December 20, 2019
RPRA Organisation Insurance 2020
With ever increasing legislation members are at risk of claims for situations including health and safety. As an unincorporated organisation it would be the members who would be held liable for any claim. To mitigate this risk a number of clubs (approx 300) had taken out policies through the RPRA Insurance broker. The actual number of clubs with such cover would be far greater. The annual cost of such policies was anything between £200 to £400 and in some cases even greater. In 2018/19 the RPRA was approached by a number of clubs requesting help with sourcing Public Liability Insurance. These requests were as a direct result of venues/headquarters stipulating such cover was required to use the services and facilities. In today’s culture of blame and claims this requirement is only likely to increase.
In 2019 the RPRA Council were presented with an insurance policy proposal that would provide all it’s affiliated clubs and organisations with Public Liability , Employers Liability Insurance and cover for equipment owned by affiliated clubs and organisations at a cost of £2 per member. After careful consideration the RPRA council took the decision to procure the policy and fund it from existing financial reserves.
At Octobers meeting the renewal of the policy (due March 2020) was discussed. Taking into consideration the risk and liability to members along with the value for money of a ‘block policy’ when compared to individual club polices it was agreed that the policy should be renewed.
Funding the policy from existing financial reserves was not viable and therefore it was the majority decision of the Council that members should pay a £2 insurance premium in 2020 to finance the policy.
In today’s day and age it may be considered irresponsible for clubs to operate without such cover. Therefore I hope members can see the benefits and reasoning behind the decision of Council. This difficult decision was taken in the best interests of the members.
As previously reported the Insurance Policy will cover the following:
- Public Liability Insurance for £5 million
- Employers Liability Insurance for £10 million
- Property cover for items such as but not limited to clocks, computers, baskets & trophies
December 14, 2019
Sportsman FC Presentation Night
The club held its annual prize presentation at the Sportsman in Toft Hill on Wednesday 23rd October. Our main guest Peter Virtue made the long journey down from Scotland along with his good friend Duncan Knox to be with us. Both have a long association with the Scottish National Racing Pigeon Club (SNRPC) and are very active in the national racing. Peter has developed a family of birds which excel at the distance and has amassed 13 National wins. Duncan is also a previous National winner and is the Press Officer for the SNRPC. We also had the pleasure of having Mrs Hazel Gaskill and her grandson Liam join us for the evening. This was especially poignant as it was 10 years to the week that her late husband George called the inaugural meeting of the Sportsman club which now has well over 40 members.
Chairman Jeff Walton got the night underway promptly, introducing the guests and offering a warm welcome to everyone. Jeff went through some of the season’s highlights and thanked the many sponsors and supporters of the club including, Paul Stobbs, Vanrobaey Feeds, Terry Knox, Mr and Mrs Harry Crowther. There was also a special mention for our hosts Belle and John who really do look after us during the year making us feel welcome.
The Chairman kicked off the prize presentation by asking Mrs Gaskill and her grandson Liam to present the much coveted George Gaskill Memorial Trophy to Bob Mckie winner of the Cholet National.
Then Peter Virtue came forward and addressed the audience saying how delighted he was to be invited. Describing how he always followed the clubs progress in the pigeon press adding how tough it was to compete in the NFC when flying so far North. Peter was full of praise for the winners and urged Sportsman members to keep going as he was confident that one day an Open winner would emerge from our midst.
First up to the table were Ian & Lyn Carter from Middlesbrough who gained a 4th club & section in a testing Fougeres National where returns were desperately poor. Unfortunately, the rest of their season was a bit patchy because of a pending house move. I understand they are now settled in their new home and a new Eco loft has been erected and everything is being geared to the 2020 season. Best wishes are sent to Lyn who could not make event.
It was then the turn of Brian Hopper and Son from the small village of Greenside to come forward having scored an excellent 2nd club 2nd Section N from Messac. These lads moved their lofts last year and had only a capful of birds to compete with but still achieved some excellent Channel results. So, beware Sportsman members as many years ago I flew against Brian’s grandfather Bill Taylor who scored many fine victories at the distance and they plan to emulate his achievements.
Our hardworking Chairman Jeff Walton & Son from Coxhoe was next up after winning a 2nd and 5th club & 2nd and 7th section Cholet. This has been quiet year for him and his son Matthew who does a great job hosting the club website. However, there is no doubt that blending their Jos Thone/Peter Virtue bloodlines will bring the loft back into future contention and success.
