UKU Tour 2 – London Calling – A Tour Preview

A Tour, London Calling, news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, UKUT2

Josh Coxon Kelly previews the A Tour for London Calling.

The Tour final at Nottingham was played between the two halves of the GB Open squad, as many will have hoped given that this squad is representing this and next year as the strongest Britain can offer. Saturday morning saw Manchester run close for the first half with GB 1, and the same GB team had to work hard to get past Glasgow in the upwind / downwind semi-final, but neither of these teams could keep up in the second half, and overall the two GB teams met in the final without too much of a scare. Whilst not heavily spectated due to the majority of the tournament still having games to play, the final was an exciting match-up as the training squad stepped up to competition play for the first time this year. Both teams showed a disregard for the wind starting the game with clean upwind goals. GB 1 soon took control of the first half, winning it 8-6 and starting downwind after half. Although the pivotal point of the game looked to have passed, GB A began the second half with a footblocked huck on the upwind endzone line. This quick break conversion triggered a merciless comeback as the defensive team took control. Tom ‘Mum’ Abrams had a particularly strong game with upwind pulls and hucks that changed the field in favour of the D team. Altogether GB A stole victory with a 5-0 second half, and a final score of 11-8. These teams looked strong, continued this showing with a victory at Windmill last weekend and will want to dominate at Tour 2 as they move on to the US Open as a single squad shortly afterwards.

UKU Tour 2 – London Calling – B Tour Preview

London Calling, news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, UKUT2

Thomas Cliff previews the B Tour for this weekend.

So the dust has settled in Nottingham (this is clearly not true, the wind hasn’t let anything settle in at least three years), and Brighton Legends proved to be a step above the conditions and competition at Tour 1. Although they suffered a pool play loss to Vision, Brighton had a sharp zone which they practiced all weekend, and it showed when it came to the games which mattered on Sunday. Paired with experienced throwers like Tom White, and the out-and-out athlete Harry Slinger-Thompson, they handled the wind much better than anyone else involved, and well deserved their promotion to A Tour.

With the international teams incoming for Tour 2 there were questions marks over the amount of promotions headed up to A Tour, but it seems Sneeekys and ABH 1 have also earned themselves spots in the top flight. ABH used sensible strategy in the wind, playing percentages and position to win vital upwind breaks against Fire of London 2 in the game-to-go; the loss providing a tough lesson for a Fire squad which thrives on confidence.

UKU Tour 2 – London Calling – C Tour Preview

London Calling, news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, UKUT2

Jordan Brown previews the C Tour at London Calling.

With Nottingham done and dusted for the season and the pristine pitches of St Albans ready to host close to a hundred teams for Tour 2, London Calling is back and bigger than ever. While A Tour and Women’s Tour offer more of an international flavour to proceedings, C Tour is still likely to see some quality Ultimate being played – especially after the division saw its fair share of upsets at Tour 1.

A few of my predictions for the event were accurate last time but some were way off the mark. I’d touted certain teams to finish much higher than they finally did, and a few teams didn’t get much of a look-in in the preview, and then they were pretty amazing at Tour. Flash looked good on paper but with minimal grass experience as a team  and certain players being unavailable, they finished outside of the top eight. Similarly, Devon 2 dropped in the seedings after succumbing to strong opponents in their pool. St. Albans had a tough time of things as well. They had been put into a pool with eventual winners Gravity, which put them up against Camden a little earlier than perhaps they had hoped for. Plummeting from second to 16th by the end of Saturday’s play and then coming unstuck against a strong Camden 1 in their crossover, their hopes of a high finish were dashed.

UKU Tour 2 – London Calling – Women’s Tour Preview

London Calling, news, Previews, Tournament Reports, UKUT2, Women's Tour, Womens

Felicity “Flea” Perry and Claire Taylor give us their outlook on the Women’s division.

The top of the UK women’s tour is currently a tale of one team – the London based Iceni decimated the field at Tour 1. They won every game with acres to spare. With only 14 points scored against them over six games, they are a well drilled and highly skilled team of athletes. Their performance was impressive to say the least, and their resolute attitude to be the best saw them sail through the opposition at Tour 1.

We could talk about the gusty conditions, but we would just be rehashing old news. It’s Nottingham, it was windy, people played zone, let’s move on. The pitches were in great condition, the tournament was well organised, and the sun even appeared briefly.

