Tuesday, 10 December 2013


John Sharp had been trying for three years to win the Senior Men’s Championship and each time he had been thwarted, principally by Michael  Sutherland, and so when Michael retired at the end of last season it must have seemed to John that now was his time to take over as England’s representative on the World stage. He recruited Tommy Campbell from the Sutherland team and brought in new ‘young’ blood in the shape of Keith Wilson to join Alastair Fyfe and Mike Robinson. The other two in the reigning champion team, John Summers and Charles Jackson, formed a new team with ex-champion Phil Barton and new boy David Sillito and travelled South to Fenton’s at the beginning of the December in unseasonably mild weather, at least after they had managed to escape the storms hitting Scotland.

With just two entries it was a best-of-5 rubber to decide the winners. With both skips called John, and with initials JS, I will call them by their surname I think for the rest of this piece. Sharp started off winning the hammer with an LSD of 7.6cms and used that advantage to take 2 at the first end, quickly followed by a couple of stolen singles before Summers got on the board with a 1 at the 4th. Summers then stole a 1 and a 2 to peel the game 4-4 after 6 but a change of tactic by Sharp brought him a 5 and the game ended at 9-4 to Sharp.

Game 2 began with neither skip getting a stone in the house for the LSD but a tossed coin gave Sharp the hammer again. This time, however, he was unable to use it and lost 2, though he quickly replied with a 4 at the second end before Summers scored 3 at the 3rd to lead 5-4. This looked likely to be a high scoring game but 3 ends later they had only advanced to 6-6. Sharp blanked the 7th and then took 1 at the 8th to win 7-6 and take a 2 games to 0 advantage.

Game 3 and at least both skips got their LSD in the house and Summers, with a distance of 66.8cms, took the hammer which he then used to his advantage to score 2 at the first end. An immediate riposte from Sharp equalled the score and he then forged ahead with 2 stolen singles only for Summer to reply with 2 singles of his own and yet again it was all square, 6-6, after 6 ends. When Sharp took a 2 at the 7th it seemed that the title was nearly his but a total miss with his last stone gifted Summers a 3 and the victory and we all had to return on Sunday for more games. 

The 4th game was the most one sided of the weekend though it started off close with the score reaching 3-3 after 4 ends. With the hammer,  Summers then took 2 at the 5th and then further 2s for him at the 6th and 7th ends saw hands shaken early at 9-3 for Summers and all to play for in the decider.

Apart from Sharp’s LSD of 7.6cms in the first game the standard of drawing for this crucial part of the game had been pretty low but, in a taste of what was to come, in the 5th game Sharp drew to 29.2cms to be followed by Summers who drew to 29.3cms! So close to needing another toss of the coin to decide the hammer. In this game Summers had the upper hand for much of the time – Sharp only took a single with the hammer at the first end and Summers then went 3-1 up after 3, and then 5-2 up after 5 and looked pretty much in control until a disastrous 6th end saw Sharp take a 6 (and it should have been 7) to take an 8-5 lead.

In the 7th end there were 5 Sharp stones in the house and it definitely looked like game over until Summers played a great hit and roll to steal 1 and send the game into a tense last end – so tense in fact that the umpire was called to adjudicate when it was realised that Phil Barton had thrown 3 stones! The call there was that Summers would only play 1 stone when it came to his turn, but in reality by that time the game was lost, an ambitious double raise was never really on and Sharp won by 8-6 to earn the right to travel all the way to Dumfries in Scotland to play in the World Senior Men’s Championship in April.

They will be joined there by a Women’s team consisting of Jean Robinson, Susan Young, Judith Dixon and Debbie Higgins with a 5th player still to be confirmed.

Friday, 6 December 2013

England’s Ladies Win European Bronze Medal

England’s ladies team of Anna Fowler (22) (skip), Hetty Garnier (18), Lauren Pearce (21), Naomi Robinson  (19) and Lucy Sparks (17) came back from the European B Group Championships in Stavanger, Norway at the end of November with a bronze medal. This was a fantastic achievement for such a young team and bodes well for the future if they can stay together through the University years and beyond.

