The Points competition was once again won by Geoff Barber (27), with David Gray second(23) and Ronnie Wilson (22) a very close third. These were rather poor scores but those of us who achieved them can assure the rest of the club that the ice was very difficult! Sadly only 9 members of our club were able or prepared to take part, which for a club of our size, is rather disappointing.

Congratulations are due to Willie Scott who achieved a score of 18 in his first Points competition – exactly twice the score I achieved on my first attempt.

Congratulations are also due to Elma Stevenson who, at the age of 21, regularly plays in, and evidently thoroughly enjoys, the competition.

The competition was scored by Ed Baines and Alan McKinlay who selflessly endured the cold in the service of club members – many thanks to you both.

It would be good if far more members would take part – it is enjoyable and a great way of learning and so improving your game.

It is traditional for the previous year’s winner to lead off in the Points since this is held to be a disadvantage, later players having the apparent advantage of being able to watch and learn from earlier players. Having now been fortunate to win the Ayr and Alloway competition twice from the lead position I am not convinced that the traditional view is correct.

The behaviour of a curling stone on the ice, provided it is released correctly (i.e. with no pushing) depends mainly on four factors: the ice taken, the speed (weight) of delivery, the speed of rotation and the three dimensional shape of the sheet of ice. In Points, the player has control of the first three and, by observation, may learn about the fourth and so adjust his/her approach as the game progresses.

If leading, the mind is sharpened because the player has to observe very closely the effect of each stone he plays (there being no others to watch) and there are no distractions. Subsequent players tend to watch earlier players carefully and then choose their shots on the basis of what they have learned from that. However I suggest that, while it is possible to observe the effect of the ice other players take, it is much more difficult to judge the speed with which the stone is delivered and I suspect that the effect of speed of rotation (which may vary widely between players) is difficult to assess.

The leader has a crystal clear view of the stones he plays, he can vary the weight and the ice taken but usually will play a fairly constant rotation. The view of later players is blurred by the very real difficulty of making sense of a mass of (incomplete) information. Because of this I feel that leading is not the disadvantage it is generally thought to be.

For the last two years we have shortened the time required for the Points by commencing play on both sheets simultaneously. This reduces the initial waiting time for the players later in the draw but it also has the effect of creating two leaders. This year Ronnie chanced to be drawn to lead the second group, with David following immediately after. Both are strong curlers and generally perform well in the Points. Their scores at 22 and 23 were hardly different and that suggests that Ronnie may not have suffered from leading and that David probably didn’t gain from following him.

For future years a decision will be needed on whether or not play should start simultaneously on both sheets. If it does, there is an option for last year’s winner to lead on one sheet and the runner-up to lead on the other.

Geoff Barber