Monday, 21 January 2013

4 Nations results

England came away from the 4 Nations weekend with 2 Trophies - the Tom Ballantyne for beating Scotland's men by 58-45 and the Turnbull Cup for pipping Ireland 25-24. The other two trophies were lost to Scotland's ladies who retained the Connie Miller Trophy by 25-8 and to Wales who won back the Kay Trophy by 33-19.

The weekend got off to bad start when the snow which hit the South of England affected flights and road travel and meant that 4 of our team (Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Sandra Moorcroft and Charles Murphy) were unable to travel. Snow in the hills of the Borders also accounted for Peter and Hilary Bowyer. The loss of 4 women, including three skips, meant that we struggled all weekend to field enough women in each session and we twice had to field just 3. Help from the local organisers filled some of the gaps and we are grateful to Alison Cunningham, Corrie Lawrence, May Steel and Sheelagh Fulton for playing.

With Scotland fielding their ex-Champion Gail Munro it was inevitable that the inexperienced Debbie Hutcheon would struggle in the Connie Miller Trophy, but a great display in the first game, when Alison Cunningham threw last stones saw them with a deficit of 4-8 to take into the second game. However, facing just 3 players in the second game, Gail dominated and after missing a chance of an 8 at the 4th end (she just got a 6) she sealed a 17-4 victory with a 7 in the 6th end and hands were shaken early.

In the Tom Ballantyne Trophy there are 8 games played across 4 sessions and so the final result accumulates slowly until the last three games are played. After the first session of 3 games it was 22-19 to Scotland, the 4th game then made it 27-25 to England and the 5th game brought the gap down to 34-33 to England. So it was all to play for in the last session of 3 games and here we managed to stretch away with three victories by 9-4, 9-4 and 9-6 to win overall by 58-45, our first win in the Ballantyne for 3 years, our biggest win for 12 years and our 3rd biggest win of the 13 times we have won it.

All the games were close, the highest victory margin being 5 shots. There was a tie for the Gold Medals for England with both John Sharp (with Gordon Lyon, James Gibb and Ross Barr) and John Brown (with Bruce Bowyer, Kerr Alexander and Stuart Brand) winning 9-4. Tommy Campbell (with Gordon Lyon, Doug Andrews and Jim Marmont) close behind having won 8-3. On Scotland's side their biggest winners were John Paul, Richard Stevenson, Malcolm Patrick and Ed Baines who won 7-4 against John Sharp.

One of the features of recent years has been the strength of the Welsh teams who participate in the 4 Nations. In the first 19 meetings between England and Wales the latter were victorious in just 2 of them and also retained the trophy one year by playing out a tie. In the last 6 years Wales have won 4 times and their victory this year by 33-19 was second only to the 36-15 drubbing they handed out at Fenton's two years ago. Their win was achieved across all three forms - mixed, men's and women's and only Alastair Fyfe's 6-6 peel with Hugh Meikle stopped them from winning across all 4 games.

For many years the draw for the 4 Nations weekend has had England playing Ireland in the last session on Sunday afternoon and this year yet again it brought the weekend to a nail-biting finish. A bit of history - Ireland and England have played each other 16 times and in 6 of those years (1999 (I), 2003 (E), 2005 (E), 2008 (I), 2011(I) and 2012 (I)) the overall margin of victory over 4 games has been just one shot. Last year famously the Irish came back from a 12 shot deficit after the mixed games to win by 1 shot thanks to a 16-0 victory for their women. In Ayr the issue was tighter the whole way through with England leading by just 2 shots after the mixed games, 14-12. This year it was the England men who struggled and lost 10-3 while the English women were 8-1 up playing the last end, which meant that the 2 shot margin was still there as the women played their last end. When Irish skip Marie O'Kane came to play her last stone she was lying one and so needed to squeeze another one in to draw the match and let Ireland retain the Trophy. We breathed a sigh of relief when she was short and the Turnbull Trophy returned to England after 3 years.

Add a super meal and disco (deejayed by Gail Munro's husband John) into the mix and a great time was had by all who beat the weather. Ironically there was no snow in Ayr all weekend!!


