June 29, 2007

Young Scots off to WCF Summer Camp in Fussen

Colin Dick, Lindsay Gray, Ally Fraser and Ian Copland, who won the Royal Club's U-17 Grand Slam last season, together with Anna Sloan, Lauren Gray, Rhiann Macleod and Caitlin Barr, who were the highest-up girls' rink, set off today for the World Curling Federation's Summer Camp in Fussen, Germany. The trip was the prize for the Slam event which comprised four under-seventeen competitions in different rinks in its first successful season.

The Scots will join more than one hundred other young curlers from all over Europe. Instruction at the camp will cover areas such as delivery analysis and development, team communication, strategy, training drills and practice plans, sweeping, ice reading, stone matching, mental preparation and season planning.

Inverness ACDO Lynne Fraser and soon to be the RCCC Development Manager, Judith McFarlane, will attend the camp as coaches.

Photo shows Judith at left with the Scottish party as they checked in for their flight to Munich.

June 28, 2007

Curlers in the news ....... in England!

Congratulations go to Jim Buchanan, the RCCC Area Development Officer for the Borders, who received a 'Services to Sport' award at the North East Disability Sports Achievement Awards hosted jointly by NPower and the English Federation of Disability Sport at the Riverside Suite, Durham County Cricket Club, last Monday. Well done Jim.
Alister Martin was ice technician at Gogar Park for eight years, training under Scott Henderson. The 31 year old from Edinburgh is to be the new manager at Fenton's Rink in Kent. For the last couple of years Alister has been helping out in different ways at Murrayfield. Popular and multi-talented, Alister will be a real asset to the English rink. Good luck to you, Alister.

June 27, 2007

Gogar curlers hope for the future

An Extraordinary General Meeting of Gogar Park Curling Club was held at the Braid Hills Hotel yesterday (Tuesday June 26) to gain support from the membership for the business plan for a new rink. To take things forward 75% of the members of the club, either present at the EGM or voting by proxy, had to be in favour. In a letter to members President Malcolm Wright had emphasized the importance of the meeting for the future direction of the Gogar Park Club and urged all members to attend. The outcome? There was overwhelming support for going forward with the proposals.

The full eighty-page business plan is available on the club website.

Obtaining financial support is the essential part of the plan: donations of around £250,000 are in place. A long-term loan of £1 million has been agreed in principle, but has to be confirmed. Uncertainties lie in the club being able to obtain a Regional Centre of Excellence Grant of £500,000, and the National Centre of Excellence/National Curling Academy funding of £500,000.

Gogar's original home closed on April 9, 2005, a consequence of the Royal Bank of Scotland's development of its new headquarters. An attempt to relocate to Kirknewton fell through. The proposed new site for the club is at Ratho, adjacent to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. There is optimism that planning permission can be obtained. However, as the business plan sets out clearly, there are significant hurdles to be overcome before the new rink becomes a reality.

The top illustration, from the business plan, is an artist's impression of how the new rink might look - the grass roof to help reduce the visual impact on the landscape. Immediately above is where the rink will be sited in relation to the climbing centre.

Glynhill Ladies Invitation website now live

The new women's international invitation event to be held at Braehead in January now has its own website. Check it out.

Kelly Scott's Canadian World Champions are already confirmed in the line up, see here.

June 26, 2007

Judith McFarlane to be the Royal Club's Manager of Development

Judith McFarlane, currently the Braehead Curling Officer, is to become the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's Manager of Development. Judith will take over from Gordie Kennedy who leaves the post in July. The RCCC's announcement of the appointment is here.

As Development Manager, Judith will be responsible for managing current plans and implementing new initiatives for developing the sport in Scotland. The post is funded by sportscotland. She heads up a team of development officers based in rinks throughout the country. One of these posts at Aberdeen, currently unfilled, has just been re-advertised here.

Judith has been in her post at Braehead for two years. She will be missed there. One of her main responsibilities was in corporate curling, which she has expanded significantly. Coincidentally, her predecessor at the Braehead rink, Lynne Robertson, also moved on to Cairnie House where she is currently the National Coaching Officer.

Recently I heard Judith speak eloquently about her development work at Braehead. She is young, and she is enthusiastic. She knows the sport well, was Scottish Junior Champion at third in 2004, and competed in the Gold League last season. She has been instrumental in setting up the organisation for the Glynhill Ladies International next January, and she will continue to be involved with that. She is also the local organiser of the big Curlathon in September. (Have you entered yet?)

She featured in this blog just last week when she got involved in the Renfrewshire Special Games. She will be in charge of the RCCC's summer camp in August. Indeed, she will attend the World Curling Federation's international junior camp in Fussen next week with our Under-17 Slam winning teams. She's someone who likes to get involved - that's her on the left, hands free on the zip line at the National Junior Squad training weekend last summer!