It was a tough week punctuated by illness for a couple of the players who were also not used to playing 10-end games of such frequency. The only previous time they had played 10 ends was in the English Championships where they had 5 games to play before they won it, coming from 2 games down to win 3-2 overall.

There were 10 teams in the B Group which meant 9 round-robin games over 5 days and they got off to the best possible start by scoring a 5 at the first end against the newly promoted Slovenia, eventually winning 15-3 after 6 ends. So that was a gentle introduction to the competition and the next game against Belarus, also promoted from the C Group, started in a similar fashion with England 6-0 up after 2 ends, before eventually winning 10-4 in 7 ends.

Game 3 against Poland was the first big challenge as the Poles, skipped by Elzbieta Ran had beaten England in the last 2 Europeans and this time it looked like a similar thing happening. England were never in front in the game, having to come from behind to draw level 3 times, until the last end when they stole a 2 to win 7-5 and we started to believe that something special could happen.

It was Turkey in game 4 and while we had beaten them in the last 2 Europeans, it had been mighty close in Karlstad. This was another close game initially but 3 stolen ends in the middle of the game to give Turkey a 6-2 lead proved decisive as our unbeaten record went, courtesy of a 7-4 defeat. Things were now tight at the top of the table as after 4 games Finland, Estonia, Turkey and England had all won 3 out of 4 games.

Over the years Austria have proved formidable opponents for England and we had only beaten them 3 times in 14 attempts, the last being back in 2006 in Basel. Constanze Hummelt has moved up to skip this year for them and with a 2-2 record after 4 games they were well in the mix. This game was a thriller and Hetty and Anna kept the best to the end. Fortunes ebbed to and fro and Austria appeared to have made a breakthrough when they stole a single at the 7th end to go into a 6-4 lead. But England came back with a 2 to level it after 8 before Austria took 1 at the 9th to lead 7-6 though England had the hammer.

The last end looked like Austria’s with stones around the button until Hetty played two dead draws to nudge Austria out of shot position. Time was also counting down and though it was never going to be a decisive factor, it did mean that when Anna came to play her last stone, after an Austrian saver had cut us done to lying just 1, she needed time to compose herself to play a delicate tee+ weight tap to get a second stone into the clutch that were lying within the 4 foot. To great roars from the travelling England support of 3, or maybe 4 by that time, she made a great shot under extreme pressure to collect 2 and the victory by 8-6. Meanwhile Turkey had lost to Finland and we were down to 3 teams tying for the lead.

Into game 6 and it was Spain skipped by the big-hitting Irantzu Garcia who, in spite of her youth, has a lot of experience in World level competition at Mixed, Mixed Doubles and Ladies Championships and she is well known to the England team as they have played against each other at Juniors for a number of years. This game started off slowly with 2 blank ends before a  1 and 2 for England gave them an early lead. Some careless play at the 5th end and Spain got 2 back again but a 2 at the 6th and a 5-2 lead seemed to have settled England. However, 2 ends later and it was 5-5 and the spectators were starting to sense that this game might be running away from England until  a 2 at the 9th settled the nerves before we ran them out of stones at the 10th – but it had been mighty close again.

So that had been a manic Monday with those 2 last stone thrillers and the girls were feeling the effect of playing 10 end games on keen ice where the sweeping was critical to dragging that extra foot or two out of a draw. That was 4 games in a row that had been nerve-janglers all the way.

Hungary were relegated last year from the A group and while they were still skipped by Ildiko Szekeres, there were a couple of changes in the team and they were struggling to get the wins on the board, having only won 2 out of the 6 played. Another team against whom England have a poor record, having never beaten them in 4 previous encounters, but as in the previous 4 games this week, this one went to the very end. Hungary led 3-1 at half time, having just stolen a single but the fighting spirit of this England team saw them edge in front by 4-3 after 7 ends. Hungary levelled it in the 8th and then stole a crucial 2 in the 9th before running us out of stones in the 10th.

