Yes, it was a tough race like many from the same racepoint in the past, but returns were good when the North Road Championship Club competed from Fraserburgh for the third race of their 2019 programme.
The unrelenting strong south-west wind made it a battle for the birds and winners Brian and Christine Guilford, of Sandiacre in Derbyshire, have received accolades for their Section A and open win.
Now, however, it is time to take a look at the praiseworthy winners from the other sections, starting with Section B where Portuguese fancier Joe Salvador, of Spalding, emphasised the progress he has made over a comparatively short time in the sport.
Of the 326 birds timed in, six of these were to Joe’s loft, from his entry of eleven.
The section winner, now called Lady Rose, is a two-year-old blue Jan Aarden whose velocity of 843ypm earned the 91st open position. She was flying on roundabout.
The 51-year-old Joe had lived in America and worked in the construction industry before moving to England. He moved to Spalding 12 years ago, and now works on a production line. He had always kept birds, but not pigeons until a stray found its way to his house about five years ago.
Joe soon became fascinated by the idea of keeping birds that could have their liberty and fly around home, and was bitten by the pigeon bug.
He says that he is “blessed” to be a member of the Tulips Flying Club in Spalding, where the competition is strong and friendly.
He made good use of his computer to teach himself about pigeon racing, and has made rapid progress, having had a particularly good young bird season last year when he had 30 cards in the club which competes in the Peterborough and District Federation. “I grew into it myself,” is how he describes his pigeon racing journey. “I have to see what I can do better.”
He does not plan to compete from Lerwick this year as he is wary of asking too much of his developing team at this stage.
A vastly more experienced fancier won Section C and took third open position, while also being 4th section and 16th open.
That is John Lensen, of Long Sutton, soon to be 75 and with 60 years of pigeon racing experience behind him.
John has long been a top flyer with club, Federation and the NRCC, and is enjoying a season when he can do little wrong. Why has he hit the purple patch? He will tell you that he does not know because he has done nothing different with his birds than he has over the years.
But there is a lot of knowledge and experienced invested in running this loft, and they are not just one-bird performances this season. The whole team has been coming well as he has dominated club results, and been among the front runners in the Peterborough and District Federation despite not being in a favourable because of the prevailing wind this summer.
The section winner is a four-year-old widowhood chequer cock bird, Van Loon x Soontjen, which was 8th open from Perth. John’s second pigeon from Fraserburgh came with its loftmate from Perth to finish 9th open on decimals, another example of the consistency and form of his birds this season.
Sire of the section winner is a cock bird from good friend, Dave Maddison, from Hartlepool, while the dam is one of the Soontjens for which John has become well-known over the years.
John became acquainted with Dave through north-east fancier Trevor Taylor, from whom he bought some pigeons. Dave was looking for a Soontjen to cross into his own birds and, while he had nothing to sell, John lent him a hen bird. Now they exchange pigeons regularly.
John missed the arrival of his section winner because of his desire not to miss a family Father’s Day meal prepared by his daughter. As the afternoon wore on, and there were no arrivals, he asked his friend, Dick Trundall, from Wisbech, if he would take over bird-watching duties so that he did not miss out on the family get-together. Dick agreed, but no sooner had John arrived at his daughter’s home than he had a ‘phone call to tell him of the timing. John quickly re-traced his steps to verify the bird, and was then able to return to the Father’s Day celebrations relieved that he had a bird home.
John says the bird is “smallish, but very aggressive to anyone who goes near his box.”
Of his loft routine he says he follows the pattern of previous years – two or three training tosses before the season starts, then no more training; no showing the hens every week, just turning the bowls, but showing the hens before big races.
“That seems to work for me,” he said, but he was wondering whether the best form for his cock birds had now passed as the hens were beginning to pair and he felt that took the edge off the cocks.
“I keep the hens in an aviary because I am too lazy to box them,” he said. “I like to keep things simple.”
John sent eight to Fraserburgh, had the two on the day, and all have returned except one.
Seventy years old and a fancier for 44 years, Brian Manning, of Syston, Leicestershire, won Section E with a pigeon that was 52nd open. He was also 6th, 8th and 11th section, and had six day birds from an entry of 12. Four more returned next day to complete an excellent race for Brian.
His section winner was a three-year-old dark Busschaert cock bird which has been a consistent performer, and was sent sitting 10 days, Brian being a big fan of flying the natural system with his mainly long-standing grizzle family which has been augmented by a couple of Ganus pigeons over the years.
Brian, still working as an engineer and not contemplating retirement, has had good results in club and Federation over the years, racing hens in one club and cocks in another, and had a particularly good result in the hard race from Fraserburgh in 2017.
He missed NRCC racing last season because of a mishap over entry forms, but is glad to be back this season because it is the type of racing he likes. He was planning to send a team of four to Lerwick.