Our best wishes go to Judith for the challenges her new job will bring.

June 25, 2007

The continuing saga of Charles Lees's curling masterpiece

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club owns a large oil painting by Charles Lees of the Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch. This took place on January 25, 1848. Thirty-five northern rinks played an equal number of southern rinks, with a further hundred southern rinks playing matches amongst themselves. Including spectators, some six thousand persons were present. The painting is not an accurate representation of the day, it being a composite portrait of all the curling notables of Scotland, Lees using artistic licence to include them as if they had been there. There is evidence to suggest that Lees travelled to the homes of curlers to sketch them, so that their likenesses could be accurately included in the large painting which was completed in 1849. The painting shows clearly the curlers’ dress and the single soled stones which were in use at the time. The painting was purchased by the Royal Club following a decision taken at the AGM in July, 1898.

I first saw the painting in the early 1960s when it hung at the old Perth rink. It fascinated me then, and continues to do so. Lees is well known for 'The Golfers' which was purchased by the National Galleries of Scotland in 2002 and is on display in Edinburgh. A photo of Charles Lees is here.

One year ago in 2006 the Royal Club asked auction house Sotheby's to value Lees's Grand Match painting so it would know what insurance cover to provide. There was good news, and bad news for Royal Club members.

The good news was that the painting was now worth a substantial sum of money, potentially in excess of £500,000. The bad news was that it needed renovation and when repaired it would be very expensive to insure.

Sotheby’s was instructed to assess interest in the painting from their private client list with the option to go to an auction sale in autumn 2007.

Meanwhile the RCCC Board of Directors sought the opinion of members about what to do with the painting. The Board believed that there were only three options:
1. Keep the painting but do not restore it
2. Keep the painting and restore it
3. Sell the painting

There were other options of course, such as simply giving it, or loaning it, to the National Galleries of Scotland, but these were not canvassed.

Option 3 received the most support, although concern was expressed that if the painting went to an open auction it might well be bought by a private buyer and disappear abroad, never to be on view in Scotland again. This concern was heeded by the RCCC Board and by February it seemed that the future of the painting had been secured. Sotheby's was instructed to continue as the selling agent but negotiations were to be with the National Galleries of Scotland only!

Four months later these two parties are still in discussion. Sotheby's, quite naturally, will want to sell the painting for as large a sum as possible to maximise the percentage fee they will receive. The National Galleries of Scotland, quite naturally, will want to pay as little as possible for the painting.

It is a strange arrangement. The Royal Club Board wants Sotheby's to sell the painting and at the same time it wants the National Galleries of Scotland to purchase it. But both seller's agent and the prospective purchaser clearly have their own, very different, interests.

Where does that leave us, the curlers of Scotland to whom the painting belongs? We are represented by the Royal Club Directors, who appear to be standing back from the discussions. Will they step in if the negotiations reach a stalemate?

The most recent 'negotiating tactic' by the National Galleries has been the production of a report which apparently states that the cost of repairing the painting will be much more than at first thought (the detail of this report is confidential, according to RCCC CEO Colin Grahamslaw). However at the recent RCCC AGM it was stated that if the sale does go ahead it will be a year before the painting is again on display.

Colin says that 'it may be another month or so' before we learn the outcome of the negotiations. Call me a pessimist if you like but I suspect this story has a long way yet to run!

The reproduction of Lees's painting is from David B Smith's book Curling: An Illustrated History. The detail of the original painting is from the Scottish Curler archive.

June 21, 2007

Royal Club rock(s)

Yes, it is a strange title, but bear with me.

Some 150,000 visitors are expected to visit the Royal Highland Show in the four days before it closes on Sunday evening. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club's headquarters are within the 100 acres of the showground. As has become traditional, the Royal Club has put up a small marquee adjacent to Cainie House to welcome any curlers visiting the show, with coffee and a friendly chat the order of the day.

Today I was welcomed by Vice-president Matt Murdoch, and hospitality provided by National Disability Curling Officer Sheila Swan, Area Development Officer Claire Milne, and other volunteers manning the stand. All very enjoyable.

Inside Cairnie House work was going on as usual, although I did note a number of well kent curlers stopping by to greet Duthie Thomson, the Royal Club Secretary from 1994 to 2004, before this post was replaced by a CEO and Board of Directors. Duthie is now the Manager of Finance and Administration for the RCCC. Last Saturday at the AGM he announced his plans to retire when his 65th birthday comes around - although having said that I gather he will stay the course until the current year's finances are all in order, by next April! Many will miss Duthie's friendly welcome when he does go.