The good thing from our point of view in this session was that Estonia also lost and so, although Finland were now clear in front with 6 wins, England were level on 5 wins with Estonia and still one win ahead of Turkey on 4. Meanwhile Spain were slipping into the danger zone with only 2 wins, the same as a resurgent Poland, (who after 5 straight losses had won 2 in a row) and Slovenia, who had beaten both Spain and Hungary as they fought to put behind them that first game drubbing by England and further big losses to Finland by 12-2 and Estonia by 13-1. In the end that was as far as they would get and they ended up back in Group C for next season along, surprisingly, with Spain who failed to win any of their last 4 games.

Two games to go then for England, and against the top 2 teams  - quite a challenge and while they were actually now guaranteed at least a tie-breaker, one more win would get them over that hurdle if other results went their way. So it was important to try and beat Estonia in the next game as they were possibly an easier team than Finland. Estonia are a country who England had the slight edge over having beaten them 3 times out of 5 over the years, but the games have been ever more closely fought as the years have gone by. 

Not since the second game of the week against Belarus had England played fewer than 10 ends and this game continued that sequence. 

This time the 5-2 lead at half-time was in favour of the Estonians who had out-thought Anna to take a 3 at the 4th end. This really was a game of two halves though and by the 9th end we had scored 4 shots without reply to lead 6-5, but in the tenth end, without the hammer, we were unable to get the stones in place for a chance of a steal, Estonia got their 2 and England lost by 6-7.

And so to game 9, the last of the round-robin and all sorts of permutations were possible – obviously if we beat Finland then we were into the play-offs, but if we lost there could be a nightmare scenario of having to play 2 tie-breakers to qualify, though other results could send us straight through without any. There was only one thing for it and that was to win against a Finnish team that had already qualified for the play-offs. 

England had not beaten Finland since 2002 and had won only 5 out of 18 games between the two countries but by this time the girls were determined to get their hands on a medal and they produced a great performance against a country who were relegated from the A group last year. A storming start saw them take 2 shots in each of the first two ends and maintain that 4 shot lead (6-2) at half time. A further steal of one in the 6th and then an exchange of 2s and it was 9-4 for England after 8 – would Finland shake hands or carry on – they had nothing to lose and it was into a 9th end. For maybe only the second time in the week, the England girls looked a bit vulnerable and maybe they thought that they had the game won because suddenly Finland scored 3 shots at the 9th and it was now 9-7 – the game was still on. However England pulled themselves together and, with the spectators more nervous than the players, they held on and won by 10-7. 

And that was the end of the first stage – 9 games played, 6 games won and 83 ends played,  and 3rd place in the final round robin standings. Not only that but also Anna’s Draw Shot Challenge of 30.6cms average was nearly 10cms better than the next country, Estonia at 40.3cms and would have been 5th overall if she had been playing in the A Group!! A great performance which meant that they had had last stone at the first end in 7 of their games.  In addition they never lost more than 3 at any end and they only lost two 3’s, while scoring three 4s and a 5.

Now they had to wait to see who they would play in the Page 3 / 4 game as Austria, Turkey and Hungary had tied for 4th place on 5 wins. The Draw Shot Challenge scores meant that Turkey would play Hungary in a tie-breaker, the winner of that game would play Austria and the winner of that second tie-breaker would be England’s opponents. In the tie-breakers Turkey beat Hungary 7-6, but then lost to Austria by 10-5 and so it was another chance for England to improve the record against the Alpine misses.

Austria had not lost a 3 at any end in any of the round-robin games but in this 3 / 4 play-off against England they lost 3! However, that fact does not adequately define England’s victory because after 7 ends it was 7-6 to Austria. Then the dam burst and a 3 at the 8th was followed by a 3 at the 9th and it was 12-7 for England and a place in the semi-final against Estonia. This was also the 100th win for an England ladies team in European and World Championships.

Still no medal was guaranteed but victory would mean gold or silver and a place in Group A for next season and a chance, if they won that final, to play-off against Germany for a place in the World Championship. Defeat by Estonia and it would be back to the bronze medal game – against Austria (again)!!
Estonia began the semi- final by blanking the first three ends and then scoring 5 shots in the next 3 ends. A single for England at the 7th was followed by another 2 for Estonia at the 8th and after scoring one at the 9th the English girls shook hands and prepared for their 12th game of the week and their third against Austria! England coach, John Sharp, reckoned that the Estonians missed nothing at all in the game, the best performance in the Group all week.

