First, the weather: a fairly firm frost on Monday morning was an initial concern. A few trial hits confirmed that play could start, but where was Chris Crowcroft ? In bed as it turned out, warm and toasty and looking forward to a late start because of the frost. He should be so lucky. A hasty phone call, and thankfully a quick despatch of his first-round opponent, brought the timetable back on track.
Next, the format: well, at this time of year, a player sitting out for too long can go down with hypothermia, so it was important to give everyone as much play as possible. The ingenuous organisers came up with 18-point (run 1, and move the forward clip to 3-back), with the higher bisquer having the option of choosing either Advanced or Handicap. Also, to stop the minus players romping away with things, an Egyptian format, based on a modified version of the AHS, was used - each player had an initial rating, which went up more if they beat a low-bisquer, and went down less if they lost.
As it turned out, most of the field (six of whom were +2 or better) fancied trying their luck at the Advanced game against favourite and world no.14, Ian Lines. Ultimately they all failed, but not without David Nicholson (the Winchester one) completing two thirds of a two-ball triple (yes really) against Ian but missing the speculative long rover peel, and eventually losing -2; and Chris Daniels having a mental aberration on a potentially winning turn, deciding to peel penult before running 6, and getting it all wrong.
With the 18-point format, a quadruple peel finish in one turn is a distinct possibility, at least on paper. To make things interesting, Hamptworth Captain Richard Dickson decreed that it was obligatory that each low-bisquer at least made an attempt at this - the forfeit being to buy opponent a drink of their choice, and further, that the sole arbitrator of whether a serious attempt had been made, would be said oppo ! In the event, everyone gave it a go, with hilariously variable results. Virtually everyone got in the first peel at 3-back, but often this was without a pioneer anywhere else on the lawn, leading to a lot of one-hoop/one-peel breaks ! Only Ian completed any, in fact managing two, the first a fifth turn QP against James Tuttiett, the second in a Handicap game against newcomer Jonathan Lacey, whose classic line "You can have a turn now" to Ian, with bisques in the ground, led to the reply "Are you sure ?" and confirmation, followed by the inevitable long hit and finish from the great man.
Despite this, Jonathan was good value for his handicap, hitting well but let down a bit on the tactical side once the bisques had gone, and could win a fair few Handicap events next Summer - even more so now as Ian's early QP finish enabled them to spend an hour on some coaching. Chris Crowcroft made the mistake of turning up on time on Tuesday, and was rewarded with an Advanced defeat at the hands of 2003 Steel Bowl winner Julie Hudson (+6). Of the under-performers, only the author had the entirely reasonable excuse of the stress of Management.
We managed all 7 rounds in an all-play-all, and in fact Ian managed 8 wins (!), as he also squeezed in an extra game against Brian Fisk, who took James's place on Tuesday.
Oh, and I almost forgot - the catering: filling lunches of soup and sandwiches (someone even plumped for the turkey and cranberry option, presumably for a change), and shared a hearty sausage and mash dinner at the Club on Monday evening - most convivial.
Hamptworth is running similar events in the new year (Jan 29/30, Feb 26/27, Mar 26/27) and anyone who fancies an enjoyable couple of days would be welcome - contact Richard Dickson on richard#wickfarm.fsbusiness.co.uk