Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ben Nevis Bonspiel

Work on the National Curling Academy project in Kinross may be on hold meantime (see here) but fundraising by local clubs is still continuing. I was rather taken with Kinross Curling Club's plans for a 'Ben Nevis Challenge Bonspiel', in which one group will carry a stone up Scotland's highest mountain by the tourist path, whereas other members will bring the brushes up by a rather more challenging route via the Carn Mor Dearg arete. The detail of the fundraising effort is here, with two possible dates in May pencilled in for the attempt which is weather dependent.

I have climbed the Ben some ten times, by five different routes, in my time on the hills (hillwalking being a summer hobby for many years), and I know from experience how fickle the weather can be. Good luck to all involved, and be safe.

It's not the first time that curlers have had Ben Nevis in their sights. David B Smith had an article on the Curling History Blog (here) describing a match played by members of the Lochaber Curling Club on Lochan Meall-an-t-Suidhe which, at 1850 feet above sea level, is almost half way to the summit. That club used horses to transport their stones and equipment on that occasion!

Details of past and forthcoming fundraising activities for the Kinross Curling Trust can be found here. Incidentally, the draw for the Grand Raffle will take place at 1pm in the McMillan Suite at the Windelstrae Hotel on Friday, May 7. Everyone is very welcome to go along and see if they have won the car - assuming of course they have bought tickets!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looking ahead

I note that the entry forms for next season's Scottish Curling Championships are now available for download from the Royal Club website.

There are several notable changes in the pipeline. Colin Hamilton, the Royal Club's Manager of Competitions, has summarised these here. The Mini Tour is no more. Two of the weekend slots, at Lockerbie and at Hamilton, will become prequalifying competitions for the Scottish Men's. The first rounds of the Scottish proper will be as before, twenty teams playing over two weekends (December 17-19 and January 21-23) at Perth to find the top ten for the finals, February 14-20, as usual at the Dewar's Centre.

There's been a big rethink of the women's championship. The women's finals will now be a ten team round robin, with playoffs, alongside the men in February. If more than ten teams enter, there will be a qualifying weekend on November 19-21 at Curl Aberdeen. Depending on the entries, this weekend might become a straightforward weekend competition for the women.

The season is complicated somewhat by the World University Games, which will be held in Erzurum, Turkey. The curling dates within the Games are January 27 - February 5. This has brought the Scottish Junior Finals a little earlier than usual, to January 12-16. There will be qualifiers next season, and these will be played on the weekend of December 3-5 at Ayr for both the junior men and junior women to find the eight teams for the finals at Curl Aberdeen.

Entry forms have to be returned to Cairnie House by June 30.

There is always much speculation at this time of year as to who is playing with whom. I understand that Eve Muirhead will compete in both Juniors and Ladies' events next season, the former with Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Rhiann Macleod, and the latter with Kelly Wood, Lorna Vevers and Annie Laird. And with Olympic selections (if indeed that is the way it is to be done for 2014) still a couple of years away, it seems that Ewan MacDonald (pictured above at the European Championship) will skip his own team next season with Graeme Connal, Pete Loudon and Euan Byers. David Murdoch will play with Warwick Smith, Craig Wilson and Ross Hepburn. That's an exciting prospect, if the rumours turn out to be true!

Seems funny to be looking ahead to next season already, when the last is barely over. And if you already have your academic style diary, you can begin putting the dates into it from here.

Photo of Ewan © Skip Cottage

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Finals day in Chelyabinsk

Paul Pustovar's USA team won the gold medals at the World Senior Men’s Curling Championship today, beating Canada 4-3 after an extra end. Read Paul's reaction, and find all the linescores, here.

Hugh Millikin's Australians won that country's first ever medal in world championship curling, by beating Switzerland in an extra end 4-3 in the 3rd-4th playoff.

Canada won gold in the World Senior Women’s event, Colleen Pinkney's team beating Switzerland 8-4, again after an extra end.

Ingrid Meldahl's Swedish side beat the USA 6-5 to win bronze.

In the World Mixed Doubles Championship, Russia (Yana Nekrasova and Petr Dron) beat New Zealand after an extra end. China beat Spain for the bronze. The linescores are here.

The top photo of Paul Pustovar is by Goran Roxin. Take time to look at all Goran's photos. The links to his galleries are here. They certainly give a flavour of the events in Chelyabinsk.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Construction begins at Ice Bowl

Work has begun on Scotland's newest curling rink. The Ice Bowl in Dumfries has closed for a period of six months to allow for a complete refurbishment of the council-owned facility.