Oh yes, the rock. A new Royal Club marketing item, being given away in the marquee, is a small piece of blue and white edible hard candy - a piece of lettered rock. It says RCCC in the middle! Connection with curling? It's in the name of course, and it only took me ten minutes before the penny dropped.

Is the Royal Club trying to sweeten us up for something? (Sorry!) Seriously, the RCCC sweeties taste so good that I have been wondering whether my local dental practice might be interested in sponsoring a curling event next season!

When I was a boy, with my stick of Blackpool rock with all the lettering running through it, I often wondered, "How did they do that?" Nowadays, a quick google on the Web and it's here.

British Curling co-opts top wheelchair curler to Board

British Curling has announced that two-time world wheelchair curling champion and paralympic silver medallist Frank Duffy has been co-opted to the Board of Directors. British Curling, the organisation responsible for the British curling teams at the Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics, has apparently decided to employ a rankings structure for wheelchair curling which will enable curlers to receive technical rankings achieved through competitions. Frank’s remit will be 'to work with the new structure in conjunction with the selection process, which will identify individuals to be included in the British Podium and Development Squads for the Paralympic Games in 2010'.

The job of Head Wheelchair Coach is currently being advertised. Closing date for that position is June 29.

With his considerable experience Frank is certain to be an asset to the BC Board, currently comprising Chris Hildrey (chairman), Derek Brown (performance director), Hew Chalmers, Alan Chalmers and Mike Gillespie.

The full press release with quotes can be seen here.

June 19, 2007

Development Officers at Renfrewshire Special Games

Just in case you thought that our Area Curling Development Officers put their feet up during the summer, here is the news that two of them, David Horne and Judith McFarlane, helped out recently at the Renfrewshire Special Games.

Last week Renfrewshire Council launched its first ever special games for children with physical, sensory and learning disabilities. Around 350 primary and secondary pupils from across Renfrewshire schools, including Kersland Schools, Clippens Schools and Mary Russell School, took part in a special two day event at Linwood Sports Centre on June 14 and 15.

New Age Kurling was one of the ten sports that the children had the opportunity to try. If you've never come across this indoor game check out its history here. The plastic disks run on ball bearings and can be adapted for all sorts of different games. Even the profoundly handicapped can have fun, with stones being delivered down ramps, as shown in the photo gallery.

David and Judith led the indoor 'curling' at the two day event. It was a great success with many of the schools expressing interest in trying real curling on ice next season!

And it's not just those with disabilities who can enjoy kurling. Check out the photo below. That's European Champion Ludmilla Privivkova delivering ...... on the floor of Houston Primary School's assembly hall (that's Houston, Renfrewshire, in case you were wondering), when the Russian team paid a goodwill visit during the World Women's Championship in 2005. I don't recall who won the kurling challenge, but both team and children had a great time and the kids came along to Paisley's Lagoon Centre to support 'their' team when the event got underway. There's a pic of the Russians on the ice at Paisley here.

June 18, 2007

Wuthrich and Merklinger will make ice for 2010 Olympic curling

The World Curling Federation (WCF) has announced today (June 18) that two Canadians have been selected as curling ice technicians for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Hans Wuthrich of Gimli, Manitoba, has been named Head Ice Technician and Dave Merklinger of Vernon, British Columbia, has been named Assistant Head Ice Technician for the XXI Olympic Winter Games, which will take place February 12-28, 2010.

The official press release notes that the pair will also team up to test the competition surface a year earlier. The 2009 World Junior Curling Championship will be staged at the Hillcrest/Nat Bailey Stadium Park and will serve as an official test event.

The full WCF release, with all the quotes, is already up on The Curling News Blog, and will also be here.

Wuthrich is generally acknowledged to be the world's leading ice technician. Last year he looked after the 2006 Le Gruyère European Championships in Basel, Switzerland, and the 2007 World Women's Championship in Aomori, Japan. Merklinger too is right up there with the best. He introduced a 'clean ice' zone at the Ford Worlds last season, in response to criticisms that came his way following lots of pickups at the Brier.

The Olympics has to be the biggest challenge for any ice technician. The best curlers in the world deserve the best ice. It is the showcase for our sport, with so many watching it for the first time. At the Pinerolo Palaghiaccio in 2006 the championships were somewhat let down by the quality of the ice. Let's hope 2010 will be different!

