Tag Archives: One80

A.I.M: Manufacturers Championship 2019

Who builds the better team? Who makes the best signings? Who improves & develops players? Who is the best Manufacturer / Sponsor?

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For 2019 A.I.M are presenting a simplified Manufacturers Championship version that should be interesting but not over techie or insider nonsense.

A.I.M use the PDC ranking events as a base. In each event, those who reach the Qtr Final or better will score points for their dart supplier/sponsor. Winner will get 10 points, runner / up 5, Semi 3 and Qtrs 1. In the case of televised major,  such as the upcoming UK Open, this will be doubled. For The World Championships, the multiplier will be 2.5. As an amendment, we add the BDO majors for the overall table.

Early Season Skirmishes

The first four ranking events of the season, Pro Tours 1-4, feature the return of a classic dart brand and a rebalancing between the other big names. Another classic brand/manufacturer took a bit of a beating.

  1. Red Dragon (38)
  2. Target (26)
  3. Unicorn (24)
  4. XQMax (21)
  5. Harrows (15)
  6. Bulls (6)
  7. Winmau (4)
  8. Cosmo (1)
  9. Powercore (1)

Red Dragon managed to head the table overall through scoring in every event with a mix of players. Price has moved up a level whilst Wright, Hendo and Clayton all performed well and scored for the team.

Red Dragon Logo

RD excelling in the constructors’ championship?

Target proved hit or miss with Dave Chisnall ensuring a highlight early on while on other days they did poorly, Ricky Evans has stormed through to provide high quality back up. XQ Max still features well with 21 points (two wins) from the four events. This excellent effort is tempered with the fact that all points were gained through a single player. MVG is clearly carrying this vehicle. Unicorn managed to spread their effort across more players including some newcomers including Harry Ward ( Gavin Carlin may well push them over the top as his darts look very like Unicorn Grippers to me!) and in every event, they will also benefit from the return of Gary Anderson.

Harrows made a welcome return to the higher ranks. Their retention of Glenn Durrant ensures they have another iconic name and their 15 points were all gained by the debut-making northeasterner. Josh Payne may also add to Harrows success and represent the younger generation. Bulls continued there recent success with James Wattinema claiming five points with a final appearance. Lees established or smaller brands have yet to make much of a dent in the 2019 table. Cosmo nicked points through Steve West’s efforts and Powercore look to have done well by snapping up Ryan Searle. Perhaps the most surprising was the paltry 10 points picked up by Winmau. Merv King gained them 3 handy points, another was gained by Matt Edgar who despite not having an official dart supplier uses a Winmau Navigator set.

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Harrows returned to the PDC in style.

 Transfers / Signings Activity & Gossip.

Recent gossip about Adrian Lewis leaving Target seems to have died down. His end of season rally in 2018 may well have reminded them of his value. It remains to be seen whether Harrows decide to back up their outfit with another UK / European player or two. Winmau clearly needs a shot in the arm. Their main player roster looks a little one dimensional and although none of them should be written off they do look a little vulnerable to a changing of the guard. Gurney carrying the new generation banner almost alone seems tough. Nathan Aspinall’s move to Target should not surprise anyone as they seem very keen to add proven young talent to their stable, even if it is riskier than their previous ‘darting galacticos’ strategy. Unicorn look a little vulnerable in depth terms. Their team are performing very well but Wade needs to be ber very careful, Gary Anderson seems injury prone and Jelle Klaasen is totally out of sorts. If they can find a star name to prise away from elsewhere to join them it should not be a surprise. Look out for smaller companies or those from the Far East making an impact again soon. In recent years they have been very successful it seems unlikely that this would simply stop. Powercore’s gamble on Ryan Searle, for example, looks a fine bet.

Whether the major companies attempt to poach Clemens, Searle et al may worth keeping an eye on. Do Evo, Powercore, and others, have the reach or ability to develop? Are the contracts solid enough to ensure they get the benefits of their risk/investment?