As well as improvements to the main ice pad, what was the bowling facility (above) will become a dedicated six-sheet curling rink.

The construction site is all fenced off and I understand that work is already well underway inside.

It is good news for the users of the Ice Bowl. Skating and ice hockey will benefit immensely, as will the curling community that uses the Dumfries facility. Income from both groups can be maximised, and that of course is the Council's aim.

It is all about having good ice to curl on of course, and sharing a rink with skaters is never ideal.

It will not go unnoticed, that with two rinks side by side, the complex will have the potential to host major International competitions in the future.

Of course, there are some who have been critical of the project. Curlers at the privately run Lockerbie rink worry that the new facility will impinge on their efforts. However, as the recent Come and Try at that rink showed, there is a major, relatively untapped market, just down the M74 in Carlisle and the north-west of England.

Last summer, see here, here and here, the Ice Bowl hosted a very successful international curling camp. Organised by the Royal Club and fronted by Judith McFarlane and Graham Sloan, the Homecoming Camp was enjoyed by participants from Scotland and overseas. Shari Leibbrandt (above) and Mark Neeleman from the Netherlands were coaches at Dumfries last year. With the plans for the Ice Bowl announced by the time the camp went ahead last year, there was no possibility for there to be a reprise this summer. But I was pleased to see that Shari and Mark are on the organising committee for a similar camp at Zoetermeet, Netherlands, August 3-8.

Details are on the Royal Club website here, and hopefully one or more young Scottish teams will be able to attend.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Paralympic Champion Arrested

Jim Armstrong, the skip of the Canadian team which won gold at the recent Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, has been charged in the USA with attempting to smuggle counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills into British Columbia.

The bizarre story is described here on The Curling News blog, and the Wheelchair Curling Blog has more here and here. And TSN has the CP story here.

My own feeling is that 'innocent until prove guilty' is the correct line to take here, and it will be interesting to see what transpires. If Armstrong is found guilty, it could damage the image of wheelchair curling, a case where the maxim 'any publicity is good publicity' may not apply. Court date is April 30.

The photo of Armstrong competing at Kinross last year is © Skip Cottage.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Senior Champs express thanks

Isobel Waddell, skip of the Scottish Senior Champs (on the left above), has been in touch. Her disappointment at not being in Chelyabinsk this week is massive. She described all the efforts they had made, and paid tribute to the organisers, in particular Keith Wendorf of the WCF, for his work in trying to accommodate late arrivals and managing the disruption.

What will hurt the Scottish girls too was to find that they were the only women's team not able to get to Russia. Isobel says she looked at the photos of the opening ceremony with tears in her eyes.

At the end of the day, Wales, Netherlands, Scotland and Estonia had to withdraw from the World Senior Men's competition. England is there, but with a depleted team.

Canada, Korea, Norway, Scotland and Sweden had to withdraw from the World Mixed Doubles event.

There are stories of teams' travel 'adventures' here, with other quotes from various competitors.

In amongst all her disappointment, Isobel still wanted to thank all who have helped her team since they won the Scottish Senior Championship. She says, "On behalf of our Scottish ladies senior team, Elma, Edna, Kathleen and Lynne, I would like to acknowledge and express our sincere thanks to the RCCC for finance and uniforms, the ladies at Cairnie House, also Cate Brewster for her super work with us, Lynne Robertson, Tom Pendreigh and many other people. We received so many cards, gifts, help and support in the run up for what was to be our trip to Russia. Unfortunately, due to the volcano eruption, we were unable to fly to the World Senior Championships. Many thanks once again. Isobel Waddell."

Thanks to you too, Isobel. We share your disappointment.

The championships continue, of course. The official website seems to be up and running again here, and you can find all the linescores there. The final games are scheduled for Saturday. Thoughts are turning to how everyone is going to get home, should there still be disruption to air travel after the weekend. I hear that one option is to attach extra carriages to the train from Chelyabinsk to Moscow.

And here was me thinking that the blimp below was the alternative!

Top pic by Bob. The photo from the opening ceremony is by Goran Roxin.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Summer timetable

Since August 29 last year, I have posted 410 times on skipcottagecurling. That's an average of 1.8 posts per day!

I'm going to declare the 2009-10 curling season over as of tonight, and so I won't be posting so frequently about curling over the next few months. Consider that we're now on a 'summer schedule'!

Needless to say, I'll no doubt be finding other things to blog about. Some of my other interests can be found on - you can see a teaser in the sidebar on the right.

Of course, if there's any breaking curling news that I do find out about, it will be here! But I won't be putting something up every day.