London Calling – Open Divison Review

London Calling, Open Tour
James Burbidge Summarises the start of the UK Open Club Season

Not that there was much doubt in anyone’s mind – but Clapham had no problem asserting their dominance over the rest of Europe at London Calling. Split O and D lines cruised through their pools and bracket play to meet in the final where the D-line beat the O 15-9.

Playing as a full squad almost proved their undoing – trading down against Bad Skid late in the show game on Saturday evening, a clean slate for the weekend looked far from certain. With a clinical finish however, they found another gear at 12-13 down to take the game away from the Germans 15-13.

It was surprising therefore, to see Bad Skid lose in the quarterfinal to one of the French national teams on Sunday morning. Perhaps this is simply explained by a gut-busting performance the night before causing a mental and physical hangover the next day. Likewise a shorthanded FAB finished 11th (dropping from their 3 seed) but gave Clapham their closest game of the weekend, losing to the D-line by just 2.

Ashley Yeo goes up to get the goal. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

Both French teams made it to the quarterfinals, and it will be exciting to see what they can achieve at Euros with a bit more time together under their belts and when the wheat is separated from the chaff. Austria, on the other hand, had a solid weekend against top level competition, but failed to excite, finishing 14th.

Viksjofors and EMO will both be quietly pleased with their weekends, taking 4th and 6threspectively, and proving they can hang with the best in Europe. EMO quietly took the 2nd seed for Tour 2, displacing Chevron (and putting themselves on the same side of the bracket as Clapham). Likewise a Bear-heavy Fire will be happy with their 9th place finish, which should translate to 5that Tour 2.

Big movers up from the mid-table were Glasgow, who moved from 23rd to 16th after knocking Ka-Pow down in a crossover, and Zimmer who did the same for Brighton City (O-line) to move from 20th to 12th. Devon meanwhile, dropped from 13thto 19th, despite playing their elite pool extremely close on Saturday (a 2 point loss to Bad Skid, and a sudden death win over Fire).

With the seedings and schedule released in record time, we now know that the Tour 2 team list will be as follows:

1. Clapham D
2. Clapham O
3.  EMO
4.  Chevron
5.  Fire
6.  Zimmer
7. Ranelagh
8.  Brighton
9. Glasgow
10. Manchester
11. Devon
12. DED
13. Ka-Pow
14. Cult
15. LLLeeds
16. Birmingham

Another fantastic London Calling in the book (what pitches!), roll on Tour 2.

Tour 2 Previews and more are on the way, stay tuned!

London Calling – Women’s Division Review

London Calling, Review, Women's Tour
Charlie Blair summarises the events of the season’s first Women’s Tour 

London Calling yet again upheld its welcome tradition of providing impeccable weather to kick off the season. On the still and sunny pitches of St Albans, it also didn’t fail to deliver significant shake-ups, with only four teams holding their original seeds. Nevertheless, there unfortunately remains an apparent divide between the teams in the top and lower halves of the table. In fact, one of the few who held seeding included returning Tour champions Iceni – unmoved from the summit of the standings – as well as Swift, who continued to lead the pack in the lower half.

E6 and Iceni both had more or less straight-forward routes to the final. Other than a close opener between E6 and Bristol Cupboom (won 15-12 by E6), neither finalist conceded more than 7 points until their meeting on Sunday. Thankfully, the final was not such a walkover for either side as the Swedes’ impressive athleticism was a worthy match for Iceni. The temperate conditions really played into the hands of E6, who had successfully been connecting well placed long shots and high grabs all weekend. In addition to the Swedes’ monopolisation of the break side, the Londoners also at first struggled to halt their opponents’ fast flowing play. However, Iceni’s large squad was eventually able to capitalise on tiredness, and after stepping up the one-on-one D saw out the game with a confident offence.
It is disappointing however, that neither Bristol team demonstrated much of a threat to either finalist in the semis, as would surelyhave been expected after E6 only just edged victory in their opening game to Cupboom. Cupbowl, however gave them no such challenge. Granted they had themselves had only just won a tight game to SYC but it seems the depleted size of both Bristol teams left both of them without the energy to push as hard as was needed. This was later confirmed by the decision to forfeit the subsequent 3v4 match between the two sides. The schedule at Worlds will be demanding just as much consistency from them, if not more, and perhaps this was a wasted opportunity to push themselves as hard as they will need to in order to reach their full potential in Italy. The lure to enjoy the afternoon sunshine instead of showing some final game grit surely doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of their future opponents.