Nick Barran experienced the joy of an open win in the NRCC when, in 2010, in partnership with Bob Frew, they won Perth, from an entry of nearly 4, 000 birds, with a velocity of 2093ypm, the fastest in the history of this race.
Now, after a break from the sport, this 52-year-old Norwich fancier is on the comeback trail.
After a steady race from Dunbar, he gave notice that he is again a force to be reckoned with as he gained 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th positions in Section F from Perth with returns which took 26th, 27th, 29th and 42nd open.
He did even better from Fraserburgh, two dropping together after 369 miles to take 1st and 2nd Section F and 4th and 5th open.
As he strives to establish a new team, alongside the stresses of running his Drains Solutions business, Nick sent a team of 26, had 14 on the day and, after three days, all but two had returned.
Now living at Drayton, north Norwich, and competing with the Costessy club, he has had a great season so far, having started back with a successful young bird team in 2017, and continuing equally impressively with the yearlings last year.
Flying widowhood, his Fraserburgh section winner was a dark chequer Vandenabeele yearling cock bird bred by Chris Hickman, having won Fed tickets last year and having been to the NRCC Dunbar and Perth races this year.
His second pigeon is a mealy Paul Janssen yearling hen bred by Durham fancier Jimmy Bamling. This bird’s nest sister was second section, 26th open from Perth – so we have twins both finishing second section in successive NRCC races.
Says Nick: “I feel blessed that both Chris and Jimmy have bred me some really handy pigeons.”
Explaining his return to the sport, he said: “I decided to start back with the birds in 2017. I spoke to another good friend in the north east, a very knowledgeable pigeon man, young Stuart Fawcett, and told him I was starting back.
“I asked him to find me a good sprint family for stock, and a good middle distance team for stock. He duly obliged. Most of them were very late in 2017. They were allowed to mature in 2018, but the more mature birds did have a pair of youngsters. They’ve all hit the ground running.
“I’ve bred from all the stock this season, fingers crossed they breed something special, I’ve been very lucky to have the help from all three of them.
“Paul Gregg, from the famous Gregg Bros and McCandles Irish partnership, has brought me into the 21st century. He’s dragged me screaming and kicking away from traditional systems. All four are in my debt and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them very much.”
The Fraserburgh race has helped Nick with the on-going sorting out of his team. He hoped to send a couple to Lerwick, and also a number to Thurso. Then it will be time to concentrate on the 2019 young bird team, another important step in his comeback plan.
“I am really enjoying it, but it is hard work,” he said. “If you put in the hard work, hopefully you will get the rewards you seek. I was really pleased with the Fraserburgh race.”
The wind was too strong, and from the wrong direction, to enable a day bird into London, but Bryan Cowan had to be up bright and early to welcome home to Enfield the winner of Section H.
It was a blue three-year-old roundabout hen which arrived at 5-30 am on the second day, obviously close to making the 423 mile trip on the day. Her velocity was 730ypm. She had also flown Dunbar and Perth as, nowadays, Bryan prioritises NRCC racing.
She also scored from Thurso last year with the Thames Valley Combine, and is scheduled to return there this year with the NRCC, being paired up in readiness for this 500-miler.
The section winner is bred off a Bruce McCallister cock bird and a red hen from Terry Robins.
Said Bryan: “It was a hard race and I was over the moon to win the section. I sent three and had another at 6-30am. I enjoy racing with the NRCC.”
Bryan, a 62-year-old plumbing and heating engineer, who has been in the sport since 1977 comes from a pigeon racing family, his father, grandfather and uncle all being fanciers. “There has always been pigeons in the garden,” he said. “And I took over from my father.”
Star of the longer flying sections this season has been Ronnie Reason, of Manningtree, and he had another outstanding race from Fraserburgh, being the first on the results flying more than 400 miles, winning Section I and being an impressive 22nd open with a velocity of 924ypm. He was also second section and 81st open.
He was also first and second section from Dunbar and fourth section from Perth.
In his own words, Ronnie reflects on the season so far:
“I would like to say well done to all the winners on a very tough day from Fraserburgh
“My Section I winner is a three- year- old widowhood hen bird and she has flown really well this year. She had a 2nd club at Boston earlier in the season, beaten by a loftmate, and 4th section NRCC Perth, 9 hours 3 mins on the wing.
“Then, to top it all, was first section Fraserburgh for my best result in the NRCC open to finish 22nd open.
“She was 1st section Dunbar in 2018. Her dam was an excellent racing hen for me, winning 3rd. 5th and 32nd Essex and Kent Amal with up to 4417 birds competing.
“Her sire was another good racing cock, winning many prizes.
“I was also 2nd section. I sent only the four birds. I had a third bird at 05.00, but never timed him. There is still one missing.
“This is my third NRCC race of the season and results were: Dunbar 1st and 2nd section; Perth 4th section; Fraserburgh 1st and 2nd section. I am hoping to send one bird to Lerwick. Won’t be this hen though!”