Friday, November 05, 2010

And the Swedes like haggis too

I'm sitting here watching the quarterfinals of the European Seniors at Greenacres and have just seen Finnish skip, Mauno Nummila, already five down after the first end against Pelle Lindeman of Sweden, saving his team from an even bigger loss at the second end. Lying seven against, a heavy take-out turned the tables to give him a score of one.

In the other quarters it is Colin Hamilton v Michael Sutherland of England, Gary MacFarlane v the other Finnish team of Timo Kauste, and an all Scottish clash between David Clydesdale, undefeated and top qualifier, and Keith Prentice, lucky to scrape in with just five points after a surprising loss to Wim Neeleman of Holland by 10-11.

My personal score for the week was 1 win, 1 peel and 3 losses, which converted into fourth out of six in my group, and one place ahead of the holder, Karl Nordlund of Sweden, a minor triumph one could say! The win came in the last session against Wales when a score of six in the fifth end turned things around.

The women go straight to semifinals tomorrow when Alison Reekie will play Ingrid Meldahl from Sweden and Kirsty Letton faces Jacqui Crawford.

More updates later but what is this competition all about – the European Seniors Invitation – not quite a championships but more than a bonspiel, it arose out of the 2005 World Women’s and World Seniors’ Championships held at Paisley and Greenacres. That event made a pretty profit, unusually for a World Championships, and it was decided to use some of the money to fund a new event for Senior curlers. An initial attempt in 2007 fell foul of an overcrowded calendar and the first event took place in 2008. This event featured 18 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams, though only 11 women’s eventually took part. Twelve countries were represented in the men’s event, but only Ireland and Netherlands added a bit of European flavour to the women’s event. Sweden’s Claes Roxin defeated Graeme Adam in the final after an extra end and Kay Gibb had the measure of Kirsty Letton in the women’s.

In 2009 there was a drop off in continental interest and we lost the teams from Estonia, Poland, Iceland and Finland from the men’s event, though there were still 18 men’s teams. The number of women’s teams increased to 17, but with only Sweden joining in from abroad the bulk of them were Scottish and thus the European aspect was a bit lacking. Sweden, in the shape of Karl Nordlund, retained the men’s title by defeating Colin Hamilton, while Isobel Waddell defeated the surprising finalist, Marie O’Kane of Ireland, in the women’s.

And now 2010 and we have new entries from the Czech Republic and Russia and the return of Finland to the men’s event, but we are down to 12 women’s teams again (though five of them are non-Scottish).

And the future – my understanding is that the original funding has one more year to run and then some other source will need to be found while there is also a general concern about the lack of interest from the women, both at home and abroad.

And now back to the action – after four ends. In spite of their skip’s heroics at the second end, the first Finnish team are 1-8 down v Sweden, Colin Hamilton is 3-2 up against Michael Sutherland, after two end saving shots from Michael and Tommy Campbell his third, David Clydesdale and Keith Prentice are locked at 3-3 and Gary Macfarlane leads Timo Kauste by 4-3 – but this latter game is now about one end behind in time terms!

Apologies by the way if this all history by the time you read it, but in my blog infancy I am dependent upon Bob to upload my contributions and if he is not around, then obviously there will be a delay.

And yes the Swedes do like their haggis as was evidenced last night at the Scottish supper here at Greenacres where generous helpings of our national dish disappeared down Scandinavian throats, accompanied, not by whisky but pints of Belhaven Best. The whisky tasting on Wednesday night was also well received and thanks to the organisers for making sure that our inner needs are well met.

And now the first quarterfinal is over after six ends as Pelle Lindeman comfortably beats Mauno Nummila from Finland 10-2.

So returning to an earlier theme, is there a place for a proper European Senior Championships in the curling calendar – we have a European Junior Challenge and a European Mixed as well as the main European Championships? Should we use a European Seniors as a qualifier for the World Seniors and thus give organising committees of WSCCs a reduced but guaranteed number of entries? Is that taking Senior curling too far into the realms of 'serious' curling?