Royal Club looking ahead

Two seminars were held last Saturday morning at Glenrothes and gave a good insight into a couple of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's current initiatives in our sport. The first of these, on 'Club Development' was presented by Development Manager Gordie Kennedy, assisted by Area Development Officers David Horne and Judith McFarlane. Gordie used an analogy of whisky production to highlight the steps involved in 'curler production'! The seminar introduced a new Club Development Manual, which forms part of the RCCC's long term player development strategy, set to be rolled out in the year ahead. At the heart of the plan is each curling club, although the focus is really towards ice rinks, and the benefits for all twenty-five Scottish rinks having a 'development group'.

The Club Development Manual has been created and supplied with funding from sportscotland and will be rolled out to ice rinks before the beginning of next season. Gordie is leaving his post soon, and this initiative will have to be picked up by his successor. The job is currently being advertised.

National Coaching Officer Lynne Robertson revealed her plans for a coach education pathway, complementing the long term player development strategy. This involves seven possible levels to be attained, from 'assistant coach' who helps out teaching beginners, to 'high performance team coach'. Progression is underpinned by the availability of learning modules, which can be tapped into by each coach as required.

Following Lynne's seminar, the independent Scotcurl Coaches Association met for the last time. At an EGM, members voted that the group be wound up, and a new RCCC Coaching committee is to be formed.

So what else does the future hold? The Scottish National Party's manifesto undertakes to do away with sportscotland. As the quango is curling's major source of funding, this could have major implications for the sport. Certainly it must be an uncertain time for those employed at sportscotland's premises at the Gyle in Edinburgh, already under pressure with the proposed move to new headquarters in Glasgow, sited in the new national indoor sports arena and velodrome complex being built in association with the bid to host the 2014 Commonweath Games. CEO Colin Grahamslaw is in touch with the Minister for Communities and Sport, Stewart Maxwell, and does not expect anything to change immediately. Doug Gillon's take on all this can be found here.

The Royal Club itself, overflowing its own headquarters at Cairnie House, will have to relocate anyway as Edinburgh Airport expands into the Ingliston Showground site. Interesting times lie ahead!

The practical aspects of how club members should be represented on the Area Standing Committee is still being discussed. At issue is whether the status quo of election from Areas be maintained, or whether representation should be from ice rinks. The Ladies Standing Committee already uses the latter way of forming their committee.

The 'mission' of the new Royal Caledonian Curling Club Board in the year ahead, as revealed by Chairman Mike Ferguson at the AGM, has two strands: to increase participation on and off the ice, and to increase medal success. Success will be easy to judge at next year's AGM on June 14, 2008. And that day may be different too. Under discussion are proposals for a 'conference' with an expanded programme of seminars, the AGM, all followed up by the Gala Awards Dinner in the evening.

June 17, 2007

Facts and figures from the RCCC AGM

Only one hundred of Scotland's 568 curling clubs sent representatives to the Royal Club's AGM at Glenrothes yesterday, see previous post. There had been a general invitation to all curlers, although a mailing glitch saw members all receive invitations addressed to someone else. Chairman Mike Ferguson made an apology at the AGM. "Lessons have been learned," he says. Still, there seemed to be a good turnout of non-voting members for the two and a half hour meeting.

Financially, the Royal Club appears in good shape, with a £9,000 surplus in the Annual Accounts, and membership fees for next year remain unchanged (£16 for ordinary members, with reduced fees for juniors aged 18-21 at £8, and £4 for those under 18). The number of registered curlers in Scotland at March 31, 2007, was 12,791, plus 797 juniors, down slightly from 13,140 with 781 juniors last year.

Income from grants (particularly from sportscotland) continues to increase ..... to £427,000 this year, and this of course has allowed the new initiatives in the National Academy announced recently.

The election results for the two vacancies for Elected Directors on the Board were also announced yesterday. The three candidates were Irene Hird (Dollar Ladies), Lockhart Steele (Lesmahagow), William Nicoll (Bank of Scotland - Fife).

A total of 238 clubs cast a postal vote, of which 219 were considered to be valid. Each club could pick up to two candidates. The numbers recorded for each were:
Lockhart Steele - 187
Irene Hird - 144
William Nicoll - 80

Irene and Lockhart will now serve on the Board for three years. Other members include Mike Ferguson (Chairman), Bob Tait, Jeanette Johnston, Anne Malcolm and Colin Grahamslaw (CEO), plus Tommy Hinnigan, the Royal Club President who was elected unopposed at the AGM yesterday.

The postal voting for these posts can certainly be seen as successful. The previous problem with spoilt ballot papers, although still present, is much improved. The background to this? The decision to adopt a new constitution was made at the Royal Club AGM just two years ago. The first elections were held in October 2005, using postal voting for the first time.
Six were elected from ten candidates, to serve from one to three years. In total, two hundred and eighty-three clubs were to cast a vote, a substantial increase in the numbers that usually attend the AGM or which might have been expected to turn up for a Special Meeting. However, 24% were regarded as being invalid, and were put aside. So just two hundred and fifteen ballots were tallied.