Connie Miller Trophy (v Scotland women)

Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 8
Debbie Hutcheon 4 Gail Munro 17

Tom Ballantyne Trophy (v Scotland men)

John Brown 10 Alan Russell 8
John Sharp 4 John Paul 7
Kerr Alexander 5 Alan Durno 7
Tommy Campbell 8 David Jones 3
Alastair Fyfe 7 Alan Durno 8
John Brown 9 James Carswell 4
John Sharp 9 David Jones 4
Michael Sutherland 6 Alan Russell 4

Kay Trophy (v Wales)

Doug Andrews 7 Andy Tanner 12
Alastair Fyfe 6 Hugh Meikle 6
Michael Sutherland 3 Andy Tanner 8
Debbie Hutcheon 3 Lesley Gregory 7

Turnbull Trophy (v Ireland)

John Sharp 7 Bill Gray 5
John Brown 7 David Whyte 7
John Brown 3 Peter Wilson 10
Alison Barr 8 Marie O'Kane 2

Thursday, 17 January 2013

4 Nations Weekend

And so this weekend it is off to Ayr for the annual 4 Nations International weekend when the club curlers of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland fight it out for a variety of trophies. The weather forecast is poor with heavy snow forecast which may delay some English curlers' travels but let's hope we all get there for Saturday morning at 0900.

The English teams are:

0900     Wales        Mixed         Doug Andrews, Sandra Moorcroft, Gordon Lyon, Carol Lyon
            Wales        Mixed         Alastair Fyfe, Susan Young, Kerr Alexander, Alison Barr
            Scotland     Men           John Sharp, Ross Barr, Stuart Brand, Jim Marmont
            Scotland     Men           Michael Sutherland, Charles Murphy, Graham Stanley, James Gibb
1200     Scotland     Men           John Brown, Alastair Fyfe, Ross Barr, James Gibb
            Scotland     Men           Tommy Campbell, Gordon Lyon, Doug Andrews, Jim Marmont
            Scotland     Ladies        Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Debbie Hutcheon, Pixie Chung                                                                                                                                                                      
1500     Ireland        Mixed         John Sharp, Jean Robinson, Tommy Campbell, Alison Barr
            Ireland        Mixed         Peter Bowyer, Sandra Moorcroft, Stuart Brand, Hilary Bowyer
0900     Wales        Men           Michael Sutherland, Kerr Alexander, Graham Stanley, Charles Murphy
            Wales        Ladies        Jean Robinson, Hilary Bowyer, Debbie Hutcheon, Pixie Chung
            Scotland     Men           Peter Bowyer, Alastair Fyfe, Doug Andrews, Jim Marmont                                                                                                                                                                       
1130     Scotland     Men           John Brown, Bruce Bowyer, Kerr Alexander, Stuart Brand
            Scotland     Men           John Sharp, Gordon Lyon, James Gibb, Charles Murphy
            Scotland     Men           Michael Sutherland, Tommy Campbell, Peter Bowyer, Graham Stanley
            Scotland     Ladies        Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Debbie Hutcheon, Carol Lyon                                                                                                                                                                       
1400     Ireland        Men           John Sharp, Bruce Bowyer, John Brown, Ross Barr
            Ireland        Ladies        Sandra Moorcroft, Susan Young, Alison Barr, Hilary Bowyer

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Junior Skips Combine to win Mixed Doubles

Just 2 days after returning from the EJCC in Prague, the skips of the two junior teams, Ben Fowler and Hetty Garnier, combined to win the ECA Mixed Doubles Championship at Fenton's.

Undefeated through the round robin they then had to play a final against the team ranked second - Alan MacDougall and Lana Watson. In previous years a win in the round-robin would have been enough, but as from this year the ECA have said that every Championship will have a final unless the team finishing top of the round-robin has won all their games and is two clear wins ahead of the team ranked second.

MacDougall / Watson (M/W) grabbed an early lead in the final being 3-0 up after 2 ends. Fowler / Garnier (F/G) got 2 back in the third end and were looking in trouble in the 4th end as there were 4 M/W stones in shot positions with one more stone to come from each team. A great draw by Hetty gave Alan no shot to play and so they only scored a 1 when more had seemed likely.

The teams exchanged singles for the next 3 ends and going into the last end M/W were 5-4 up with last stone. An early attempt by Lana to open up the front only succeeded in propelling a second F/G stone into the house to join the shot already lying in there and from then on they stayed there and F/G stole the 2 required for victory.