And so to game number 3 against Austria, and another close one, but this time, apart from after the first end, England were never down and from a 5-2 position at half time they kept their game together to win 7-5. Bronze medals – the first for the ladies team since Kirsty Balfour and her team won gold in Fussen in 2007 and the first for a team of English born and bred players, raised through the Junior ranks at Fenton’s Rink in Kent. For three of the team the next challenge is to qualify for the World Juniors at the European Junior Challenge in Finland in January and this performance in Norway must give them so much confidence for that competition.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


The English Curling Association was formed in 1971. It is a full member of the European Curling Federation (until this body is disbanded in 2014) and the World Curling Federation and is also a member of British Curling, the organisation which manages Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic curling programmes.

The English Curling Association aims to support, promote and develop the sport of curling in England, to unite curlers throughout England in the brotherhood of curling, to regulate the affairs of its members and to represent its members on International Confederations. It also sends teams to major International competitions.

The Executive Council of the ECA includes representatives from all areas of the country though curling can only be played at one location in England, Fenton’s Rink, Dundale Farm, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, but the Association hopes that further venues will be found as a result of Britain’s participation in the Olympic Games.

History of English Curling
The sport of curling is more than 500 years old and its true origin is hidden in the mists of time, but it was in Scotland where it evolved over the centuries and also where the mother club of curling, The Royal Caledonian Curling Club was formed in 1838. The sport has of course evolved through the years and the latest change on how it is played was introduced in 1990 when the free guard zone rule was introduced. In 1998 the sport became a full medal sport at the Olympics.
Early records indicate that curling was first played in the North of England at the end of the 18th century with a bonspiel being recorded as having taken place in 1795 between England and the Border Counties of Scotland. In 1811 a few Scots curled on the New River, a canal in North London, attracting such a large crowd that the ice was in danger of breaking and they were obliged to stop playing. A similar thing happened in 1847 when 2 Scottish Members of Parliament played on the Serpentine in London.
The first club was founded in Leeds in 1820, followed by Liverpool in 1839 and by 1914 there were 37 clubs playing in the North of England. England’s most important contribution to 19th century curling was the invention of a means of making artificial ice. In 1877 a rink opened in Manchester and the World’s first curling match on artificial ice took place in March of that year. The rink soon closed but another was opened at Southport, Lancashire in 1879 and survived until 1890.
After the failure of Southport some curling was played at Prince’s Skating and Curling Club in London and then in 1910 the Manchester Ice Palace opened and curling was played there until 1962. Following the closure of Manchester, ice was found at Blackpool between 1965 and 1970, but there has been no regular curling in the North since then.
Meanwhile, in the South, Richmond Ice Rink featured curling between 1951 and 1980. Since then a number of ice rinks in and around London have been used for curling - Streatham, Peterborough, Chelmsford, Aldershot, and Alexandra Palace in North London where 2 International Bonspiels and the Triangular International weekend (Scotland v England v Wales) were staged. Richmond (9 times), Streatham (1982) and Peterborough (1985 and 1987) have also staged International matches between England and Scotland.
In 1997 curling stopped at Alexandra Palace and for many years there was nowhere in England to play regularly. Thankfully, in 2004, Ernest Fenton decided to create a dedicated curling rink in Kent, near Tunbridge Wells. Fenton’s Rink is now the home of the South of England Curling Club, the Kent and Sussex Junior Curling Club and the London Curling Club and several other groups who meet there regularly.
Elsewhere in England there is a distinct lack of places to play curling. To hire ice time at one of the 42 ice rinks around the country depends on an organisation’s willingness to pay the highest price for a suitable time slot. Generally, curlers cannot compete with the hundreds of leisure skaters for prime ice times and the management of the rinks are not interested in maintaining the level, smooth and consistent ice surface required for the sport of curling to succeed. Currently the main area of interest is Sheffield where iceSheffield in Attercliffe offer curling to anyone who wants to place a booking, but it has no organised or regular curling sessions.
There have been many plans for further dedicated curling rinks over the years and one which looks like coming on stream soon is the Berkshire Curling Centre near Bracknell which is being developed by Stephen Hinds who has been playing curling for over 30 years.
By comparison, there are around 30 Ice Rinks in Scotland where curling is played with approximately one tenth of the population of England. With this imbalance in facilities compared to population, it is not surprising that Scotland is the dominant force in British Curling and has provided all the players for the Great Britain Olympic Teams!  In 2012 ,however, a member of the ECA, Angharad Ward, was selected for the Great Britain Youth Olympic Games squad at the games held in Innsbruck.
Some English curlers outside the London area travel to rinks just over the Scottish border, such as Lockerbie and Kelso, or to Deesside in Wales, and many from all over the country travel to weekend competitions throughout Europe. As well as the clubs mentioned above who play at Fenton’s there are 2 other clubs which are currently active - Preston (who play at Lockerbie) and Glendale in Northumberland (who play at Kelso).
Teams have represented the Association in European Championships (men, women, junior men, junior women and mixed) and World Championships (men, women, junior men, senior men, senior women, mixed doubles and wheelchair). The best results have been bronze medals for the women in the 1976 European Championships and in the 2003 World Senior Women’s Championship. The best results for the men have been 4th in the 1990 European Championships and the 2005 World Senior Championship while the Wheelchair team came 4th in the 2004 World Wheelchair Championships.
In recent years, the addition of a B division in the European Championships has led to further medals, with the women winning a wonderful GOLD medal in 2007. Other medals have been: silver for the men in 2001 and the women in 2002 and bronze for the men in 2000, 2004 and 2011, and for the women in 2000, 2005 and 2006