A year later, when postal voting was again in force, one hundred and eighty-two clubs cast a vote, but fifty-five ballots were spoiled (30%) and so only one hundred and twenty-seven clubs were held to have cast valid votes. After that election CEO Colin Grahamslaw took on board the need for a simplified ballot form to cut down on the spoilt papers.

This time, as noted above, 238 votes were received with 219 valid (8% invalid). Some of the reasons for the spoilt papers are indicated here.

Special mention was made of Scotland's two teams, skipped by Sarah Reid and Keith Prentice, who won GOLD last year. WCF Vice-president Kate Caithness presented the winner's banner to Keith and his team (the World Seniors Champions) yesterday (photo).

June 16, 2007

Former WCF President Roy Sinclair honoured at Royal Club AGM

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club AGM was held at the Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, today (June 16). Amongst all the business, a very special honour was bestowed upon Roy Sinclair, a former RCCC President and until recently the President of the World Curling Federation. Roy was asked to become an Honorary Member of the Royal Club. There are only two other such Members - His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and Alan Johnston, the former RCCC President from Aberdeen.

In accepting, Roy spoke about his involvement with our sport and recalled how he became involved in its politics! He was visibly moved by being honoured in this way by the Royal Club, and when he finished speaking he received a standing ovation from the members present.

Other highlights of the meeting saw the announcement of the results of the Board elections. Irene Hird was re-elected to serve for a further three years. Lockhart Steele was elected for the first time.

Tommy Hinnigan is now Royal Club President, and Matt Murdoch became Vice-president.

I'll post more details from what was an interesting and enjoyable day (actually it really was not bad as far as AGMs go!) in the week ahead, as I get my thoughts together.

Photos (from top): Roy at the podium; Irene and Lockhart; Tommy receiving his badge of office from retiring President Alistair McCabe.

June 13, 2007

Who will represent Europe at the Continental Cup?

The fifth Continental Cup, presented by Monsanto, and promoted by the Canadian Curling Association and the World Curling Federation, will be held December 13-16 at the Medicine Hat Arena, the week following the Le Gruyère European Championships in Füssen, Germany, which finish December 8.

The line-up for Team North America (four Canadian teams and two teams from the United States) has been confirmed for some time. Team Europe has not been officially announced, but it is known that two Scottish teams have been invited to participate (see below).

North America will be represented by four Canadian sides: the World Women's champions skipped by Kelly Scott of Kelowna, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey and Coldwater’s Glenn Howard, the current World Men's Champion. Scott has played in the Continental Cup before, in 2006, while Ferbey played in the first three Cups. Two teams from the USA - Todd Birr from Mankato, Minnesota (third at the Worlds last season), and Debbie McCormick of Madison, Wisconsin (2003 World Women's champions) - complete the North American lineup. Debbie has played in two previous Continental Cups.

It's not official yet, but expect the European teams to be skipped by David Murdoch (Scotland), Andy Kapp (Germany), Andy Schwaller (Switzerland), Kelly Wood (Scotland), Madeleine Dupont (Denmark) and Ludmila Privivkova (Russia)..... with Rhona Martin and Roger Schmidt as team captains!

Patterned after golf’s Ryder Cup, the Continental Cup brings together six teams representing North America and six teams representing Europe in a four-day competition involving Team Games (72 points), Mixed Doubles (36 points), Singles (32 points) and Skins (260 points). The first side to score 201 points is the winner. Europe is the defending champion.

The Con Cup website is here.

Hugh Stewart's photo of Ludmila Privivkova's delivery is from the final of the 2006 European Championship in Basel, won by Team Russia.

June 11, 2007

Betting on curling

Perhaps it is appropriate on the day when the British government's plans for seventeen new casinos, including one super casino in Manchester, were given the go-ahead at the High Court, that the Scottish Curling Forum has set up a simple poll on whether or not betting on curling would be a good thing!

You don't have to be a registered user of the Forum to vote, and if you want to do so you can. Go to the poll HERE.

And if you feel strongly, register with the Forum and have your say.

June 10, 2007

Mixed Doubles Event at Perth

The first Mixed Doubles World Championship will be held in Vierumäki, Finland, March 9-15, 2008. Scotland's representatives for that event will be decided at a Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship at Murrayfield, December 21-23.