It was then the turn of Allan and Carol Walker from Stockton who in the last few years have quietly acquired some top distance bloodlines. They are big supporters of the National Flying Club and Sportsman and this year they won 3rd club & section from the difficult Fougeres National, following this up with a strong 4th club & 8th section Sigogne and an excellent 2nd club & section Coutances Old hens. There is much more to come from this loft which is improving year on year.
There was then a big applause as Barrie Blackett from Butterknowle stepped up to collect his prizes and the Owen Shaw Trophies cup. An exceptional distance flier Barrie has created his own “chaos” system and exploits it with great effect in both Saturday and National racing especially with his yearlings. He won 1st and 2nd Sportsman & section from Fougeres, winning the sponsorship prize of £50 from Mr & Mrs Harry Crowther. Barrie also won 4th club 5th section Cholet as well as winning £140 for being runner up in the Messac Show Race. I want to say a big thank you to Barrie for his unstinting support to the clock committee where he looks after all our ETS.
Last season’s top prize winners were next to the table, Dave McSween & Jim Sexton from Sunderland. They won 5th club & section Messac, 3rd club & 7th section Sigogne, 3rd club & section Coutances Old Hens and finally another outstanding 1st & 2nd club & section in the Coutances Young bird National. Every year these lads set their young bird team up for this national which is over 400 miles to their lofts. They have consistently hit the mark and I know they will be trying even harder in 2020. Also many lofts are flying well with their birds including the very successful Tom Williams in Orpington, Kent. Tom has achieved many fine performances in both the NFC & BICC in recent years flying no more than 12 cocks on widowhood with their best bloodlines.
Next up, our hardworking Secretary/Treasurer Bob Mckie from Blackhall Mill, who was Joint winner of the Averages by taking 1st and 3rd Club & section Cholet, scooping the Paul Stobbs £100 sponsorship prize. Then 1st 2nd and 5thClub, 4th, 6th & 9th section Sigogne. Timba a 5 year old Cheq Cock who won Cholet race was runner up Bird of the Year.
Finally, it was the turn of Brian Wiemer & Son from Hartlepool to step forward. Joint winners of the Averages winning 1st, 3rd & 4th club & section Messac and picking up £210 for winning the club Show Race. In the Coutances Old Hens race they were back on top winning 1st, 4th & 5th club & section from Coutances Old Hens. Their winner achieved the highest open position of the season in the club when taking 94th Open. Their 3 year old Mealy hen winner from Messac was also unanimously voted Bird of the Year.
Bouquets of flowers were presented to Mrs Gaskill and Belle before everyone enjoyed another great buffet provided by our hosts.
I must make a special mention and offer our thanks to Kevin Winter who was also with us for the evening. Kevin was the judge of our Messac Show race back in February and what an excellent job he did. Kevin kindly donated a basket full of Pigeon products/supplements which were raffled during the evening and the lucky winner was Tom Cuthbertson. This was a popular results as Tom is a hardworking member of the club who timed out of the difficult Tarbes race but just out of time. Thanks again Kevin your generosity is much appreciated.
As usual the crack was good and during the evening Garry Heslington auctioned a small number of lots presented by this year’s club winners. Thanks to those members who pledged the auction lots and best wishes to all the buyers.
Although the turnout this year was a tad disappointing, everyone I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the evening and were already thinking about next season.
October 2, 2019
NFC Coutances Old Hens/Young Bird Nationals flown 7th September
After a very mixed racing season which is fast becoming the norm in our Sport, we arrived at the final National race from Coutances with the Old Hens event flown in conjuncture with the Young Birds. In the last few seasons Sportsman members have put up some excellent performances in both categories and whilst we were expecting a decent turnout of old hens the young bird entries were thought to be problematical. This was because of heavy losses experienced across the North East both in training and early races. Plenty of, so called experts have vocalised their opinions for these losses which is not simply a UK phenomenon but Europe wide. I will refrain from adding fuel to the fire except to say “start looking outside the box at your approach to young bird racing” otherwise get used to more of the same probably worse. Climate Change will only bring further erratic weather conditions and the Peregrine issue is not going away.