So well done to the juniors and the next step is to get to Fredericton in Canada for the World Championships in April.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

British Curling World Class Performance Programmes

2013-2014 Performance Programme Application Forms
The application forms for athletes wishing to be considered for selection to the World Class Performance Curling and Wheelchair Curling Programmes are now available to be downloaded from the 'Policies' page of the British Curling Website
The forms are available in both Excel and Open Source format (.xls and .ods files)
Please note;
1. The application window for athletes wishing to be considered for selection to submit their forms is 1st - 19th February 2013.
2. The application is for athletes wishing to be considered for the World Class Performance Programmes only. Athletes wishing to be considered for the Royal Club Academy and Talent programmes and the SWCA Spokes programmes should complete the separate processes for those programmes which can be found on the respective websites.
3. This process is for the World Class Performance Programmes only and not for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Teams - a separate process for these teams is detailed in the respective selection policies. (SEE PREVIOUS POST)
4. Any questions, or problems downloading the relevant documents, please contact the Performance Director on

Friday, 11 January 2013

Olympic and Paralympic Selection Process

2014 Winter Olympic & Paralympic Selection Process
The outline policies and process for selection of GB Teams for the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi have been published following agreement with the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association.
They can be found on the 'Policies' page of the British Curling Website (Sochi 2014 WinterOlympic and Paralympic Selection Documentation section)
For full details of the policies please contact the Performance Director on
Registration documents will be published and available to download from the website during April.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Mixed Doubles this weekend

A reminder that the ECA Mixed Doubles Championship takes place at Fenton's this weekend. A late withdrawal has reduced the entry to 6 pairs and the revised draw is therefore as follows:

Friday 11th January                   2000

Mallows / Pearce           v          Fowler / Garnier
Maxwell / Dolan             v          Patrick / Hemmings
MacDougall / Watson    v          Sharp / Fowler

Saturday 12th January               1200

Sharp / Fowler               v          Patrick / Hemmings
Fowler / Garnier             v          MacDougall / Watson
Maxwell / Dolan             v          Mallows / Pearce

Saturday 12th January               1600

MacDougall / Watson    v          Mallows / Pearce
Maxwell / Dolan             v          Sharp / Fowler
Patrick / Hemmings       v          Fowler / Garnier

Saturday 12th January               2000

Mallows / Pearce           v          Patrick / Hemmings
Sharp / Fowler               v          Fowler / Garnier
MacDougall / Watson    v          Maxwell / Dolan

Sunday 13th January                 1000

Fowler / Garnier             v          Maxwell / Dolan
Patrick / Hemmings       v          MacDougall / Watson
Mallows / Pearce           v          Sharp / Fowler

Sunday 13th January                 1400



John Sharp / Anna Fowler
Nigel Patrick / Alison Hemmings
Ben Fowler / Hetty Garnier
Alan MacDougall / Lana Watson
Ken Maxwell / Katie Dolan
James Harry Mallows / Lauren Pearce

No last chance

Last night at the EJCC, Denmark and Hungary confirmed their places in the semi-finals of the girls competition with 2 fairly straightforward victories over Poland and Latvia respectively, thus ending any hopes England had that a shock result might bring them back into the tie breakers. In the end the girls actually finished 8th overall, a surprisingly low position based first of all on the fact that Turkey had beaten them and so finished above them on the same 3-2 record and then because, while their DSC at 42.7 was the lowest in their group, the team in 4th place in the other group, Slovakia, had a DSC of 42.0!!! This in spite of the fact that Slovakia only won 2 games to England's 3.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The final chapter??

Two games in Prague today for England and two defeats. In the morning the boys were up against arch-rivals, the Netherlands, with coach Andy Woolston hoping for a revenge for two defeats in Sweden last month. The Dutch took an early 2-0 lead before England struck back with a 3 and then a steal of 3 to lead 6-2 after 4 ends. However the Dutch boys got stuck in, put up guards and England's lead was whittled away - a 2 followed by a steal of one and another steal of one so that it was peels at 6-6 going into the last end.

Once again the Dutch put up the guards (by the end there were 11 stones in front of the house), but England had a stone in the house and an amazing last few stones were about to be played. First of all a raised take-out by the Dutch and then a great double raise tap up by England third Oliver Kendall before an even more spectacular angled double raise take-out by Dutch skip Floyd Koelewijn left Ben Fowler the England skip with an awkward draw to the edge of the 4 foot which he failed to make - Netherlands took one and the appreciative audience could breathe again.

So this was the end of England's campaign and a record of 1 win and 4 defeats is probably a bit harsh at the end of the day. Most of the games were close throughout and the final scores of 2-6, 3-7, 7-6, 6-7, and 3-5 reflect that.

Then it was the turn of the girls and once again Hetty Garnier played a superb Last Stone Draw of 6.1 centimetres to ensure that neither Denmark nor Hungary could top them if they could beat Turkey. The game started badly and it was only a brave draw to cut Turkey down from 5 to 1 that kept the game alive, even this early. Another great draw for 1 at the second end made it 1-1 but then the wheels kind of fell off the waggon a bit and the rest of the game was a struggle for England. They lost a 3 at the third end and then fell a further 1 behind at the 5th after blanking the 4th. A score of 2 in the 6th reduced the deficit to 3-5 and hopes rose but Turkey took one at the 7th and ran England out of stones at the 8th.