Is is timely then that the Dewars Rinks, Perth, have organised a one day Mixed Doubles bonspiel for Saturday, December 8, 2007. Places are limited to twelve teams. For a cost of £30 per person every team is guaranteed five games. A buffet lunch is included, and there are prizes for the winning pair and the runners-up. Want to enter? The phone number for Linda Cowing at the rink is here.

In Scotland, pairs curling is a big part of the sport. There is a National Pairs Championship for example. And mixed doubles is considered by many just to be a variation of pairs. But other countries do not have this heritage. The World Curling Federation has produced a DVD to explain the mixed doubles game and has sent this to all member organisations. Thanks to the US Curling Association which has posted this on YouTube here, we can all watch it!

Key differences from regular curling are eight end games with five stones thrown by each team per end. Teams have one man and one woman. One player delivers first and last stone with the second player throwing stones two, three and four. The order that the players on a team throw can be changed during the game. Two other stones, one belonging to each team, are positioned before each end begins, at the back of the button and and between hog line and house on the centre line. No stones, including those in the house, can be removed from play until after three stones have been delivered.

If you have never played pairs curling before, there is a lot in the DVD to take in. For those who ARE familiar with pairs the unusual aspect of the game is the positioning of the two stones prior to each end. Who decides where these stones go?

The WCF rules say:
1. Prior to the start of every end, one team shall instruct the game umpire to place their team’s stationary stone (1), and their opponent’s stationary stone (1), in either position A or B:
A A stone bisecting the centre line, midway between the hog line and the front of the house; or
B A stone on the back half of the button, bisecting the centre line and touching the tee line.
2. The team having the decision on the placement of the stationary stones shall be:
(a) Unless predetermined, the teams opposing each other in the game shall use a coin toss to determine which team has the decision in the first end. (Note that at the World Mixed Double Championships, this will be determined by the Draw Shot Distance)
(b) Following the first end, the team that lost the end will have the decision on the placement.
(c) If an end is blanked, the team that did not deliver the last stone in that end shall have the decision on placement in the next end.
3. The team whose stationary stone is placed in the position in front of the house shall deliver first in that end, and the team whose stationary stone is placed in the house shall deliver the second stone of that end.

So, if you lost an end and it is your call as to where the stationary stones are to go, and you want to have last stone in the next end (as in normal curling), you have to put your opposition's stone in front of the house, and your own stone in the house. Your opposition then plays first. From watching the DVD where the first stones of an end are played, this is the scenario that played out.

From the rules, it would appear that you could do something completely different. If you had lost an end you could put your own stone out in front and put your opposition's stone in the house. You give away last stone advantage, but you get the first opportunity to attempt the freeze to the stone behind the button.

If I have this correct, it certainly puts an interesting slant on the game. The short DVD steers away from trying to explain this.

By the way, did you spot the deliberate mistake that the DVD commentator makes (no names to spare his blushes) in describing where the stones are placed prior to each end? YOU know where the tee line is, don't you?

June 08, 2007

Performance Plan 2007-2011 highlights

The news released over the last couple of days about the Elite Scotland Squad and new National Academy, and about the curlers receiving support under these banners, is only part of the Royal Club's Performance Development Plan 2007-20011. The plan has received support from partners sportscotland, Scottish Institute of Sport, the Area Institutes, UKSport and British Curling Ltd.

I note three other areas where changes will influence the sport. First of these is in team coaching support. Currently what team coaches there are are unpaid volunteers who only receive travel expenses and per diems when at events. The new plan will see support for up to twelve coaches, four at the Elite level, and eight at National Academy level. This support will extend to travel to competitions, honoraria and expenses, and training and development.

Secondly, the fledgling Regional Academy structure is to get increased support. The curlers supported under this scheme have not yet been announced, the names expected next month.

Lastly, the Development Plan gives an inkling of what is in the minds of those planning for British representation at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, assuming we qualify, of course. The second year of the Plan 2008-2009 has provision for support of two GB Olympic Squads of 6-8 players, under the Elite banner, while continuing to support two Scottish men's and two women's teams. The following year 2009-2010 the support will be for two GB Teams (5 or 6 players in each), in addition to continuing support for the four Scottish teams.

Given that details of the Olympic campaign are yet to be announced by British Curling Ltd (expected later in the summer), these proposals in the RCCC Performance Plan go some way to addressing the deficiencies in what happened in the last Olympic Cycle. It looks as if the squad selection process is to continue, but that was expected. Last time, the selection of the actual teams for the Olympics was decided too late, and one consequence of this was that four women curlers who had never even played one game together before were sent out to represent Scotland at the European Championships.

Last time the resources of the Scottish Institute and National Coach were diverted entirely to the GB squads, and Scottish curlers and curling took second place and suffered as a consequence. That's been covered in the New Performance Plan which has continuing support for top Scottish teams during the Olympic cycle.

