14 Jul 2015

After 80 year wait, the curling bonspiel returns to Naseby

From Morning Report, 7:56 am on 14 July 2015

More than 200 curlers have converged on the Central Otago town of Naseby for its first national bonspiel in more than 80 years.

The two day championship, which outdoor curlers describe as the ultimate event in their sport, began this morning on Naseby's three Centennial Ponds - the first time it has been held in the town since1932.

Curling is a game played on ice and involves sliding large roundflat stones towards a mark.

About 33 clubs from around New Zealand, but predominantly from the Central Otago region, were called to the bonspiel on Saturday.

Each club sent two teams of eight players.

Listen to bonspiel organiser Stewart McKnight on Morning Report ( 2 min 5 sec )

Usually the bonspiel is held at Idaburn Dam but a recent thaw put paid to that, with the outdoor ponds opposite Naseby's ice rinks standing in.

Merv Jamieson jumped on a plane to get back from Australia when he got the call from his club.

"I didn't want to miss it. It's the first time in 80 years it's been played at home."

Mr Jamieson said the conditions were perfect.

"Beautiful ice, beautiful conditions. It's paradise for a winter sport."

"Warmer winters mean that we had to think about alternatives in case the Idaburn couldn't be used," said one of Naseby's ice masters, Jock Scott.

"So earlier this year we gave the ponds here in Naseby a bit of an overhaul, enough to allow 35-plus games to be played simultaneously... And the ice here looks fantastic at the moment."

Stewart McKnight has helped organise the bonspiel for the past 30 years. He played today, and was confident the ice at Naseby would be adequate.

"There's plenty of ice there - there will be five inches of ice," he said.

The only problem will be ensuring enough space for the more than 250 people taking part.

"It might be a wee bit tighter than it is on a bigger dam," Mr McKnight said. "But it will be very friendly."