 

 

A.I.M: Darts Manufacturers Championship 2018, Unicorn retain their dominance.

A.I.M have been closely observing darts for close to a decade. Whether it’s for coaching players, designing/testing products or advising clients, the progression of everything darts is important to us. Who add value to their players? Which have the best signing success? Who is on the up? Who has past their peak?

Unicorn Logo

Despite staying relatively quiet, Team Unicorn has retained its dominance in overall success.

Along the way, we produced a simple league table for comparing the success of darts manufacturers. We use PDC ranking events as a base. Then we add selected major events from the BDO. The players who reach the last 8 of Pro Tour events receive 1 point, semi-finalists 3, Runner Up 5 and the Winner receive 10. These points are doubled for majors and multiplied by 2.5 for the world championships. To ensure maximum openness we use ranking events only. Here is the 2018 Constructors Table:

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  1. Unicorn (381) 
  2. XQ Max (205)
  3. Red Dragon (199.5)
  4. Winmau (172.5)
  5. Target (161.5)
  6. Bulls (120.5)
  7. Cosmo (48)
  8. One80 (45)
  9. Harrows (13)
  10. Bit of Bully (9.5)

When it comes to signing players, the biggest, and longest established, companies attempt to combine a handful of legendary names with a few of current champions and a smattering of players they believe may move up a level. Recently more female players, players from mainland Europe or Asia, and more youth development have been added. Newer or smaller companies try to spot undiscovered or undervalued talent or back players with a legacy that may sparkle again. This has worked well for Powercore ( Ryan Searle) & Bit of Bully (Ryan Joyce) and Evo-Darts (Gabriel Clemens) for example.

Despite the attention given to other companies in recent years, Unicorn has again managed to produce a squad of players that perform in every type of event and combines dominant champions with other talented winners. Their 2nd group seem to step up regularly and when required. XQ Max has again relied totally on MVG for their points but his prolific form ensures this remains a successful strategy.

Red Dragon Logo
RD excelling in the constructor’s championship. 

Red Dragon has continued their upward momentum and is neck and neck with XQ Max in the PDC table ahead of them when the BDO events are included. The progress of Gerwen price has added another elite level player to Team RD who look more balanced. Their long term support of players is also looking productive. Both Jamie Lewis and Johnny Clayton seem to have benefited from the supportive, family atmosphere that RD create.

Target Dart Logo

Target’s massive investment, in players, designs and marketing, had been paying great dividends. This may have plateaued in 2018. Their old guard are heading into retirements and some of their other top stars had slow years. Rob Cross, Chizzy, Alan Norris and others did not produce their best last years and as such Target slipped into a distant fifth place. Winmau also underperformed for such a famed brand and will need to rework their line up in the coming years or so. They have great ambassadors, who are still playing well, but only Gurney is consistently gaining them high levels of attention.

Eric Wins 3 in a row

The 1st player to win the three in a row. Bristow has been joined by Duzza, another Harrows player.

Harrows, darting royalty to many, made a low key return to the success on the PDC side in 2018. Josh Payne claimed a Pro Tour title and is generally progressing very typically for a Harrow’s player. Three-time Lakeside Champ Glen Durrant will ensure this name is seen across the codes in 2019.

All in all, it was a ‘steady as you go’ year across the PDC ranking events. Red Dragon performed well and look to be on the up. Unicorn’s long practised strategy again proved correct and most of the other big names dipped a little. The rise of  One80 (in the BDO) & the Independents is good to see and may well continue through to 2019. A.I.M will repeat the exercise and see which Team’s signings, and development, progress the most. 

