Another great Brydens Barbados Darts Festival – I can’t believe that the ten days went so quickly!
Everyone seemed to have a great time – it was good to renew old acquaintances and meet newcomers. My wife Donna, my sister Donna, her husband Perry and their daughter Ellie had a great time and adopted the right attitude of approaching it as a holiday where darts is the unifying factor, not the sole reason for making the trip. Who wants to spend all the time at the oche when you can take advantage of so many wonderful experiences that Barbados can offer?
The sun shone continuously ( apart from the odd short monsoon-like downpour ), the sea was as clear, warm and welcoming as ever and the Bajan hospitality was superb as always.
The catamaran cruise took place on the third day and it was a really good way for everyone to get to know one another. Fortunately for me, I managed to avoid being mistaken for food by the hundreds of fish that are around the reefs and the wreck and even the Turtles showed me some respect!
We moored in the bay at The Sandy Lane Hotel and most people could not resist the temptation of swimming ashore to walk along the stretch of beach where the hotel guests pay, on average, $1,000 US per night for the same privilege. Each to their own!
This year we had to find a new venue for all the social darts events and for those who fancied some practice time on the oche outside of the tournaments. Our normal home has been The Ship Inn but it is now being partially demolished and converted into what they are describing as “an entertainment complex”, whatever that might mean!
Fortunately we found a new “home” in the new Sports Bar that had just opened days before. Owner Mark saw the value of allowing us to install two oches in the bar itself and he generously timetabled his “Happy Hour” from 4.30 p.m. – 7 p.m. every day!
"Enjoying the Catamaran Cruise"
The major tournaments took place, as usual, at Solidarity House from Friday through to Sunday where the contingent from UK, Europe, USA and Canada were joined by players from Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, St. Lucia, the Cayman Islands and, of course, Barbados. In all participants from 12 different countries took part in this 10th Anniversary of the Festival – a record.
We even had someone from Austria – but more of him later.
The sponsors introduced a new tournament this year – the Harrows Mixed Nations Mens & Ladies Pairs. Essentially, you had to team up with a partner from another country and the innovation was extremely well received as it helped bring the participants from so many different cultures closer together.
Solidarity House is a great venue for this type of darts festival and there is no excuse for anyone to go thirsty as our Title Sponsors, Brydens, provide us with ice cold bottles of their Carib or Stag beers at 80p per bottle!
I had a feeling that my old Essex county team mate, Alan Collins, would be the player to beat at this year’s Festival. Sure enough, Alan performed incredibly well and, on the last day, was in with a shout of winning all the tournaments going. He had taken the Dewars Mens Pairs with young Darren May on the Friday, somehow got Norman Madhoo as his partner to win the Harrows Mixed Nations Pairs and this pair then teamed up with the Caribbean’s top lady player, Maureen Shepherd, to win the Mackeson Mixed Triples.
"Darren May & Alan Collins"
Alan was very short odds to make a clean sweep of the titles with only the Stag Mens Singles to go on the Friday. The draw saw him have to compete against Caribbean Masters title holders Vivekanand Dyal and Norman Madhoo. He negotiated these rounds and then came up against Canadian Karsten Larsen in the semi-final and the Canadian had opportunities at closing out games but just failed to do so.
However, keen spectators had also been impressed by the form and demeanour of the man from Austria, Aaron Hardy. Aged 32, Aaron is ranked No 3 in Austria and he had not travelled all the way from Vienna to be a pushover. He had given a good account of himself in the Pairs Final (partnered by his father Kevin! ) and he was determined to go one better against Alan this time.
"Aaron Hardy in action"
The tense final that went the distance was characterized by some excellent darts. With the score at two legs each, it all came down to the fifth and final game with Alan having the first opportunity to check out but he missed the double 20 to take the title. Aaron still needed 56 but man from Vienna waltzed up to the oche and calmly hit single 16 with his first dart to leave himself double top. The roar from the crowd after his first attempt said it all!
I was delighted with my wife Donna’s form in the Oh Henry Ladies Pair – one of the first events on the Friday evening. She teamed up with County Player Wendy Reader and they made it to the final just losing out to the Bajan pairing of Elouise Brown and Maureen Shepherd, perhaps the best lady darts player in the Caribbean for the last ten years!
There was another Bajan success in the Liptons Ladies Singles. Elouise Martin has invariably been in the shadow of her compatriot Maureen Shepherd but on Sunday she justifiably claimed the spotlight for herself by winning the Liptons Ladies Singles.
"Elouise Martin of Barbados"
And, she did it the hard way by defeating English county player Wendy Reader in the quarter final, the formidable Nanette Brooks from Trinidad in the semis and then, in the final, another highly ranked Trinidadian, AnnMarie James in the final. Her victory was greeted with ecstatic applause from a large Bajan contingent.
On the same day Vivekanand Dyal of Trinidad & Tobago, known to everyone in the Caribbean as “Rabbit”, defeated Norman Madhoo, last years representative of the region at the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship, in the Trevor Lloyd Caribbean & South American Masters. This event is confined to players from the region.
Rabbit played some scintillating darts. A winner of this event four years ago, he worked himself into a 2 legs to nil lead in the best of seven leg final. He should have taken the third leg as well because on his first four visits to the oche he notched up scores of 100, 100, 121 and 100. This gave him a huge lead and only left him with a check out of 80 for a fourteen dart finish.
But the game of darts is all about hitting your doubles to finish and the Trinidadian simply could not buy one! This enabled Norman to work himself back in the leg and he gratefully took his chance of a double to finish and close the gap to 2 – 1.
“Rabbit” then rattled out more three figure scores and this time took out the required double to put himself one game away from the title.
The Trinidadian played even better in the fifth leg, hitting scores of 100, 140 and 140 on his first three visits, then consolidated to leave himself double top which he hit with his very first dart. Norman could only watch and admire.
“Rabbit” must now wait to see if a place becomes available to him at the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship in London in mid December.
After all this we were in need of some R&R and we all enjoyed Barbados in different ways and I even managed to get in a round of Golf!
"The view from our hotel rooms"
As well as the competitive element the Bajan Barbados Darts Festival is characterized by social, fun darts and I am certainly up for joining in on that! The undoubted moment that will live in everyone’s memory occurred in one of the last nights.
It took place in the Blind Draw Pairs. I was drawn to play with Johny Martin from Northern Ireland who had soon become a very sociable member of the party. We made it to the final where we had to play the younger generation of Darren May and Aaron Hardy – both winners of major tournaments at the Festival.
In the best of three legs we found themselves 1 – 0 down and in deep trouble in the second leg. Step up to the oche the man from Fermanagh.
Still needing 132 to save the match Johny went 25, triple 19 and then, with his third and last dart, hit the bull. The crowd ( and Johny! ) went wild! It was a feat in itself for him to compose himself for the clincher but, with a little assistance from his partner we took the decider.
This was a fitting finale to the 10th Anniversary of the Brydens Barbados Darts Festival because it epitomized its true character - people who share a common love of darts coming together to enjoy playing against and meeting other people from different cultures. And, what better location can you have than Barbados!