As usual the Section N birds were race marked on the Wednesday night at Toft Hill with everyone happy to play their part and get the job done quickly and smoothly. Next morning myself and Tom Cuthbertson left North East at 5.30am and drove the 120 miles down to Sheffield where the crates were transferred to the NFC Transporter.
8 members who would be flying between 350 and 410 miles entered 35 birds in the race. Despite the lateness of the race the birds were all in good feather and expectations were high for a decent show.
As anticipated the turnout was low with 3 lofts mustering 30 youngsters between them. They were all in excellent fettle as you would expect for this very challenging race.
When Saturday morning came we expected an early liberation albeit the north westerly winds forecast would make it a testing challenge. As the day progressed and the early times appeared on the NFC website our members were encouraged by some of the brave performances being achieved by Yorkshire lofts. However, it was not until early evening when word filtered through that Brian Wiemer & Son at Hartlepool had timed their 6year old Grizzle hen at 19.31 pm recording a velocity of 914 ypm to take 1st Sportsman and Section N for their second Section win of the season. This bird eventually ended up 94th Open a very brave effort given the race conditions and having spent an extra night in the basket compared to their competitors.
Mr & Mrs Allan Walker at Stockton timed a brave yearling in the dark at 8.12 pm to grab 2nd Sportsman & Section. This young hen should have a bright future in front of her building on this effort.
Next morning there was a trickle of birds arriving with McSween & Sexton at Sunderland taking 3rd club and Brian Wiemer, timing 3 more birds to take 4th, 5th and 7th club rounding off a really good performance from his team of 8 entries. Bob Mckie grabbed the 6th spot.
It was not until 11.26 am on the second morning that Dave McSween & Jim Sexton timed the first of 2 young birds doing 651.75 ypm with their second bird timed at 6.30pm. Raced on the Dark their youngsters win 1st & 2nd Sportsman & Section N. and were the only birds recorded in race time which simply highlights how tough an event this was. Their family of birds are bred down from Wearside Lass & Lionheart, two UNC Bourges greats. They are no strangers to success when tackling this distance with youngbirds. This years winner is from the section winner of the same race three years ago & their second bird is from last years section winner.
Brian Wiemer and Mcsween and Sexton win the sponsorship prizes of Vanrobaey feed and a range of their excellent products. On behalf of our members I wish to say a big thank you to Vanrobaeys for their continued support of the Sportsman which is much appreciated.
Sportsman Presentation Evening
This will take place at the club’s HQ on Wednesday the 23rd October. Doors open at 7 for an 8 pm kick off. Our main guest this year is Peter Virtue from Cockburnspath. There will be free buffet prepared by our host Belle whom always does us proud. So, if you are interested in distance racing why not come along and enjoy a great night with likeminded enthusiasts-all are welcome. If you need more information just give us a call.
August 16, 2019
Toft Hill-Sigogne National
Firstly, a brief word about the Tarbes 2019 race when only 2 Sportsman members Jim Nicholson and Tom Cuthbertson were brave enough to send 4 birds to this extreme distance event of over 800 miles. Unfortunately, there were no birds home in race time although Tom, had his solo entry arrive shortly after the race had closed. His hope is that this 2year old hen will have gained much from the experience and she will now have a long rest and be prepared for another go in 2020. We all wish you the best of luck with this plan Tom.
Next up was the Sigogne National scheduled for the 20th July. At race marking on Wednesday the 17th there was a decent turnout with 10 members sending 37 birds for a race of between 600 and 640 miles. However, when it came to Saturday the liberation was put back 24 hours due to inclement weather. Sunday morning arrived to a much improving weather picture and the news that birds were up at 6 am into a light North wind changing to a South on route was welcomed. Speculation was that we may see birds into the North East on the 14 hours flying mark depending the strength of South in the wind and where it kicked in. Unfortunately, this did not work out as hoped for the Sportsman members with no birds recorded on the first day. So, with everything to play for it was another early Monday morning at the lofts for our members. I was there just after 4.30am making ready and at 5am I turned my young bird team out as normal. They were soon working up and down the Derwent Valley returning some 40 minutes later when I noticed a pigeon coming from the East join the batch. Eventually Dark21 a 2year old of John Halstead bloodlines pulled out the batch and dropped onto the loft, quickly entering the traps timed at 5.51am to win the Sportsman and 4TH Section N. As a yearling and again this year he flew Messac (456 miles) as a warmup for Sigogne where he was sent sitting 5 days on eggs. A couple of hours later I glimpsed another bird racing hard from the East and it wasted no time in entering the traps to be timed at 8.20am. This was Dark63 a 3year old Brugemann from the best of Dave Impett blood and ended up 2nd Sportsman and 6th Section. In 2018 Dark 63 was 3rd Sportsman 7th Section N Coutances in his only race then put to one side for 2019. Trained to 250 miles this year he went to Sigogne feeding a large baby which was his pride and joy. Flying 640 miles (longest flying birds timed in the National) they recorded velocities of 1142 & 992 ypm respectively.