The above is short on detail, and I guess we will have to be patient until British Curling Ltd reveals their plans.

June 07, 2007

Supported curlers In Scotland

Yesterday new structures were announced for supporting Scotland's top curlers. Enter 'Elite Scotland Squad' and 'National Academy' into curlers' vocabulary. A list of all seventy-one athletes, supported fully or partially, was published by the Royal Club today. Let's try to make sense of what are undoubtedly complex arrangements between the Royal Club and the Scottish Institute of Sport. Both teams and individual curlers will be supported in the 2007-08 season.

Elite Scotland Squad - names in bold are full members of the Scottish Institute of Sport. The names in brackets are NOT full members of the Institute, although some are members of the National Academy (see below).

David Murdoch, Ewan MacDonald, Peter Smith and Euan Byers
Warwick Smith, Craig Wilson, (David Smith and Ross Hepburn)
Tom Brewster, (Hammy McMillan), Ron Brewster and Colin Campbell
Duncan Fernie, (Gordon Muirhead, Graeme Prentice and Richard Woods)
Kelly Wood, Jackie Lockhart, Lorna Vevers and Lindsay Wood
Claire Milne, Lynn Cameron, (Jacqui Byers and Rachael Simms)
Sarah Reid, (Jennifer Morrison, Alison Black) and Barbara McFarlane
Eve Muirhead, (Kerry Barr, Vicki Adams), and Sarah Macintyre

Seven of the eight teams listed above will receive full Scottish Institute of Sport support at squad days and at overseas competitions. As will Edith Loudon's team: (Edith Loudon, Mairi Milne, Judith Marshall and Katie Loudon) even though these four are not full Institute athletes.

Eve Muirhead's team will receive support from the RCCC National Academy at squad days and at overseas competitions (see below).

So, that's the Elite Squad curlers. What about the National Academy? Let's look at the teams we know, all the members of which are members of the National Academy and are also members of the various Area Institutes of Sport.

Anna Sloan, Lauren Gray, Rhiann MacLeod and Caitlin Barr
Claire Hamilton, Claire MacDonald, Linsey Spence and Jennifer Priestley

Alan Smith, Ross MacDonald, Neil MacArthur and Sandy Reid
Logan Gray, Alasdair Guthrie, Ross Paterson and Keith Duncan Millar
Jamie Dick, Andrew Williamson, Colin Dick and Andrew Noble
Greg Drummond, James Dunn, Tom Pendreigh and Kerr Drummond
Glen Muirhead, Scott MacLeod, Scott Andrews and Gordon McDougall

plus Kerry Barr and Vicki Adams who are members of Eve Muirhead's team. These eight teams will receive
support from the RCCC National Academy at squad days and at overseas competitions.

The other individuals who are members of the National Academy Squad are Kay Adams, Iain Chalmers, Graeme Copland, Andrew Craigie, David Edwards, John Hamilton, Nicola MacDonald, Jennifer Morrison (playing in Sarah Reid's Elite Squad team), Jacqui Byers and Rachael Simms (both members of Claire Milne's Elite Squad team).

Complicated, yes. But the end result sees support for more teams than last year, and that must be a good thing. Apologies if I've got any of this info wrong and any names misspelt. Let me know.

The photo shows Tom Brewster and Alan Smith at the Bruadar Scottish Championship last season. Both skips receive support this season - Team Brewster from the Scottish Institute and Team Smith from the National Academy.

June 06, 2007

Expanded support for Scotland's top curlers

More funding, support for more curlers, new squad names - these are the highlights of the new initiatives for 'performance' curling in Scotland, revealed today by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Key too is 'flexibility' and close working relationships involving the Scottish Institute of Sport and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, with the Area Institutes, sportscotland and British Curling Ltd.

For the 2007-08 season, top curlers in Scotland will be supported in one of two ways. The very best have been invited to become members of the Scottish Institute of Sport. No change there, you may say. But wait. This group will now be known as the Elite Scotland Squad, the name change reflecting a new funding partner, British Curling Ltd, as well as sportscotland as before. And support will not just be restricted to full teams as in the past. Some individuals will receive the full Institute benefits too. This involves sports medicine and sports science, technical support, squad training, and overseas competition funding. Derek Brown and Cate Brewster, who are employed by the Scottish Institute of Sport, have the prime responsibility for the Elite Scotland Squad.

The National Junior Squad, which last year encompassed eight junior teams, is no more. In its place is the RCCC's new 'National Academy' supported by the Area Institutes and funded by sportscotland. Nancy Murdoch (photo), the Royal Club's Performance Development Coach, has brought forward an initiative to support not just juniors but also teams and individuals who are no longer under-21.