So both Turkey and England finished on 3-2 and now must await the results of tonight's games involving Denmark (v Poland) and Hungary (v Latvia) to see if they will have any further part in the Championships.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Good Sunday in Prague

No matter at what level you watch curling -  junior, national, senior or wheelchair  - the ones who suffer the most during a game are those who are watching from the coaches' bench or bar. I have lost count of the many games where we have been stressed by a team's performance on the ice, while they go on their way to a gut-wrenching victory or suffer a last stone defeat.

Today was one of those days - not just once but twice as the England girls and boys caused their supporters to suffer the agonies and ecstasies of uncertainty before both coming through with a win.

It was boys first today and it was half time when I reached the rink, having enjoyed a slightly longer lie-in while the boys' coach, Andy Woolston, rounded them up for their 0900 rendezvous with Latvia. Last year England had beaten Latvia 7-4 and a similar score was on the cards as England led 7-1, but then, in the blink of 2 ends, it was 7-5 and then Latvia were lying peels behind a cluster of guards as Ben Fowler came to play his last shot of the game - nominated as a tap up of his own guard.

As the stone came down the ice it was running wide and an extra end seemed inevitable but instead the stone squeezed through a gap, nudging a stone on either side to wick into the rings and out count one of the Latvia stones - 7-6 to England, their first win of the week and great relief all round.

Next it was the turn of the girls to also face Latvia, a team new to the competition, and one of the most inexperienced here. Denmark had beaten them 17-1 and so on paper it looked like a comfortable afternoon at the office, but......there's many a slip etc....... and this game went right down to Hetty Garnier's last stone - she had a straightforward hit to put the game beyond the Latvians reach. Fortunately she made it and another win by just 6-4 kept England on the path to the play-offs.

A great pre-game Last Stone Draw of just 5.5 cm by Hetty also boosted their average Draw Shot Challenge, which is so vital in deciding ranking between tied teams in some circumstances. Currently their average is less than that of both Denmark and Hungary and this could be the difference between a direct path to the semi-final or a tie breaker for the second place.

Now the teams can relax for the rest of Sunday before they have a similar programme tomorrow - boys on first against Netherlands and then the girls in a vital game against Turkey.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mixed Fortunes for ENG at EJCC

After the dramatic win for the England girls this morning, the boys came up against newcomers Slovenia and made a good start to lead 2-0 after two ends. A serious of errors however let the Slovenians take command and build a 5-2 lead which England could only peg back to 5-3 before the handshake. So 2 losses so far mean that all games now become must-wins for the boys.

The girls took command early against their Polish opponents in their second game of the day and another high quality performance by them all saw them cruise to a 10-3 win and keep up their challenge. Denmark bounced back from their defeat by England by thrashing Latvia 17-1 after just 6 ends while Hungary took a last stone victory over Turkey. This leaves Hungary on 3 wins and Denmark and England on 2 wins and 1 loss - all brewing up nicely to a possible three way tie at the top of the section if Denmark beat Hungary and other games go to form. At the moment Denmark have the best Draw Shot Challenge score.

While it is quite often that teams have to give up and shake hands halfway through the 8th end when they can no longer mathematically win, it is rare that this happens in the 7th end. At 1-17 down after the minimum required of 6 ends, it was expected that the Latvians would shake hands but from body language it would appear that the Latvian coach over-ruled the skip's decision (strictly not allowed as  no communication is allowed between the team and bench but this was probably the first time the young skip had been in this situation). Of course this meant that the first time that a Latvian stone was out of play at the 7th end, then hands had to be shaken - it would appear that the Latvian coach may not have realised this as there was no other reason to expect his team to continue after the end of the 6th end.

Currently the England boys are on against Estonia and a report on this and other information in my next blog from a mild and snow-free Prague.

ENG girls beat Denmark

The England girls recorded a great win against Denmark this morning with skip Hetty Garnier not missing a shot and being scored at 94%. In a similar manner to their first game against Hungary the early ends were very open (apart from the one where Hetty had to hit against 4 to take the shot - the game could have ended there if she had missed) and it was 1-1 at the half time break. Immediately after the break both skips started putting up guards and it was the Danish skip who had the first save to make when she hit against 3 to take her shot.