The race team are fed on Vanrobaey No’s 39 & 35 which keeps them in tip top condition for the longer races.
Taking 3rd Sportsman was the consistent partnership of McSween & Sexton from Sunderland with a 2year old Cheq. Cock recording a velocity of 799ypm. And in 4th place came Mr & Mrs Walker from Stockton with a 2year old Blue Cock recording a velocity of 781ypm.
I timed a Red hen early 3rd morning to grab the 5th place. This hen flew Sigogne last season ending 6th Sportsman and has now gone one better. Bred by my friend Alan Astin of Carnforth she had been trained to 200 miles and was lifted into the race sitting 5day eggs.
Birds continued to return on the 3rd day with Barry Blackett and Brian Wiemer & Son both recording arrivals. Brian Weimer, from Hartlepool, was a tad unlucky his 6year old hen was reported by a fancier in Whitby the second day. After a rest, light feed and water it was released the same day and eventually made it home around midday on day 3 taking 6th Sportsman.
For the 2nd race running Bob McKie claimed the Vanrobaey sponsorship prizes of corn and a great range of grit and supplements.
2019 NFC Racing
Reflecting on the old bird season we cannot under-estimate the damage caused by the poor outcome at the Fougeres event. It really destroyed the National season hopes of many and there was no bounce back. Entry numbers in subsequent races suffered however our members rallied and some notable performances were achieved. We now move on to the Old Hens/Young Bird Coutances National in early September and are hoping for a good event with good returns to finish off a rather mixed and disappointing National racing season.
On behalf of all our club members I wish you much success in the final NFC race of the season.
July 10, 2019
NFC Cholet National flown 15/6/19
It was a quiet Marking Station at Toft Hill on Wednesday the 12th when members arrived for race marking of their entries. We made a prompt start at 5.30pm and the crates were loaded onto the van and away to Sheffield by 7 pm. Our members were flying between 500 and 553 miles in this event so not one for the feint hearted. Still licking their wounds from the first 2 nationals 12 members mustered 36 birds for the race with an even spread of cocks and hens. There was every possibility that the birds would be liberated on the Saturday although we knew with heavy showers forecast in the North later in the day it could be difficult.
Before members left the marking station Jim Sexton and I provided a detailed report back of the NFC Inquiry meeting held on the 5th June which we both attended. We felt the inquiry had turned all the stones which resulted in a very positive outcome with new liberation arrangements being unanimously agreed by the committee. The Chairman kept a tight control of the meeting ensuring everybody was given the opportunity to contribute to the debate which was challenging and constructive. Stu Wilcox re-enforced the message that members were looking for progress and it was important that the committee recognised this.
Moving on to Saturday the race day. When checking out the various weather sites it was generally accepted that an early liberation was on the cards. And when word came through that they had been liberated at 7am everyone had their thinking caps calculating the ETA. As early times began filtering through there was real optimism that after a seemingly good liberation we would see decent times in Section N and I calculated arrivals could be expected between 7 and 8 pm. However, by late afternoon heavy showers were the order of the day across Yorkshire an into the North East which did put a damper on expectations. Still our members were at their lofts in good time and when word came through at 6 pm that Craig Thompson at Seaton Delaval had timed around 4.30pm it looked like a stormer. We later learnt this had not been accurate in fact it was a system test case flagged on the NFC website which had led to a misunderstanding. Sorry for any embarrassment Craig — you’ll have the last laugh one day! This meant everything was still to play for and just before 6.45pm when speaking to our Chairman on my mobile I caught sight of 3 birds in the distance coming from the east at pace. 2 of these pulled off and flew due west whilst the 3rd kept coming towards my loft and I knew it was my 5year old Chequer cock K/A TIMBA he dropped on top of the loft before entering and being clocked. Although his wattles showed signs of coming through heavy rain he was fine and quickly into his nest box to see his 16day old baby. Flying 544 miles he recorded a velocity of 1357 ypm to win the Sportsman and 1st Section N & 628th Open.