The National Academy Squad comprises eight teams and twelve individuals. Members will receive individual and team support from the Area Institutes and the RCCC, including technical on-ice coaching support, strength and conditioning training, as well as providing opportunities for their teams to compete internationally. In contrast to the Elite Scotland Squad, which was by invitation, National Academy Squad members have been selected after an application and interview process.

Names of curlers in the two squads will be announced tomorrow on the RCCC website.

June 05, 2007

RCCC Board election results

The elections for the two places on the Royal Club Board of Directors closed last Thursday. Votes have been counted. But club members are not being told the result just yet. The decision has been made to keep the results a secret until the AGM on June 16 at Glenrothes.

Why the secrecy? Why the delay? I have no idea.

Personally, I would like to know the results NOW. And I think that members, who voted via their clubs in a postal ballot, would like to know too.

June 04, 2007

Top wheelchair coach job advertised

British Curling has advertised for a wheelchair curling coach to organise and lead the Paralympic curling team for Vancouver 2010.

The successful candidate will be expected to head up the programme of support for the British Curling wheelchair curling athletes at podium and development level. He/she will have to deliver high quality coaching within the wheelchair curling programme and work with the personal team coaches. The position requires extensive high performance sport experience and a record of world class success as a curling coach. At the last Paralympics, the position was held by Tom Pendreigh, and the British team skipped by Frank Duffy gained silver medals.

If agreed with the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club the successful candidate will also hold the position of Scottish Wheelchair Head Curling Coach.

The Wheelchair Curling Coach will report directly to the British Curling Performance Director (Derek Brown) on a day to day basis and will also be accountable to the Chairman of British Curling (Chris Hildrey) and the Director of Athlete Services at the Scottish Institute of Sport (Liz Mendl).

Further details of the post and how to apply can be found here. Closing date is June 29.

Interestingly, the successful candidate will "Maintain programme continuity with the British Curling World Class Performance Plan." This has yet to be published and should reveal how the team/squad for the 'able-bodied' 2010 Olympics will be chosen. We should see this later this summer.

British Curling is supported by UK Sport, the Scottish Institute of Sport, the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

British Curling is the national body for elite curling in Britain. It is a limited company formed last year through a merger of the British Curling Association and the British Wheelchair Curling Association. It has four members: the RCCC, the SWCA, the English Curling Association and the Welsh Curling Association. The Board comprises Chris Hildrey (Chairman), Alan Chalmers (Finance Director), Hew Chalmers and Mike Gillespie (Ordinary Directors), and Derek Brown (Performance Director). The Board has the power to co-opt further members. Indeed, an announcement is expected soon.

World Champions for Braehead

Kelly Scott's World Champions from Canada have accepted an invitation to play in the Glynhill Ladies International event at Braehead, January 17-20, 2008. Scott and her team were Canadian Champions in 2006 and 2007, and won the world title in Aomori, Japan, in March. The Canadians only lost one game at Aomori, in the round robin to Scotland's Kelly Wood team, who brought home the bronze medals. The Scottish Champions will also play at Braehead.

Hugh Stewart's photo of the two Kellys (above) is from the World Championship.

June 03, 2007

How will YOU be remembered?

It's a while since I've visited Tibbermore Church, but on my way north last week I found time to stop off there. Call it a curling pilgrimage if you like! Let me explain.

Tibbermore Church, near Perth, dates from the early seventeenth century, although a previous structure dedicated to St Mary existed during the late middle ages. The earliest monument in the church is a large stone tablet set into the aisle wall, erected in 1631 by Sir James Murray of Tibbermore to his family. The church itself has a number of interesting features and the churchyard has many old gravestones. You can read more about the church here.

The church has not been in use for more than twenty years. It looks neglected and obviously requires repair and conservation.

James Ritchie farmed at Cairney and died in 1840. One has to imagine that he was a bit of a character, for on his gravestone, built onto the west wall of the church, are curling stones, crampets and a broom. These sit on top of a sarcophagus, and a carving of the farmer's prize winning bull! This monument seems to be unique in depicting the sport of curling.

The stones have scallopped decoration, and are single-soled, the handle inserted into the top of the stone offset from the centre. Crampets were tied around the players shoes, to provide a stable footing during delivery, and while providing a good grip must have made a real mess of the ice surface!

What's the future for this piece of curling history? Tibbermore Church is now owned by the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. The fund raising efforts of that organisation seem to be currently directed towards Cromarty East Church, Ross-shire, which was featured on the Restoration television programme. Hopefully though Tibbermore, with its curling connection, will not be forgotten.