For the first time this week the girls scored a 2 at the 6th end and when the Danish skip then failed to blank the 7th end and scored a single it was deja vu from the game against Hungary yesterday - 3-3 with the hammer playing the last end. Once again we had trouble clearing guards but a mistake by the Danish skip with her first stone gave Hetty access to the shot. An exchange of hits and she had the same shot to win the game - it was played perfectly and England scored 2 and celebrated a famous victory against arch rivals from previous EJCCs.

Now the boys are on against Slovenia - a new country to the championships and the first meeting between the two countries at any level.This is one they really must win if they want to have any chance of progressing further.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Early Disappointments for ENG teams in Prague

At last, after two days of waiting, the England junior teams played their first games at the EJCC today. The girls were on first against a Hungarian team who had already had one game today when they had beaten Poland by 8-4.

It was a close affair all the way - the English girls started well, playing a straightforward game in the house, trying to force a miss from Hungary but it never came until the third end, when after two blanked ends they forced the Hungarians to take 1. A well crafted 4th end got them the two they wanted and it was 2-1 at the half time break. More pressure on Hungary in the 5th end and their skip had to draw to take a one to level the scores at 2-2.

A chance to take 2 in the 6th end was squandered and the 1 that resulted was matched by Hungary in the 7th end but we were peels with hammer playing the last end. As often happens, problems with peeling guards and some unfortunate ricochets left us facing one Hungarian counter as Hetty Garnier came to play her last draw - the way was open but she was a bit light and the first steal of the game unfortunately resulted in a 3-4 defeat.

Then the boys came up against an Austrian team who played a really good, if simple, game hitting with great accuracy and power once they had forged a 3-0 lead. In the end they were just too strong for England and won 6-2.

After this quiet start it is a busy day tomorrow with both teams playing 2 games and so a long day down at the rink with games beginning at 0900 and the last game off the ice about 2130.

The organisers have been experimenting with web streaming here in Prague and tested it on two games, one of which was the England v Hungary game. Commentary was provided by Dan Raphael, the Czech Republic coach who has no teams to supervise this week as both are in the Worlds already. At one stage I believe 46 people were watching including ECA President Alison Arthur who was passing me instructions to tell Dan to speak up!! I do not know if this will continue - it is basically one cameraman and it really can only be used on the end sheet - on which England have no more games!!!!

Those of you who have visited the website will have seen the team pictures - my apologies for the Mr Michelin man look - I blame it on the camera lens the photographer was using. Many thanks to all those who have sent messages to the teams - keep them coming - it is always good for them to know that people are following their progress.

Hopefully I will find time to update regularly tomorrow - problem is that the wi-fi at the rink is very temperamental and cannot be relied upon to be available long enough to do very much posting and so I have to wait until I get back to the hotel in the evening.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy New Year from Prague

If it is early January in Prague it usually means that it is time for the European Junior Challenge. Two years ago when we were last here it was thick snow and freezing conditions. This year not a flake of snow to be seen and temperatures of 5-6 degrees.

Practice day today and then the first games for the two teams are tomorrow.

Boys - very much a new team this year but Ben Fowler returns for his third year at skip with Oliver Kendall at third; Conor Simpson was alternate last year but for Cormac Barry and Renz Bunag this is their introduction to International curling. Andy Woolston is their coach.

There are 13 boys' teams entered and they are divided into a section of 6 and a section of 7, the top two to qualify for the semi-finals. The England boys are in the section of 6 and their programme is as follows (all times are UK time).

Friday 1830 v Austria
Saturday 1130 v Slovenia
Saturday 1830 v Estonia
Sunday 0800 v Latvia
Monday 0800 v Netherlands

The top two teams in this section could be Estonia (where Harri Lill must be making his final appearance as a junior having first played in 2006!!) and Netherlands, but on the day the English boys are capable of getting in the mix and the last game on Monday against the Dutch could be a critical one.

Girls - With Anna Fowler now over-age, Hetty Garnier steps up to skip in her 5th Junior Challenge. Angharad Ward, who missed out last year because she went to the Youth Olympic Games is third while Naomi Robinson also plays in her 5th Challenge at second. Lucy Sparks is the lead (she was alternate in Copenhagen last year) and Niamh Fenton comes in as alternate. Yours truly is their coach.

There are 12 girls' teams entered and they are split into 2 sections of 6. England's timetable is as follows (UK times):

Friday 1500 v Hungary
Saturday 0800 v Denmark
Saturday 1500 v Poland
Sunday 1130 v Latvia
Monday 1130 v Turkey

Denmark finished second overall last year and their skip and third return for a 4th year and they are probably the strongest team in the section. Again the top 2 qualify for the semi-finals.

You can follow the competition at but I will be aiming to post daily updates here.