Timba is a 2014 latebred his Sire is from the best of Brian Denny blood (via Alan Astin of Carnforth) the Dam is a Jan Arden bred by Peter Virtue of Cockburnspath. Trained as a yearling to 250 miles he has now had 5 races:
- 2016 2nd Sportsman 4th Section N 942nd Open Ancenis (523 miles)
- 2017 4th Sportsman 5th Section N 312th Open Messac (490 miles)
- 2017 4th Sportsman 8th Section 895th Open Fougeres (456 miles)
- 2018 2nd Sportsman 2nd Section 899th Open Ancenis (523 miles)
And this year he was prepared specifically for Cholet flying natural and given plenty of short training flights up to 50 miles. 3 weeks prior to the race date he had a 200 miles training flight from where he arrived 10 minutes ahead of his nearest loft mate. A very quiet individual he was fed on Vanrobaeys No 39 & 35 which was topped off with peanuts in the week prior to marking.
Second Sportsman was Jeff Walton and his son Matthew, who does a great job in maintaining our club website. Flying 530 miles they timed a 3year old Chequer hen, ’320, at 19.24 doing 1253 ypm being bred from the best of Peter Virtue bloodlines. Her sire is a grandson of Peter’s 1st Nat from Reims Virtue’s Pride. Her dam is a granddaughter of Jos Thone’ 1st Nat Barcelona winner Poco, She was bred by Brian Long from a Son of Musa, 5 x Barcelona & a daughter of Poco. ’320 went to the race feeding a six day old YB. In 2018 she was 1st Section N 797th Open Ancenis(509 miles)
In 3rd place it was Bob Mckie again with a 2year old Chequer hen at 20.10pm. Bred by Alan Astin of Carnforth she contains the best of Ken Hines blood and this was her first race having been trained to 250 miles as a yearling and again this season. Sent sitting 24 days she was exceptionally keen and in tip top condition on her return.
These were the only day birds recorded in the club also winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd Section N.
Next morning, there was a trickle of birds timed in with the consisted loft of Barrie Blackett timing 3 birds the first being 4th Sportsman in the process. Jeff Walton timed a second bird to grab 5th club with Barrie Blackett in 6th position.
Next came Tom Cuthbertson and Partner with their excellent 5year old Dark hen which already has 2 x 1st in the Sportsman to her credit. On basketing night this hen was dancing indeed when you saw her in the crate you would have thought it was a cock the way she was showing up to all the other hens. New members Craig Thompson and Dean Ward both timed in on the second day.
The Vanrobaey Sponsorship prizes were won by Bob Mckie along with the £100 Paul Stobbs kindly donated to the winner of the race.
Best of luck to everyone and their birds brave enough to tackle Tarbes.
Bob Mckie/Jeff Walton
June 30, 2019
NFC Messac National flown Saturday 1st June
It was a depleted group of members who attended Toft Hill marking station on Wednesday 29th May. In total 12 had entered 81 birds with many still licking their wounds from Fougeres. As we all know there is nothing certain in pigeon racing and flying nationals into the North East is no different. You must ensure that your charges are well prepared and hope that the prevailing winds are favourable. We certainly need some luck on our side for Section N birds to figure in the top end of the result. The weather forecast to hand on Wednesday gave our members much room for optimism and another chance to dream.
Flying between 450 and 500 miles from Messac meant it would still be a tough gig for our birds after a minimum of 3 nights in the basket. Experience has shown however that with the quality of NFC transporters, returning birds are invariably in good condition and fast to recover even after several nights in the crates.
When word came through that the birds were up on the Saturday morning at 7.15am expectations and excitement remained high. As the day progressed times coming in from other organisations indicated that birds liberated in the UK at various race points were doing fast times albeit returns were gappy. Around midday in the North East there was much heavy dark cloud and a few spots of rain but it remained warm with decent visibility. The prevailing wind was for the most part a fresh South Westerly so it was not unrealistic to anticipate that the leading birds would touch the 1500 ypm. When the early times in the South/South West started to trickle through it simply re-enforced the chance of fast birds elsewhere in the country although they may be few and far between. And this is exactly the case and what a race it ended up being for our club member Brian Wiemer and Grandson in Hartlepool flying 475 miles. They timed in 3 excellent birds doing 1507,1417 & 1347 ypm simply top flying and what a way to break their duck in the Sportsman. Their first bird a 3year old cock wins 1st Club & Section N and 107TH Open with 4043 birds entered. They also take 3rd and 4th Sportsman & Section with their 3rd bird winning our club show race and picking up £240 for good measure. Brian flies a free and easy style and his “Van Wiemers” have certainly responded well.