Elsewhere the last games of the day proved to be a much more competitive affair with close games between Free Agents and Punt, and SYC and YAKA. Free Agents made the greatest ascension of the tournament to take fifth spot, and their last game could have been an even closer affair if Punt had not allowed the score line to run away from them so much at the beginning. It was only once they ironed out the kinks in their own offence and stopped making unforced errors that they were able to start catching up, but unfortunately for them it wasn’t quite enough.
Jenna Thompson winds up for Iceni – Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

That said, Punt had another great tournament and continue to carry through the success of last season, leapfrogging both SYC and LLLeeds, who both began the tournament seeded above them. Certainly, they will have to keep the foot on the pedal at Tour 2, as SYC will surely have them in their sights. Having won a sudden death victory over the Cambridge outfit on the Saturday morning crossover, they’ll know they are capable of a better finish next time round. In fact, I think SYC deserve some credit for in despite of their losses, their close score lines reflect constant battle all weekend. Their victory in their final game to YAKA will have been a well earned reward and a testament to this grit. Unfortunately for the French, it’s safe to say that they were (as predicted) slightly overseeded for this tournament with the loss of key play-makers.

In contrast to the top 8, it was a great shame to see such a dearth of contest in the final games of the day amongst those fighting for the lower ranks. The only competitive result was to determine who finished 11th, between Swift and Brighton Pretty. Whilst it was still a very positive finish for the southerners, it was the Scottish who emerged victorious (15-10) to end the competition where they had begun.

In the rest of the fixtures there was a surprising gap between the winners and losers; considering that by this stage of the tournament you should be playing your most well matched opponents. Admittedly, I cannot confirm the reason behind the forfeit of the match between Relentless and Crown Jewels, but I hope (in the nicest way possible!) that it was enforced rather than mere lacklustre. Earlier in the weekend, Relentless were unfortunate to lose in sudden death to Blink, who ended up only finishing one seed above them. The matchup between them and Crown Jewels therefore surely promised to be a good game.

Equally, the lack of fight is apparent in the remaining score lines, in which none of the defeated teams managed to rack up more than eight points. Yet new outfits Devon and Manchester (who finished five places apart from each other) had played a tighter result in a preceding match against one another which finished 10-13.

This suggests to me that these final game score lines are not a result of disparaging ability but simply a lack of fight and love to play your best Ultimate whenever you get the chance to. I can’t help but feel with a little more focus and discipline, the belief and confidence to become ever more successful will be a natural by-product. To demand high expectations of yourself and your team even in that last, seemingly inconsequential 23v24 game, should not be sapping the fun out of the experience, but another opportunity to do something great. Another opportunity to create another great memory with your team mates, and achieve things you perhaps never imagined you could, no matter if you’re victorious or not. You’ll never know, if you don’t try!

Naturally, looking ahead to Tour, the majority of the teams going to Nottingham will have their seedings bumped up by the departure of our international guests and the pick-up teams who can’t field enough players. Still, let’s hope that the results show a much more linear gradation in the standard of teams rather than such a stark divide between the upper and lower half of women’s Tour. The season has only just began and hopefully everyone now has a taste for battle! Especially for our two teams heading to worlds, they are out of the training ground, and are now well on their way to Italy. From here on out, it should be expected that the fight will only get harder and harder…. Relish it!
1. Iceni (=)
2. E6 (+2)
3. Nice Bristols Cupboom (-1)
4. Nice Bristols Cupbowl (+1)
5. Free Agents (+5)

6. Punt (+2)
7. SYC (-1)
8. YAKA (-5)
9. LLLeeds (-2)
10. ROBOT (-1)
11. Swift (=)
12.Brighton Pretty (+2)
13. Phoenix London (+3)
14. Blink (+1)
15.  Relentless (-2)
16.  Crown Jewells (-4)
17.  Dragon Knights 1 (=)
18.  JR (+3)
19.  Manchester (=)
20.  Lemmington Lemmings (-2)
21.  Dragon Knights 2 (+1)
22.  All Things Brighton Beautiful (+2)
23.  Devon (-3)
24.  Discie Chicks

The season’s off with a cracker of a tournament and can only get better. Stay tuned for more recaps as well as Tour 2 previews!

Answering The Call…

Bad Skid, Flying Angels Bern, London Calling, news, Previews, SYC, YAKA
James Burbidge introduces the international competition making the trip over the channel this weekend.

Tour 1 became ‘London Calling’ in 2010 when 7 international teams were first invited over to compete in the British event. This year 11 teams are crossing water to play against Europe’s champions, the top-level British teams, and each other in preparation for 3 years of fierce competition. We got in touch with TD (and CEO of UKU) Si Hill and some of the visiting teams to find out what goes into putting on this unique tournament, and what attracts Europe’s top teams to it.

