Thursday, November 17, 2011

Toothy Travails

The extra spare time in my life forced upon me by Her Majesty’s Civil Service has been put to good use in recent weeks. Before my last blog from the Welsh Bonspiel I took a day trip over to the European Mixed. There can be very few curling rinks which are 20 minutes walk from a major airport but in Copenhagen there is the five sheet Taarnby rink which has recently been expanded by two extra sheets which were finished just in time for the European Mixed at the beginning of October. In addition the high pitched roof on the extension allows for the inclusion of a large function suite at first floor level, which in future plans will have a glass wall overlooking the main rink. Should be spectacular.

The European Mixed is the first of three international championships being held there this season – the European Juniors in January and the World Seniors in April are the others, and it is remarkable how a relatively small club manages to produce the funding and the organisation to run these events. The main promoter is Johannes Jensen and one of the features of the Taarnby rink is the display cases full of just a part of his collection of curling memorabilia.
I intend to repeat my day trip with a visit to the European Juniors and probably the Seniors as well - £45 return from Stansted with Easyjet is less than most internal flights in the UK!

At the Mixed I must admit to getting confused as to which event I was attending – there were juniors, seniors and all ages participating and when you have seen people like Harry Lill of Estonia playing in Europeans as well as the Juniors and now the Mixed, just a quick glimpse on to the ice can be disconcerting.

I am currently in Scotland as I write having just played in the Braehead Mixed Doubles and will be heading off to Stranraer tomorrow to play in the Preston Club’s I’Anson Trophy. There is a full entry of sixteen teams with many new curlers about to enjoy the Stranraer experience for the first time.

It was only my second MD competition (after the English Championships in 2007) and my partner, Dawn Watson’s, first. The rules of MD are a little bit different and I made a faux pas in our first game when I thought that the winning side placed the stones for the next end when of course it is the losing side (as you all knew). So this meant that we had to replay the second end and my apologies to our opponents, Angus Shearer and Nicola Evans who went on to win the best under 25 prize in spite of losing to us.

It was just one of two wins for us in the competition which was two evenings of intense curling – three games per night, five end games for the first four, and then two six end games. If you are throwing the middle set of 3 stones in the team, and getting up to sweep those stones as well, it is a very good work out for your curling muscles. It was great to see so many juniors playing and also the two wheelchair teams.

So those are the travels – the travails are around the European Championships in Moscow. As I said to somebody recently, how did they manage to put a man in space! Maybe that is unfair and it is just cultural differences, but the whole issue of getting a visa has been remarkably stressful and there are still some of my players without them just two weeks before they go.

To summarise - the players were not allowed to apply for their visas before the 1st November – already a tight schedule. To apply for your visa you had first of all to receive a letter from the organising committee inviting you to play in the Championships. The website said that, obviously, this had to done before doing your visa application and a form was provided on the website to supply information about your passport number etc. So in late August / early September I encouraged our players to apply for their letters so they would have them in plenty of time to apply for their visa after 1st November.

Time went on and nothing had arrived in mid to late October and so emails started flying. What transpired was that none of the players’ details were in Russia – and then we got an email in late October saying that we would get on better if we applied for the letters as a group!

Anyway, by this time one of our players was flying off to South Korea and would not be back until late November and another was on business in Europe and would have to apply via the consulate in The Hague! Eventually, after re-submitting the details, the letters arrived last week and visits to Russian consulates in London and Edinburgh (and The Hague) are being undertaken.

A number of questions could be asked – why so late for the players to apply for visas as they are the most important people in the competition? What happened to the missing data? Why was the website not clearer about applying as a group if it was that critical?

And then yesterday an email arrived saying that if players wanted to use official transport between hotel and the arena it would cost them £84 for the week. Ours are walking!

And then there are the juniors................but that is another story!

Sorry for being Mr Grumpy but every day my inbox is full of emails – how the hell did I ever manage when I was working!

Hopefully my travels will continue with my trip to Moscow in early December and my travails will lessen as the weeks pass. Fingers crossed.

Top photo is of John puzzling over strategy at the Braehead Open Mixed Doubles. Above is his partner in that event, Dawn Watson. Photos © Skip Cottage.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Manson Wins After Fifteen Years

The one characteristic of the Welsh Bonspiel which stands out, apart from its friendliness, is the loyalty of the teams which enter the competition every year. The first Welsh Bonspiel took place in 1978 and was won by Bill Crichton and many of the other skips that appear on the entry list are no longer with us, but in 1979 a certain Graeme Adam got his name onto the Trophy and here in 2011 he was still winning, this time the Stan Williams Trophy for teams finishing 3rd in their section.

In 1981 Hugh and Christine Stewart won that same Stan Williams Trophy playing with Jim and Liz Jamieson who this year helped Graeme to win it. Hugh also won the main Bonspiel Trophy in 1991 but has so far not won the B Road Trophy which has had various names but is currently the J A M Trophy, after John Stone and Margaret Meikle who have been running the competition since I can remember.

In 1982 a young Adrian Meikle won the B Road Trophy, and this year he was runner-up in the same competition while among the winners in 1984 and 1985 was Chris Wells who was very close to a final this year.

Graeme Adam, Ena Smith, Gordon Crawford, Adrian Meikle and John Brown have all won all three trophies but until this year the main Bonspiel had eluded Janice and George Manson. Ironically their team mates Ian and Pam Paxton had won the trophy in 2004 with David and Mary Robertson when Janice and George had been unavailable but two previous B Road and three Stan Williams Trophy wins could not assuage their desire for the main trophy.

In 2005 they had reached the final, only to be beaten at an extra end by yours truly, but this year there was no stopping them. An undefeated run through the sections games defeating the holder, Adrian Meikle, Graeme Adam and Michael Yuille (twice) led them to a final against Colin Martin, last year’s runner-up who had also won all four of his section games against John Brown, Elaine Semple, Hugh Stewart and Chris Wells (winning by one shot after taking a five at the last end).

As with many games at the weekend the final went down to the wire, only to be spoiled by a pick up for Colin Martin on his first stone which left the way clear for George Manson to place a guard on the shot which Colin had been trying to get at and left no real shot for Colin’s last stone, Janice running out the winner by 8-6.

The B road final was also a tense affair between Lesley Gregory’s team skipped by Andrew Woolston with Lesley at third, husband Martin at second and local girl Lauren Baxter at lead, defeating Adrian Meikle who this year, instead of alternating his daughters at lead had them both playing, Charlotte at third and Danielle at lead. The ever present Andrew Tanner swept his heart out at second (as well as playing some great shots of course). Final score in this one was 8-5.

The C Road Final was the only one of the three which finished early with Graeme Adam, along with wife Julia and Jim and Liz Jamieson, defeating Elaine Semple, husband Colin and Pat and Graham Ross, by 9-1.

As usual the Bonspiel was sponsored by Glenfarclas who provided the requisites for the Saturday evening tasting session before the customary excellent Greenacres carvery served up by Elma Paterson and her team.

Next year will be the 33rd Welsh Bonspiel and also my 20th – see what I mean by loyalty – I hope to get back to winning ways but no matter whether I do or not it will be enough to go back to Greenacres and meet up with old friends and rivals and to enjoy the friendship of curling on and off the ice.

Winners' photos are here.