the pole (to avoid scratching the pole or scraping its paint), you can usually get the weed puller through the center of the duct tape loops, and pry them away from the pole.

The weed puller, angled toward the pole, will probably remove staples and stapled markers.

The cultivator (claw) is the last result for pulling down reluctant markers.

Obviously, TRC wants no markers or shreds of markers left behind as litter, nor loops of tape left stuck to poles. A disposable box is a good waste receptacle in the car for the paper shreds and duct tape mess.

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