Saturday, 11 May 2013







The following news article has just been published on the British Curling website

2013 Winter Universities Games Team Nomination Announcement
The following athletes have been nominated by British Curling to British Universities & Colleges Sports (BUCS) to represent Great Britain at the 2013 Winter University Games to be held in Trentino Italy 11- 21st December 2013
1. Hannah Fleming
2. Lauren Gray
3. Jennifer Dodds
4. Abi Brown
5. Alice Spence
1. Kyle Smith
2. Thomas Muirhead
3. Kyle Waddell
4. Cameron Smith
5. Grant Hardie

Following nomination BUCS will review and confirm selections to the Teams, which will remain conditional regarding the athletes maintaining their educational eligibility status up to and during the Games.

Performance Director for British & Scottish Curling, Dave Crosbee – commented “I’d like to congratulate all the athletes we have nominated to BUCS, as it is always a great honour to represent your country at major Games such as WUGS. It is a recognition of the hard work they have put in over the past years, the results they have shown and British Curling’s belief in their potential to go on to greater things at World, European and Olympic levels. British Curling sees the WUGS as a very important step in the pathway to Olympic success by allowing our athletes to experience another major multisport event against very high levels of competition. I wish all of the athletes the best in their preparations and at the Games themselves.

Friday, 12 April 2013


According to Wikipedia, Fredericton is an important cultural, artistic, and educational centre for the province of New Brunswick, Canada, home to two universities, the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design, and cultural institutions such as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the York Sunbury Museum, and The Playhouse—a performing arts venue. The city hosts the annual Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, attracting regional and international jazz, blues, rock, and world artists. Fredericton is also known for its indie rock scene.

What Wikipedia does not mention is that Fredericton is the venue for the next week of the World Senior and World Mixed Doubles Championships in which England's men - Michael Sutherland (playing in his 10th World Seniors - a record for men and only surpassed by Liz Matthews of New Zealand who has played 11 times in the Senior Women's), Tommy Campbell, John Summers, Charles Jackson and Alastair Fyfe,  and England's Mixed Doubles pair of Anna Fowler and Ben Fowler are participating.

Press Releases from the World Curling Federation tell us that:

"Curling fans around the world can follow live coverage of the Mixed Doubles  via the World Curling Federation’s YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/WorldCurlingTV which will be embedded onto the homepage of the event website http://wmdcc2013.curlingevents.com"

Looking at the schedule on the website http://wmdcc2013.curlingevents.com/wmdcc-2013-live-coverage-schedule it does not look as though any of England's games are scheduled though there are some gaps later in the week when they will choose games depending on the state of play in the various sections - so there may be a chance then.

