Sinclair takes part in Strathcona Cup tour

Mitch Calvert

Talk about tradition.
Fort Frances resident Rob Sinclair recently returned from a trip-of-a-lifetime as part of a 40-person crew of Canadian curlers who travelled to Scotland to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Canada’s participation in the Strathcona Cup.
Lord Strathcona presented The Royal Caledonian Curling Club in Scotland with the cup in 1909 during Canada’s first trip overseas after the Scots first made the trek to Canada for the inaugural clash between the two curling nations back in 1903.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“We only go to Scotland every 10 years, and the Scots come to Canada every fifth year,” Sinclair explained. “It’s not something that is widely publicized, which is unfortunate, but we were there for the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first trip.”
The 72-year-old had to apply in writing, and was one of 40 applicants from across Canada chosen for the month-long curling expedition.
“You had to send in a résumé and obviously be heavily involved in curling your whole life, and through that you got picked to go,” Sinclair noted.
“Six years ago, a friend of mine from London, Emerson McCrae, invited me to go down to St. John [Nb.] and curl, and we curled with the ’98 Canadian Strathcona Cup team guys, who get together for a bonspiel once a year.
“Last summer, I got a call from a fellow by the name of Bob Barker from Geraldton who was on that ’98 team, and he was on the nominating committee for this year, and asked me if I’d be interested in going.”
Sinclair admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect, but found everything to be first-class all the way.
“They don’t tell you too much other than you are going to be gone for a month and it’s going to cost you a few bucks,” he said. “It was the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet, so it was a banner year to go and we were treated like kings.
“We had one courier who travelled with us, and he’s the one who tells us where we’re going, when to be there, what time we curl, what time to be ready for supper, what you are to wear, and what big wigs will be at supper,” he continued. “On the bus, he’d tell us a bit about the country.
“If we drive a team from Winnipeg to Fort Frances, there’s not a lot we can tell them you know, but in Scotland the towns are much closer together.”
Sinclair and his Canadian teammates won the event handily by more than 300 shots total, but in the over 100 years of competition, Canada holds just a 12-8 series advantage.
“You play an eight-end game each time and keep track of the total score,” Sinclair explained. “Usually the travelling team wins because you play with the same team against different teams while you are over there.
“And when the Scots are over here, they play with the same team.”
After starting out in Glasgow, the group of 10 teams was separated into five each and sent on either the northern or southern tour.
“We went to Perth, up to Aberdeen and Dundee and Inverness, and a bunch of little places,” Sinclair recalled. “Inverness is the farthest northern town that has a curling club.
“Every team we played was different, just four players made up to play against us in each town,” he added.
Sinclair played third on his team while his skip was from Vancouver, the second from Nova Scotia, and the lead from Saskatchewan.
“We had a truly Canadian team,” he remarked. “I was the only curler on the tour who lived between Winnipeg and Toronto.”
Sinclair noted Dave Hughes and the late Van Green of Fort Frances curled in the event in the past, but wasn’t aware of any other locals who have had the opportunity.
The trip is only open to new people each time so Sinclair can’t go again. For those interested, the next trip isn’t for another 10 years.
“The Scots will be coming through Canada in 2013, so whether they start in Thunder Bay again I don’t know, but I’ll probably be part of the Canadian committee hosting it,” he added.