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Darts, The Technology Game? Part 1

The Tech Explosion.
As with many sports, darts has been inundated with “technological” advances over recent years. Due to the large audience, increased exposure and huge participant numbers, manufacturers have been seeking to develop products that will tempt the ordinary player and, perhaps, give professional players that extra % that will make all the difference.
One of the great advantages of darts, as a participant sport, is its relatively inexpensive nature. A decent board, other items needed, in order to play the game can be obtained and installed for less £100 or even less than £50 with the help of Ebay or swap & sell sites.
Surges in popularity of Golf & Tennis, among others, also lead to technological leaps, both for amateurs and at the professional level. Yet in these sports the advances can be clearly demonstrated, explained and sometimes obviously visible. Sweet spots, head size, string power or spin generation, length of shot, reduction of mis-hits etc.
The biggest change in darts was the use of denser metals, such as tungsten, in order to make darts thinner at the preferred weights. Tennis and golf have had their equivalents with changes in shaft and frame material respectively. Again in such sports these changes lead to measurable increasing in power, durability, flexibility etc.
A few years ago however darts manufacturers began to introduce other changes. With these came increased costs and what could be termed premium level darts and accessories. Along with the design “innovations” came new cosmetics and terminology in order to persuade players that these items could really make a difference to them. At the highest level players were tinkering, with the help of manufacturers, almost constantly to create the impression of an evolving process, thus meaning new generations of players, or classic, darts and the creation of a market that now sees many amateur players changing darts annually or even more often! It seems that a combination of sport tech and mobile phone / football shirt fashion have entered into the game.

 Do darts Innovations Work?

There are three main area’s where advances are claimed. Barrel design, and manufacture, accessories that complete the dart, often known as the “Set Up” and more recently the third area, point design and manufacture.

The Start of The Technology Game in Modern Darts?

The Start of The Technology Game in Modern Darts?

 

The recent increase in these areas of innovation can probably be traced back to Unicorn’s, and Phil Taylor’s, development of development of the Sigma dart. Much fanfare was brought to the creation of this ( Phase 4?) dart. Could “The Power” be made even better? Rocket scientists were apparently involved, later known as UniBoffins! and “dart & accessories designed to be as one” from point to flight became a watchword.

These darts were then packaged in premium cases and sold with serial numbers and assured weights, laser etched on the barrels, and quality guaranties etc. These were short-lived in terms of Phil’s use and , due to his struggles, The Phase 5 was swiftly introduced. Yet the die was cast and the annual launch, technology heavy and premium looking package, formula now became the norm.

Slick marketing, space age tech and premium sets. The new way?

Slick marketing, space age tech and premium sets. The new way?

Hidden in this tale, however, is a possibility that manufacturers would not like to dwell on. Namely, that the advances are myths and depend totally upon the player. “The Power” could not get on with the newly created darts, something had to be done, so some old tech, the “John Lowe”barrel,  was swiftly adapted into the Phil Taylor Phase 5. Even the one piece side loading stem was very similar to those used by Lowe and others in the 1980’s. Taylor went from strength to strength, different editions of the Phase 5 were launched, colour hjgcoordinated and coated for fashion preference and the day was saved, The Phase 5 is now known as the most successful dart ever made.

Despite being based on very old tech. The Phase 5 follows the same formula and triumphs.

Despite being based on very old tech. The Phase 5 follows the same formula and triumphs.

Barrels & Grip

If barrel technology was moving the game forward at rapid speed, or had changed anything significant, the current crop of the games elite would be using different equipment, or much improved versions, than those of 10 or 20 years ago. If we allow the argument that those players had grown up with the older equipment, and struggled to change, then surely the younger generation coming through would be using newer  kit or dramatic variations of the older styles.

Yet a good look at the rankings may show us a different story. The top twenty PDC players include players whose age range is from mid fifty’s to early twenties. They are a mix of players, some who have grown up with darts early TV age and those who will have been heavily influenced by the more modern Sky/PDC game. They also differ in speed, style, rythym just as much as previous generations.