For the Seniors the message is:

"For more information about the event, visit:  http://www.wscc2013.curlingevents.com"

It will be a busy week for the teams with the Seniors having 9 round robin games and the MD having 8.

The full schedules are available on the websites but just to help you along here they are with the times of the games converted to OUR time here in the UK (they are 4 hours behind over there):


Saturday 13th 1230 - Finland
Saturday 13th 2000 - Netherlands
Sunday 14th 1930 - Canada
Monday 15th 1600 - Russia
Monday 15th 2300 - Denmark
Tuesday 16th 2300 - Germany
Wednesday 17th 1600 - Sweden
Wednesday 17th 2300 - Australia
Thursday 18th 1600 - USA


Saturday 13th 1300 - Latvia
Saturday 13th 2400 - Scotland
Sunday 14th 1830 - Norway
Monday 15th 1300 - Slovakia
Monday 15th 2330 - Sweden
Tuesday 16th 1830 - Finland
Wednesday 17th 2330 - Netherlands
Thursday 18th 1830 - Estonia

Monday, 11 March 2013

Final Mixed Results and Skills Award Winners

Sorry about the clumsy title but wanted to make sure that you read to the end of this post are there are two distinct stories included.

ECA Mixed Championships

In my previous post I said

"Results so far point to a Sharp v Zachary final as both should win their games tomorrow morning at 0930, but this is curling......"

After 7 ends and 15 stones in the respective last session round robin games John Sharp was peels at 7-7 and had a half hidden stone to remove from the rings to win his game against John Brown, while Bryan Zachary, also tied at 7-7, could only wait and see if Fiona Hawker would outdraw his last stone.

In the end John did and Fiona didn't and we had a final between John who was undefeated and Bryan who had only lost the one game (to John) in the round robin. If Fiona had drawn the shot to beat Bryan then we could all have gone home early as Bryan would have been 2 wins behind John in the final standings.

And the final also went the distance - one down with the hammer, John had to draw the 4 foot to get his 2 and win the Championship and this he duly achieved to win 5-4 and so a trip to Scotland in September for the European Mixed Championships awaits John, Lorna Rettig, Nigel Patrick and Alison Hemmings, all of whom are Scottish born and took up curling while still youngsters in Scotland.

ECA MIXED CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS - Alison Hemmings, Nigel Patrick, Lorna Rettig, John Sharp (Photo courtesy of  Stephen Hinds)

John won the Scottish Schools and Scottish Juniors while Lorna was runner-up in the Scottish Schools and Nigel was runner up in the National Pairs in their past lives. Alison was in Sweden for the Europeans this year with the English ladies, Lorna has played in the Europeans 6 times, and also in the World Mixed Doubles while John has played in 4 World Mixed Doubles, 1 with Lorna and also in the World Junior Championship for Scotland and the World Senior Championship for England!!

Final round scores:

Andrew Woolston 11 Ken Maxwell  4
John Sharp 10 John Brown 7
Bryan Zachary 8 Fiona Hawker 7

Final round-robin standings

John Sharp 5-0
Bryan Zachary 4-1
Andrew Woolston 2-3
Ken Maxwell 2-3
Fiona Hawker 1-4
John Brown 1-4

Junior Skills Awards Winners

Following the example of the RCCC, the ECA has started a Junior Skills Award programme for the many young curlers coming to Fenton's,  and this is also available of course to Juniors elsewhere in the country.

The first assessment evening was held last Tuesday and 6 of the successful candidates received their Orange Award certificates on Sunday at the Mixed Championship presentation as shown below. It is hoped they will go on now to the higher grades - Bronze, Silver and Gold and that others will follow their example. There is a lower Yellow Grade also available.

ORANGE SKILLS AWARD WINNERS: Ben Fowler, Rebecca Watts, Sarah Decoine, Amy Burnett, Shannon Conlin, Kitty Conlin (Photo courtesy of Stephen Hinds) [Not present was Bonnie Marsden]