Thank you to my sponsors (on the right), and thank you to all blogallies who have followed and supported the blog since last August. If you have ideas of how you would like to see the blog continue next season, please do get in touch. My email address can be found in my profile.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chelyabinsk update

Even though there are no Scottish teams in Chelyabinsk, I am keen to learn more of the World Seniors and World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships which are being held for the first time in this fascinating part of the world. Today has been frustrating as the 'official' website has been down.

However, Joanna Kelly, the World Curling Federation's Media Relations Officer, has sent a release indicating where to find results and further information.

The place to look first is now here.

The Mixed Doubles amended draw and results is here.

The Seniors amended draw and results is here.

Detailed line scores of games played so far are here

Especially interesting and exciting is that there are photos from the event here.

And I encourage you to take some time to look at Goran Roxin's galleries of pics, here, especially those around the city and of the opening ceremonies. That one of his photos at the top of the post. I think it is the reaction to John Brown's stone (see here)! Goran is competing for the Swedish men's team.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No Scottish teams in Chelyabinsk

None of Scotland's Mixed Doubles, Senior Men's or Senior Women's teams have been able to get to Russia because of the problems caused by the Icelandic volcano. Consequently, they have officially withdrawn from the World Mixed Doubles and World Seniors' Championships. I can only begin to imagine the disappointment and frustration of all involved!

The Championships' play begins tomorrow (Sunday) in the Ural Lightning Ice Palace in Chelyabinsk, despite the disruption. For the World Curling Federation and its member association, the Russian Curling Federation, it is a landmark event as it is the first time that the Russian Federation has hosted a World Curling Championship. It also paves the way for that country organising the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

The official release from the World Curling Federation, issued earlier today, notes that in the Mixed Doubles, teams from Australia, Austria, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland are onsite and set to compete. Teams from Canada, Finland, Korea, Latvia, Sweden and the USA may yet make it if flights resume. Only Norway and Scotland have officially withdrawn.

For the Senior Championships, women’s teams from Canada, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA have made it to Chelyabinsk.

In the Senior men’s competition, teams from Australia, Canada, England, Hungary, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA are in Chelyabinsk. Estonia, Wales and Scotland have officially withdrawn. Finland is expected in Chelyabinsk by tomorrow evening.

John Brown, of the English senior men's team, reports on the situation in the Scottish Curling Forum here. He's calling it the 'Volcano Championships'!

John says, "In the first of a new set of 'Volcano' emergency rules it was agreed that the England Men's Seniors could begin the competition with three players - the rules say you must start the competition with four. John Sharp of the mixed doubles team is the alternate for the Seniors - originally for emergencies - now he has a few free sessions and he will certainly play the seniors' games against Japan and Australia tomorrow.

Practice went well and the ice is good and keen with a good draw on both hands and in both directions.

Later on we had a spectacular opening ceremony called 'Romancing The Stone' which told the story of the development of curling in song, dance and gymnastics. In a new occurence an athletes' oath (as in the Olympics) was given by double World Mixed Doubles Champion Toni Mueller of Switzerland and an umpires' oath by Keith Reilly, chief umpire for the Seniors.

The first stone was expertly placed in the centre of the circles by the chairman of the organising committee, guided there by some judicious sweeping by the Russian Mixed Doubles team.

One thousand tickets had been sold for the event and the final act was a one end game with expert commentary for the Russian crowd. I was privileged to skip a European team which included Ingrid Meldahl of Sweden (twice WSCC champion) at third, young Sergio Vez Labrador of Spain at second and Renate Nedkoff of Switzerland at lead. Our opposition was skipped by Hugh Millikin of Australia (doing MD and Seniors here), Sharon Vukich of USA, Zhipeng Shang of China and Bridget Becker of New Zealand. The single sheet out of the 14 was floodlit with the rest in darkness and so it was a new experience for me.

Glad to say that our European select outplayed the rest of the World and we scored a two."

Thanks John. Have a good week.

As I write this, the official website, for results and other information, appears to be down.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fourteen sheets

Fourteen sheets await the participants in the World Mixed Doubles and World Seniors' Curling Championships in Chelyabinsk! Well done to the 'ice making department'.

All that is needed now are some players, and the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud has thrown a spanner into travel plans for many teams, including those from Scotland. The Royal Club has this note on the website preview of the events here:

"Many teams, including Team Scotland, travelling to the World Mixed Doubles and the World Seniors Curling Championships have encountered problems due to the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland. The World Curling Federation are currently doing everything they can to accommodate the late arrival of teams."