Of the current top twenty. Eleven use a  straight or tapered barrel with a cut grip. These are either simple ring cut, combination cut or a “purist style” cut. Phil is currently the only player in the top 20 using a classic Lowe/Sigma barrel and similar set up. Of the other eight players, two use knurled grip barrels, variations of these have been around for decades. Too more use very smooth barrels of slightly different types. Although Stephen Bunting is trying various new grips, his most successful darts were very light, simple and smooth. Jelle Klassen and Simon Whitlock are using an interesting looking barrels, yet upon close inspection they have much in common with other tapered nose barrelled with ring cuts placed where they like them and a scallop or similar toward the rear of the dart. Even the weight used by players is not changing greatly. Phil’s 26g is still at the high end, Bunting at the lower end with 12-17g. The vast majority seem to sit between 20 & 22g. Not much has changed here (for example John Lowe prefered 21.5g) in over over thirty years. It does seem however that lighter darts have the slight upper hand. Priestley, Hankey and Bunting have won world titles using 17g or less. The 21g or less professional group seems to be gaining momentum.

 

Ultimate Retro? Dolans history making darts. Simple, tungsten, ring grip darts.

Ultimate Retro? Dolans history making darts. Simple, tungsten, ring grip darts.

What of the younger generation of players, perhaps less set in their ways or more open to the newer styles? Micheal Smith uses a very simple ring cut barrel with soft snub nose, Dave Pallet uses Adrian Lewis  type darts made either by Unicorn or Bulls. It is a tapered nose edition with ring step cuts all the way down. Keegan Brown uses a Unicorn dart that uses simple cut sections and smooth blanks. It looks like cross between Barney, Bob Anderson and some One80 barrels.

Bully Boys darts are again simple, ring grip darts,slightly snubbed nose. No Whistles or bells.

Bully Boys darts are again simple, ring grip darts,slightly snubbed nose. No Whistles or bells.

The newer grips that are being developed, produced and marketed include nano grip, pixel grip, micro grip, diamond grip and more. None of these have yet made the grade in terms of a player coming through having adopted one of these from early in their career or changed to one and transformed their performance. Although a special mention should go to Red Dragon/Winmau here. Around 2010/11 they introduced the diamond fusion grip. Selected designs of premium darts were made with an encrusted diamond grip on sections of the barrels.

Diamond Grips for Diamond White?

Diamond Grips for Diamond White?

After trying various darts and set ups, during a “fitting session” Ian Diamond White was suggested to try the 22g edition. They were very familiar to him in shape, style weight & balance, the additional grip and security, of the diamond idea, seemed to really fit with Ian and over the next couple of years his career did indeed go to the next level. The problem is, this process had already started, Ian had qualified for the G Slam and Worlds in the previous few months and was already on a steep upward curve. It is very difficult to be sure how much the grip chance added to that. However I do believe it provided a confidence in his eqipement, and in turn his game, that helped him improve quicker and maintain his highest standard for longer periods. It is interesting that they have now introduced this into more models, in the Winmau Range, and Peter Wright’s Euro 11 dart. This is very similar to MVG’s dart. The combination of the two could be very interesting.

In some ways grip fashion is moving backwards, there is a renewed appetite for older style copper tungsten, and other mixed material, darts. This seems to be due to the fact that the metal, combined with use , sweat etc., seems to produce a natural grip not dependent on the added factors. Could this be due to added or surface grip wearing and being less consistent over time?

As can be seen the jury is still out on “technological advances” in the barrel and grip areas. Yet the development, presentation and marketing of these premium products goes from strength to strength. Makers such as Cosmo package their darts more like jewellery than sports items with Target’s recent £300 Elysian darts illustrating the extreme end of such a market.

Ultimate in Premium product marketing. Target's £300 darts!

Ultimate in Premium product marketing. Target’s £300 darts!

What about “set ups” can technology and innovation help the pro’s or the rest of us when it comes to flights, stems and other accessories?

Point, Barrel, Stem & Flight all as one. Fact or fiction?

Point, Barrel, Stem & Flight all as one. Fact or fiction?

The answer here may be even clearer……..

See Part II