With a massive 96 teams attending this year, Si’s chief worry isn’t the schedule, or seeding the new teams, no – “it’s the carpark. With the recent rain we’re worried about the car park field getting muddy, and we need people to get in and parked efficiently.  We don’t want any delays at the entrance because we’re only a few hundred metres from the M25.

Tour 1 always brings a frisson of excitement to a familiar British tour scene as unfamiliar teams are inserted into the top 16. For Si, this disruption is kind of the point: “For A-tour teams, and our top women’s teams, having strong European squads over brings everyone’s level up. The stronger we make the competition, and the more we play unfamiliar teams, the better everyone gets. That’s the goal.”

 Phil Johnson wraps around for the bid. Photo Courtesy of Graham Bailey.

That was the hope of every international team we spoke to too, with Clapham and Iceni consistently mentioned as clubs they were hoping to pitch themselves against. That’s no surprise; a clean sweep for British teams at xEUCF last year is a clear indicator that British ultimate is doing something right. Viksjöfors captain Stefan Johansson put it most simply: “We want a good preparation tournament before Worlds and London Calling has been on our radar for a couple of years, so we decided it was time to go. Also we know that at the tournament we will play the best European teams, so it was not that hard to justify London Calling instead of, for example, Windmill.”

For Frédéric Risse, the French Open coach, it’s athletic opponents in particular he is trying to find. “We cross the Channel to play athletic and experienced teams. English teams are known for being among the best and we want our player to face athletic and even rough opposition.”

Looking furthest ahead, both France and Austria have entered national teams in preparation for the European and World Championships in 2014 and 2015. With the club season just finishing in France they found the timing perfectly suited their preparation for national teams. They have brought two into the Open division, split equally to give high-pressure experience to the younger members of the squad. Having entered previously in 2012 many of the team have played London Calling before, and some played the British season with Fire last year.

For countries with stronger club scenes, the focus is a lot closer – Lecco, the World Ultimate Club Championships, this summer. A brief glance at the top teams at xEUCF last autumn and a look at the top 16 of London Calling reveals an awfully similar set of teams. Competition is going to be fierce and these teams are going to be familiar with each other. London Calling should give a chance to see how new squads are looking, and what effects winter trainings have had on performance. Unfortunately, though, most travelling teams are unable to bring a full squad; injuries, travel costs, exams and work commitments have prohibited several players from making the trip. FAB look to be worst hit, bringing only 13 of a possible 25 players to London; Bad Skid, meanwhile, may be limited by reported travel times of up to 14 hours.

European powerhouse FAB are making the trip to London for the first time “despite talking about going every year.” At the other end of the spectrum, French women’s team Yaka will be making their fourth trip in 5 years. Their captain Aline ‘Rasta’ Mondiot says the team is looking to make the quarter finals in an increasingly strong women’s division, but admits that will be difficult when 4 players (including herself) will be playing for SYC.

The other international women’s team attending is E6, from Sweden, who usually attend Wonderful Copenhagen (unfortunately cancelled this year). Whilst they have a World’s spot they haven’t been at xEUCF for the last two years. Harriet Andersson, team captain, says the tournament is about “getting as much ultimate as possible before Worlds in Lecco. The team members are spread all over the country due to studies and work, so we don’t get much time playing with each other.”

Holger climbs the ladder at last year’s tournament. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

That’s definitely not the case for Bad Skid, some of whom have been playing together since they were 14. With some tough losses to Clapham over the last year, we asked if they had any plans for the European Champions. Captain Holger Beuttenmüller said that playing perfectly on both sides of the disc would be key, as well as not getting sucked into playing Clapham’s game. He also admitted that “sure, we have some specific plans against them, but we try to keep them a secret” It will be interesting to see if any special tactics are revealed in the showgame on Saturday or if they are saved for bracket play on Sunday.

Looking beyond 2014, Si Hill is keen to grow the tournament – but only by 4 teams to a maximum of 100. Instead, he’d rather focus on getting more European women’s teams over consistently, and developing the provision of the tournament to make it feel premium. Streaming of games is an option he and the team are looking at, and feelers are out to get some North American competition over. He is also happy to announce that UKU has submitted a bid to WFDF to host the World u23 Championships in 2015 at this venue.

Everything’s set for a seriously good tournament. Again, remember to use the #ukut1 tag for all related social media, and best of luck for all competitors heading to St. Albans this weekend!