Vernon's Jim Cotter follows a rock in the recent Pinty's Grand Slam event in Paradise

Vernon's Jim Cotter follows a rock in the recent Pinty's Grand Slam event in Paradise

Curling Classic opens Thursday

For one of the few times during a long curling season, Vernon’s Jim Cotter rink gets to sleep in their own beds.

For one of the few times during a long curling season, Vernon’s Jim Cotter rink gets to sleep in their own beds and not live out of a suitcase.

The reigning B.C. men’s champion and his rink of third Ryan Kuhn, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky will be among the favourites in the 12-team men’s draw at the annual Prestige Hotels and Resorts Curling Classic which begins Thursday.

“For us, it’s always nice to be able to play in front of family and friends who may not always have the opportunity to come and watch us,” said Sawatsky. “To play on Merk’s (curling club manager and ice maker extraordinaire Dave Merklinger) ice is always a treat. He’s one of the best in the world. The ice is always good in Vernon.”

It will be the Cotter team’s first action since a 12-1 road trip to Ontario and Newfoundland to start the season, a trip that saw them reach the semis in Oakville, then win the Tier 2 Division at the Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in Paradise, N.L.

“The one loss was an extra-end game that we could have easily won,” said Sawatsky. “Everyone is playing well and we hope to build on that and keep the train rolling.”

The men’s event opens Friday at 4:30 p.m. Cotter – the 2012 Prestige winner – is one of four teams to receive a first-round bye, thanks to their points total on the World Curling Tour.

They play Friday at 9:30 p.m. versus the winner of a game between defending champ Grant Dezura of Maple Ridge and Vernon’s Thomas Love, who is backed by third Erik Colwell, second Brendan Chapple and lead Johnathan Schwartz.

The men’s field also includes current Canadian champion Pat Simmons of Calgary (with former Cotter member John Morris at third). Simmons also received a bye, as did Brady Clark of  Seattle and Yusuke Morozumi of Japan.

Merklinger will ice a team including players from Kelowna and Penticton, while Vernon’s Jamie Sexton will throw third rocks for Vancouver’s Stephen Schneider.

The men’s semifinals will go Monday at 9 a.m. with the final to follow at around noon.

A total of 28 women’s teams, including a number of former Canadian and Classic champions, will compete for nearly $37,000 in prize money.