Last year’s WSCC in Russia was a success in spite of the disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcano because of the acceptance of the flexibility introduced by the Event Convenor regarding timetable, team composition and changing availability of players owing to illness. The players all accepted this, but would a more serious approach to the senior curling scene alienate the average senior curler and take away the fun element? Discuss!

And now Colin Hamilton has beaten Michael Sutherland 6-4 in a closely fought game with a lot of busy heads and we wait for the other games to finish or will we have extra ends? Well no is the answer as the third quarter final has Keith Prentice making good use of his qualifying luck to defeat David Clydesdale by 5-4, finishing with two blank ends, and Gary Macfarlane with a 3 at the last end defeats Timo Kauste 8-6.

All the scores are here.

Can you ever have too much curling?

The thought of retirement has been uppermost in my mind recently as my job in the Civil Service comes under threat from Government cutbacks. Mind you many people seem to think I have been retired for years otherwise why am I always up in Scotland curling! And it has been one of those months – after the Duncan Stewart Trophy (see my earlier blog post) – I have now spent ten days north of the border, mainly at Greenacres playing in the Welsh Bonspiel and the European Seniors. In fact I am sitting in Greenacres now in the middle of the latter competition just waiting for my session to begin.

The Glenfarclas Welsh Bonspiel was another successful weekend for the organising committee of John and Ann Stone and Margaret Meikle. Unfortunately a late withdrawal meant that one group was a team short and so one team had to have a bye each session. Bob has mentioned the winners of the main trophy, see here. Adrian Meikle, Andy Tanner and Adrian’s young daughters, helped this time by Kirsty Harrison, became the first players to win three Welsh Bonspiels in a row. What a story for those young girls to tell in the future! In the final they defeated a team from the Borders skipped by Colin Martin with his wife Liz and Glynnice and David Lauder.

Yours truly was fortunate to win the B road especially after being 0-11 down after the first four ends of my first game! Fortunately there was one team worse than us after the first session and they got the bye while we were able to boost our ends and shots totals by winning our next two games quite easily. The fourth session saw us play our old rivals,the Mansons and Paxtons, and, as is always the case between us, this one went to the last stone. In the B final we (myself, Dawn Watson, Donald Forbes and Jean Robinson) defeated Graeme Adam, Jim Jamieson and their wives. See photo above.

In the C final Chris Wells, Michael Yuille and Lesley McKenna (playing as a 3 after their 4th player had to leave early) defeated perennial finalists in the Welsh, Gordon and Jacqui Crawford and Joyce Young, helped this year by Robin Shand.

And so after two days rest, including nine holes at a wonderful little golf course at Anstruther (see here) which includes what has been described as a blind dog-leg par 3 rated as one of the toughest par 3s in the country, it was back to Greenacres for the European Seniors.

A late withdrawal by the Russian men owing to a serious illness taxed the organisers who were able to find a local ‘gather-up’ team skipped by Jim Becket – another reminder of the pleasures of retirement – being able to step in at the last minute to play in a competition. All the scores can be found on the Greenacres website, here, and I will add a few more personal thoughts in a later blog. But it has been good to see such a wide selection of teams here from Finland, Sweden, Norway, England, Wales, Ireland, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Russia.

The withdrawal of the Russian men deprived me of my chance to get my revenge for them beating me in Chelyabinsk in the World Seniors and served me up a tough first game against Jim Becket. I managed a peel at 5-5 and this was one of six such games in the first day – 20% of the total. With no extra ends and ends and shots counting it enabled the programme to stay nearly on track but it has to be said that some of the games have been quite slow going.

Interesting results from Day one were the failure of the holder, Karl Nordlund, to win either of his first two games, losing to Chris Wells of Wales and David Clydesdale. Also the defeat of Scottish Champion, Isobel Waddell by Els Neeleman’s Dutch ladies, and peels for Mauno Nummila of Finland against Gary MacFarlane, and Peter Wilson of Ireland against Colin Hamilton.

The photo of the J & M Trophy winners is by Hugh Stewart. L-R: Andrew Tanner (presenting); Jean Robinson (lead), John Brown (skip), Dawn Watson (third) and Donald Forbes (second).