The photo of the ice pad is by Mark Callan

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chelyabinsk bound

Isobel Waddell, Elma McCulloch, Kathleen Scott and Lynne Stevenson, as Scottish Senior Champions 2010, have their first game in the World Seniors in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Sunday. They meet Japan first of all, in the nine-country competition.

Keith Prentice, Lockhart Steele, Robin Aitken and Tommy Fleming face the Estonian team in their first game on Sunday. Seventeen countries are signed up to compete for the men's title, playing initially in two sections. The draws can be downloaded from here.

The World Mixed Doubles Championship is being played alongside the Seniors' Championships. Logan Gray and Kay Adams are representing Scotland. They start their campaign against Finland on Sunday. Twenty-six countries are represented at the event, according to the draw which can be found here. Three sections.

The events will be held in the Ural Lightning Ice Palace in Chelyabinsk, opened in 2004. The Ice Palace is usually a multi-sports facility including an Olympic-size 400-metre speed skating track, and an ice hockey rink, used for figure skating and short track, and curling. The total ice surface area is 10,540 square metres.

If you have a Facebook account you can see photos of Mark Callan and the ice crew getting the rink ready for the world events here. Fourteen (no, that should be FOURTEEN) sheets of ice have been laid out side by side for the event. Must be something of a record! And a challenge for the ice techs!

The pic of the arena is from the official website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Curling on Murder Loch?

Earlier this year, many of us enjoyed the opportunity to play outside. Of course, for perhaps three hundred years, Scottish curlers were entirely dependent on the availability of ice on lochs and ponds for their enjoyment of the sport of curling.

David B Smith compiled a list of places where curling was known to have taken place. I've talked before about the project to map these sites, see here. Since then, Lindsay Scotland's work has continued apace, with the help of enthusiastic volunteers. Harold Forrester is one such. I talked to him a couple of months back, and was impressed by the way things are developing.

You can find out more about the project here, and this is the best place to start to access the map. There is an email address for you to forward any knowledge you may have of historical curling places that are not listed, or if you have further information about places that are.

Zooming in on the Curling Places map shows each site with a little flag.

Clicking on the flag brings up a little information about each place. That in itself is fascinating, but now there is the possibilty to link to other information.

For example, the info banner for the Eskrigg pond near Lockerbie above has an additional hot link to 'more info from website'.

Clicking on that link takes you to an old map showing clearly where the pond was. There is opportunity to include other items such as photos of what the area looks like now.

In an email at the end of last month Lindsay advised that there are 2387 places on the list! Of these: 1590 have been found precisely (615 of these now have web pages with pictures/old maps). Found, but imprecise are 565 (73 of these now have web pages with pictures/old maps). Unfound: 232.

I've done what David, Lindsay and Harold want everyone to do - go out and look at the places on the map near where they live. For me, that should have been easy. There is only one flag locally indicating curling in Wamphray. The reference is from the Glasgow Herald in 1881, when curlers from Kirkpatrick-Juxta played against those from Hutton.

Knowing my local area quite well, I realised immediately there was a problem, as there is no 'loch at Wamphray' anywhere near the flag, which has been placed where the name Wamphray falls on the Google map. Wamphray is not a specific place, it is a large parish with an area of 53.3 sq km (20.5 sq miles). I know of one other reference to curlers from Wamphray venturing forth to play, and over the past weeks I've been wondering just where, in the nineteenth century, they had their local pond.

I wonder if I've found it.

The clue comes from the Glasgow Herald reference above, which refers to an inter-parish competition. Wamphray has five neighbouring parishes; namely Applegarth and Sibbaldbie, Hutton and Corrie, Johnstone, Kirkpatrick-Juxta and Moffat. As you can see from the old parish map of Dumfriesshire above, Kirkpatrick-Juxta is to the north and west, and Hutton and Corrie to the east and south. If curlers from these two parishes were due to compete against each other it makes sense for them to meet on 'neutral' ground - and Wamphray lies between the two.

It would also make sense if the venue was easily accessible. And here, where the old road from Moffat meets the road from Lockerbie, there are ruins of what I am told used to be an inn.

Beside the crossroads (and the ruins of the inn) is a natural pond, now much overgrown. It is shown on the earliest OS six-inch map of the area, dating from the mid nineteenth century. It is served by a little burn, and drains to the River Annan not far off. Even now, it could easily accommodate a couple of rinks.

So, could this have been where curlers from Wamphray and surrounding parishes met in the 1800s? We may never know for sure, but I am persuaded by the neighbouring inn!

What is perhaps even more interesting is the name of this pond. In the earliest of maps, and right up until today, it is known as Murder Loch!

