2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

What’s with the stopwatches?

Published: February 16, 2014, 6:36 pm, by Dena Rosenberry

Sarah, John from Oregon and Jane from the U.K. are wondering about the stopwatches that curlers wear around their waists (or attached to their belts/belt loops) or have attached to their brooms.

Rock Watcher - broomThe quick answer: The sweepers time the speed of each stone at the start of delivery to get an estimate of how far the stone will travel – and quickly compare that to what was requested by the skip.

A bit of explanation:

In addition to getting a “feel” for the speed of a stone – watching as it moves down the ice and subconsciously noting how fast you must travel to keep up with it – curlers often refer to the actual speed of the delivery and a stone’s path down the sheet.

The sweepers are assigned to watch the speed of the stone. (The skip is watching the line of the stone, or the path that it is traveling. Once the delivering player releases the stone, he or she often will also watch the path or speed of the stone.)

Now, about those stopwatches.

A millimeter can win a game in curling. So curlers are focused on getting stones to a precise point on the ice. The rock’s speed is crucial.

Goldline stopwatchSo to give everyone an idea of what a moving stone is going to do, the sweepers time a stone’s delivery and then call out numbers to the skip.

The sweepers time from the back line of the house to the hog line. And also from hog line to hog line. But that first number is the early warning: the stone is moving at the desired speed; the stone is slow, or light, and we’re going to need to sweep hard; the stone is heavy, or hot, or too fast, and we need to think quickly what it’s going to do at the other end of the ice.

Timing begins when the front edge of the stone hits the back line and also when it hits the hog line.

Curling sheet perspectiveLet’s say the ice is running slightly keen, or quick, and the sweepers, in practice, have timed a delivery to the tee line, which runs through the center of the house (the cross hairs in the center of the rings) at 3.8 seconds. That means it takes a player 3.8 seconds to deliver a stone across the back line to the near hog line, where the stone is released. And that means a stone that needs to sit at the front, or top, of the house should travel a bit slower, say, 3.9 seconds. And a guard stone that should sit in front of the house should be delivered at a speed of 4.0 to 4.2 seconds.

Note: I gave a brief description of the numbering system in an earlier post and why players yell out numbers to one another.