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No Dart of Chance

Posted by UniBoffin at 15:26 on 17th September 2012 in UniBlog

No Dart of Chance

One of the good things about my job is that it can sometimes involve a pleasing combination of work and play, no more so than when a new design of dart needs testing. After all the physical measurements are measured, all the aerodynamic calculations are calculated, and all the trajectory characteristics are characterised, there’s simply no substitute for that final experimental procedure - picking up a set and throwing them at a board, lots of times.

Of course it helps here if the person doing the throwing is good at darts, so it’s a bit unfortunate that I’m not. Those monkeys would have long since typed the final full stop to their last Shakespeare play before I got a nine-darter. Which means, for testing, I often enlist the help of someone for whom, unlike for me, a treble 20 is neither “shot of accident, nor dart of chance” (Othello, Act IV, Scene I, in case you’re wondering. Although you probably weren’t!).

I do, however, have one quite useful ability in this context. A lifetime’s involvement in sports coaching has helped me assess and even mimic individual styles, which can make it worth me trialling equipment meant for a professional, even if the results I achieve won’t be anything like that standard.

Hence I’ve recently been trying out a new barrel design intended to suit a particular Team Unicorn player. Have I hit a stream of 180s with them? No! But have they performed better than the player’s existing design in controlled tests which are designed to try and ensure the winner is no “dart of chance”? Yes (a bit)! So is it worth the player now giving them a try? Erm, not quite yet - not until some remaining manufacturing issues have been resolved. What’s OK in a prototype isn’t necessarily satisfactory in a finished product.

But if and when those issues are sorted, it’s a nice thought that the design I tested could eventually see the light of day, or possibly even the lights of TV, on a tournament stage. In whose hands, you ask? Will it be the Power’s, holding a “Phase 8” (perhaps incorporating features such as those Tony proposed in his comment to my last blog)? Or maybe Barney’s, with a new RvB Phase? Or someone else from among all the Unicorn World Champions, Maestros, Contenders, etc? Well, I’m not saying, but I will let you know if it happens!

And now, it’s not a clue (no, really, it’s not!), but speaking of Barney, I think it’s about time I brought back my “Technique Spotlight” feature to take a look at one of the most elegant throws in darts. Enjoy, and hope to see you next time!

TECHNIQUE SPOTLIGHT – Raymond van Barneveld
There are few sights in darts more majestic than Barney in full flow, his relaxed throw effortlessly propelling his 50mm pencil barrels to their target. So how exactly does he do it?

Well, it helps that he’s a tall man, 6’ 3” or so, with a front-foot-sideways, lean-forward (although balanced) stance, all of which means he doesn’t need to throw as fast as a shorter man – for the same trajectory angle he could hit the treble 20 throwing more than 10% slower than, for example, Phil Taylor at 5’ 8”. Or rather he could if he stood in the centre of the oche, but as he stands toward the right side this advantage is fractionally reduced.

Barney’s preference for that position may have its roots in a degree of left-handedness (in fact I believe he’s not a bad player left-handed), but of more relevance is the fact that, being quite broad-shouldered, he seems to find it more comfortable to keep his forearm classically vertical by drawing back almost toward his right ear, which means his darts have to travel right-to-left to get back into his eye line.

Those darts themselves are held in a grip that has changed a fraction over the years, but is now characterised by the tip of the thumb pinching the barrel against a fairly vertical index finger down almost as far as its second joint (the proximal-interphalangeal, if you want to be technical). That pinch grip is near the dart’s balance point, which allows the second and third fingers to curl around the point, with the little finger being held slightly away.

The dart is released flat or pointing slightly downwards and tends to enter the board fairly flat too, characteristics which have occasioned pundits to accuse Barney of attempting to copy The Power’s supposed “stacking” tactics, even though the latter actually prefers his darts to impact slight point-up. As it happens, the differences in style, not to mention height, mean any technique read-across between these two legends of the game is very limited.

Back on Barney’s throw itself, after release all the fingers extend toward the target, which means the index finger moves up slightly with respect to the thumb, imparting anticlockwise spin to the dart. The follow-through of the arm itself, although nicely on-line, is not over-emphasised, enhancing the effortless look of the throw.

Another factor that really aids this look is the slight preparatory forward motion of his darts just before drawback. Other players make such a movement – Terry Jenkins, for example - but rarely is it in the same rhythm as the throw itself. There is usually either a pause at the finish of the subsequent drawback or a faster acceleration in the following throw. But Barney does neither, a subtle point but one which helps to make his throw appear so relaxed.

There’s no doubt this very relaxation has enabled Barney to achieve the level of success he has enjoyed. A throw with a smooth rhythm, with no sudden accelerations or decelerations, can be more repeatable and easier to control. But there can be disadvantages too. If the rhythm is lost, if tension creeps into the muscles (perhaps when doubt creeps into the mind), form will suffer. That’s why Barney’s fans never like to see their man shaking his head after a below par score!

But one doesn’t need to be a member of the Barney Army to be a fan of that silky-smooth throw. There is no doubt that The Man is one of the greatest dart players of all time, long may he continue to grace the oche.

Photo below courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC

There are 2 comments to this post

Posted by eddie at 23:47 on 26th September 2012

very nice read wonder who is gettin new darts i will guess it is taylor.love barneys throw would love to hear about gary andersons throw.also uniboffin what stance do you think on average is the best i have been trying a few like back foot further out and toe foward and heel lined up with the other heel what is best for throwing from the shoulder do you think thanks.

Posted by Jeff Cruz at 06:33 on 2nd October 2012

Wow! At last, technique spotlight on someone I patterned my throw from the time I began to take darting seriously...It has always astound me how Barney imparts an anti-clockwise spin on his arrows, while mine is clockwise (not that I'm complaining...)

I had always admire his relaxed throw, which is one reason why I emulated it (even though I'm way much smaller in stature!)...And not that I'm at par with the man, but what Uniboffin says is quite true, as I do find it hard to regain form once the rhythm is lost...

Great blog there Uniboffin!!! Three cheers for you! Hoorah!3x

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