Top photo is from Coodham in January © Skip Cottage.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bronze for Scotland in Italy

Congratulations to Ross, Craig, David and Warwick who beat Pete Fenson's USA team this morning to win the bronze medals at the Capital One World Men's Curling Championship in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Mike Haggerty's report is here.

Canada beat Norway for the World title.

Thanks to Hugh Stewart for the pic of the Scottish squad with their medals. L-R: Warwick Smith, David Smith, Craig Wilson, Ross Hepburn, David Murdoch and Alan Smith. And of the World Champions below. L-R: Kevin Koe, Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Theissen.

Cortina update

You will remember that the WCF delegates voted to retain tiebreakers at World Championships (here). These representatives of the hardworking media are quite happy with the decision. Do you recognise Eurosport's Richard Vaughan, Uli Kapp and WCF MRO Joanna Kelly, on the slopes at Cortina on Friday - there were no tiebreakers, so everyone had time off! The photographer is our own Bob Kelly. Thanks Bob, most envious!

And Bob K sends this caption competition pic. If you think it looks like Richard Harding in a tuktuk, you are quite close. It's the Italian version of the famous Asian three wheeler, the Piaggio Ape (pronounced 'ah-peh' - the Italian for bee). They've been making it since 1948.

On a more serious note, good luck to Scotland in the playoff for the bronze medals today (Sunday). Mike Haggerty's reports on the Page 3-4 and Semifinal are here.

Pics courtesy of Bob Kelly.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

U17 finals at Perth

Here is Sue Fitzsimons presenting the trophy, named after her husband Danny, former manager of the Dewar's Centre, to the Bruce Mouat team, the winners of the U-17 event at Perth today. L-R: Elspeth Lean, Rowena Kerr, Derrick Sloan and Bruce Mouat.

The linescore is here. Bruce and his team were two up, without, playing the last. Duncan Menzies buried his first round a longish guard, but Bruce was up for the challenge, playing a delicate hit past the guard to secure the game.

Here's Derrick and Bruce in the final against the Duncan Menzies team.


Rowena and Elspeth, the hard working front end.


And his team. Angus Dowell and Robert Fawns work on a Stuart Taylor stone.

And today's caption pic. Rowena is saying, "No, I'm withdrawing my labour, I'm not going to sweep another stone for you!"

I should make mention of the Low Road final.

Richard Wood is in the head here with Stuart Marshall and James Carswell.

Stuart looked to have the game sewn up, but gave up three in the eighth to send it into overtime.

Here's the Marshall front end Euan Dagen and George McConnell.

James, with Richard and Neil Anderson behind.

David Baird and Simon Wood

Stuart and his team won it in the extra! Linescore here.

A great couple of days. Full marks to Claire Milne, the local ACDO, who organised it all.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Semis at Perth

It is semifinals day at the U17 at Perth. Let's start with the High Road. Duncan Menzies, Stuart Taylor, Robert Fawns and Angus Dowell were up against Kyle Waddell, Craig Waddell, Rachel Hannen and Alison Fyfe.

Here's Kyle

And here's Duncan, who brought his team through a really close game, making a runback double for the win with his last stone. All the scores are here.

This was the other side of the draw. Bruce Mouat, Derrick Sloan, Rowena Kerr and Elspeth Lean matched up against Thomas Muirhead, Ross Fraser, John Fraser and Ewan Penny. Ewan was substituting for Cammy Smith, off to Cortina to support his dad!

Here's Elspeth, Rowena and Derrick

Ross and John

There was some great shotplay, and much excitement, especially on the Muirhead side. But on the day, it was the Mouat team which progressed to the final.

Now for the Low Road.

I usually try not to be biased, but in this case I have to admit that I have been following Stuart Marshall's progress with interest. You see, I coached his mum Jane (McConnell, as she was then) in the 80s.

Stuart, with James Carswell, George McConnell and Euan Dagen were the winners today

Their opposition was Fraser Thomson, James Hay, James Baird and Grant Barr.

Note this young man, James Hay (14), in charge of the head. You may have heard of his dad Sandy, but you will certainly know of his grandfather, Chuck. You saw him here first!

Karen Munro, Lauren McIntyre, Lorna Shaw and Rachel McInally were the only all-girls team to reach the semis. They were up against Richard Wood, Neil Anderson, David Baird and Simon Wood this morning.

It was a good game, Karen needing to cut the four foot to get an extra end, but she was just too heavy. It will be a Wood-Marshall Low Road final.

Photos © Skip Cottage. More from the finals later.