by Tom Carter

A team from Cambridge Curling Club entered the Preston Novice Bonspiel 2023, held at the Flower Bowl over three days in early February, with opponents made up from Preston CC players allocated into teams a few days earlier and a nomadic team from the South of England Curling Club.

Adrien Menaspa (Lead), Katya Mohsen (Second), Alexis Mather (Vice), Tom Carter (Skip) assembled about 15 minutes before the Friday evening and rushed straight into playing, with no motivational speeches behind them. The first of many mistakes, both in terms of time-keeping and overall preparation. Our first game was against the eventual tournament winners, although at the time they considered themselves to not be in contention, and we were out of sorts in the first few ends, before recovering our composure and battling hard but ultimately falling to an 11-5 defeat.

A drink with our opponents and much gathering of thoughts later, we woke the next morning full of hope, playing a team we had recently played in the Belgian bonspiel in 2022. Arriving at the venue only five minutes before playing due to a misjudgement in distance from our accommodation was just the first of many mistakes seeing us slump to 6-0 after three ends, before fighting back a little and losing 7-3.

The tournament’s league system persisted in trying to throw us an opportunity to regain some dignity, and we made our choice to keep spurning those chances. A third straight defeat to a strong team of young players left us rock bottom after three matches. Further tactical discussion followed over dinner, and the sense that we were seemingly just a half-stone out, gave us hope that we could fix things in our last game.

We arrived well-prepared on Sunday morning, in good time, wide awake and ready. And we battled hard, with a 7-1 defeat feeling sorely unrepresentative of the game we’d just played. Some frankly astonishing shots by the opposition skip with 40-years of curling experience kept reversing the strong scoring positions we found ourselves in. Feeling despondent about the whole thing, we gathered our thoughts and stated that we’d keep going, keep trying to improve and come back another time.