So the end of the year is lurching toward us like an amiable drunk, which means it’s once again time for me to wish everyone a very happy festive season – hopefully made even happier, at least in the UK, by the prospect of all the World Championship darts on TV.
I’ll no doubt have something further to say on the World Champs in the New Year, but to prepare our palates for that mouth-watering main course, let’s savour some key ingredients from the recent tasty starter of the Players Championship Finals.
The big story here, certainly from a Unicorn perspective, was The Artist winning his first televised major – a very well-deserved success and one which handily enables me to hark back to my first blog of 2011, “Applet and Pears”. The main topic of this particular epistle was why UniLab Optimiser may recommend smaller flights such as Xtras. More to the point, it also revealed that I had suggested both Paul Nicholson and Kevin Painter might like to give these pear-shaped flights a try, ending with the following paragraph:
“So, with that thought in mind, I’m going to sign off by wishing both The Asset and The Artist every success in the future with whatever flights they use. I still think those pears might help a bit, but, having had the privilege of studying their techniques at close quarters, it’s their innate high levels of skill and ability that I really think can do the business!”
Now it’s certainly skill and ability more than choice of flights that have allowed both Paul and Kevin to have had a good year since then, and who’s to say they wouldn’t have done even better with another set-up? But let’s take their improved results at face value for a minute. Does that suggest more players might benefit from “going pear-shaped”?
Well, even if the answer to that is yes, it’s yes with strong reservations. Many players, and some types of dart, need the extra stability provided by larger flights such as Plus or Big Wing. However, if you have a pretty straight throw and a well-balanced barrel/shaft set-up, it’s quite possible smaller flights may well suit you. – perhaps smaller even than pears.
Until now the prime exponent of this theory was The Power with his DXMs - smaller flights than even I would have thought ideal for use with his titanium shafts. But now there’s a new kid on the block (OK, not that new – he’s been a successful performer at floor events for a while) who might just end up being an even better example. Scott Rand, who only just lost to Kevin in the Players Championship semi-final, uses flights even smaller than DXMs.
According to Chris Mason’s well-informed commentary, Scott, like Phil, started off cutting Slim flights down to his preferred shape before having a proper template made. Also like Phil, his darts have been “tailored” to his suit his direct throwing style. And, judging from his recent performance in Doncaster, suit him they certainly do!
As can be gathered from both the design of Sigma Super Pros and the images of 1980s prototype Sigma flights in my August 2010 “Secret of the Unicorn” blog (accessible via the UniBoffin link on the homepage), for many years I have thought that using small flights might help some players. Hence you can bet I’ll be following Scott’s results with interest!
And now, keeping small flights as a topic we might well return to in future, it’s time to thank everyone who posted comments to my blogs during 2011 and leave you with my last Q&A section of the year. Compliments of the season to you all and I hope to see you here in 2012!
Matt and Warren and Pitch
Yes, Matt, you’ve got it right, I do think you moving your grip further back is resulting in a positive initial pitch. And good luck with your further attempts at capturing that on film – apart from anything else, if you do succeed in getting a good slo-mo of your throw, I think you’ll find it a very helpful aid to improvement. Hope Warren’s advice helps in that regard.
Peacefull, Averages and Cross-Dominance
Hi, Peacefull, nice to hear from a fellow dart obsessive! 1-dart averages are calculated simply by taking the amount scored and dividing it by the number of darts taken, 3-dart averages then multiply this answer by 3. So a 9-dart 501 would give a 3-dart average of 501/9 x 3 = 167, and a 10-darter would give 501/10 x 3 = 150.3. If your opponent checked out 501 after you had, say, 4 throws (ie 12 darts) and were sitting on double-top, your 3-dart average for that game would be (501 – 40)/12 x 3 = 115.25. Hope that’s clear!
Your other question was about being right-handed but throwing slightly from the left side of your face. The most common cause of this is the opposite eye to the throwing hand being the stronger, an example of what’s called “cross-dominance”. I think most technique experts would say this is not ideal, but it’s still not necessarily a barrier to being a top-class player – and if you want proof, take a look at Phil Taylor!
John and the Longest Unicorn Barrels
Apart from one soft tip dart and giant darts for trophies, etc, as far as I know the longest barrels ever sold by Unicorn were in the Long Tom brass range The 20gm model is shown in the 1950 Unicorn Book of Darts (findable on the website via the “Community” and then “Heritage” links), and additional 14gm and 16gm versions are on Page 19 of the 1965 Book. As can be seen, all these barrels were 2.75 inches (69.85mm) in length.
The longest Unicorn tungsten darts were the Stretch 80% 29gm (page 25 in the 2011 Book). They’re discontinued, but John may find some suppliers still have stocks and the 67.31mm barrel length is still listed in UniLab Optimiser. That long soft tip dart was incidentally also a Stretch model, although stainless steel – 18gm, 74mm (page 22 in the 2007 book).
In the current 2012 Unicorn range, the longest dart barrels are 53.34mm, this dimension being shared by the Phil Taylor Phase 2 and Phase 3 24gm and World Champion (in various finishes and weights from 22 to 28gm), the Maestro Paul Nicholson 20gm, and the Maestro Premier Terry Jenkins 25gm (both available in Black and Tungsten).
Jeff, Giraffe, Mad John, and Hexagonal Sigmas (lol? Ho ho ho!)
Although you guys didn’t actually ask a question, you deserve a festive response! So take a look at, eg, that 1950 Unicorn Book mentioned in my above answer to John. There you’ll find a whole page of hexagon patterns, although (before you say anything) even I’m not old enough for any of them to be early Sigmas! However, I am old enough to have some 1980s prototype carbon fibre shafts in a drawer somewhere (see “Good Nature” from April 2009), so maybe one day Mad John’s wish will come true and they’ll make it into the shops!