Splitting Brian’s birds and grabbing 2nd Sportsman & Section N was the loft of Brian Hopper & Son at sunny Greenside flying 492 miles. Having moved loft location last season these lads are flying broken birds so another cracking performance.
Taking 5th & 10th Club & Section was season’s top prize winners Dave Mcsween & Jim Sexton at Sunderland, flying 487 miles doing 1289 ypm. These lads are past winners of the UNC and always hard to beat and have a tremendous team of distance pigeons which they have cultivated over several years. Tom Williams, down in Kent flies their bloodlines and he is really doing some damage with a small team of widowhood cocks. He has scored well in every BICC race this season and is the provisional winner of Section ES and 20th Open Cholet from 2859 birds on Sunday the 9th June. The winner is steeped in winning Up North Combine bloodlines from Dave & Jim.
In 6th place with another of his super team of yearlings comes Barrie Blackett at Butterknowle, Co Durham, doing 1252 ypm from 470 miles. Barrie will openly tell you that he has developed his own “chaos” system and the birds are fed on local farm beans, peas, wheat and barley. His timer was a sweat little Mealy hen from a blend of his Scottish bloodlines and was well fancied. She will take the second prize of £110 and £21 pools in the club show race. Barrie had another couple of birds on the clock when opened.
Several other lofts also timed including Jeff Walton & Son, Bob Mckie, Mr & Mrs Walker, John & Stephen Best (picking up £60 pools from the show race) and Tom Cuthbertson and his partner.
Brian Wiemer also picked up wins the Vanrobaey Feeds sponsorship prizes of Corn and a range of their top Pigeon Supplements.
Next up it’s the Cholet National and this will be another real test with members flying between 500 and 550 miles. When we marked on Wednesday the 12th June 11 members entered a total of 36 birds. Best of luck to everyone in the NFC competing.
Sportsman Prize Presentation
Would all members and supporters of the club please note their diaries that the Payout will take place at our HQ on Wednesday the 23rd October 2019.
Chief guest and making the long journey down from across the Scottish Borders will be Peter Virtue who needs no introduction to our members.
NFC Inquiry Meeting held 5th June
Jim Sexton and I made the long journey down to Alverley for the Inquiry Meeting (13 hour day for us).
Chris Sutton has already issued a briefing note on the meeting. And I would just like to say that there was much constructive and challenging debate. The Chairman Paul Naum kept the meeting focused and gave every official the opportunity to contribute before the new process and those involved were agreed. Both Jim and I were impressed with the genuine concerns from all officials that the NFC must do better to improve race management procedures as well as maintaining the standards of our bird’s welfare. In this respect we were also confident that having listened to Dom McKoy our Convoyer our birds were in safe hands.
However there is no room for complacency and we should not forget the untold damage BOP can cause along with the unprecedented impact of Climate Change on weather conditions.
Bob Mckie/Jeff Walton
June 2, 2019
Fougeres National flown 19th May
Firstly can I offer congratulations to Phil Priddle on his Open victory and all other lofts that won their Section. I would also like to say a big well done to Mr Woods of Barnsley who is standing 8th Open in the provisional result flying 364 miles. Some achievement on such a tough race day.
Generally though the race outcome will long be remembered for the wrong reasons and could have a major impact on the NFC entry levels as the season progresses. Certainly up here in the North East race entries will be affected as 5 days after the event returns are still only around the 20% mark.
When members attended the Toft Hill marking station on Wednesday the 15th for race marking expectations were high and there was much excitement and anticipation about the race among our members who were flying between 420 and 465 miles. Some of our new members were in attendance and everyone pitched in and gave a hand to ensure marking went smoothly which generally was the case with only minor mishap. (I had to refuse a couple of entries because ETS ring details were not correctly synchronised and would require corrective action-something we decline to do on marking night.) We also checked that all birds were correctly wing stamped or carrying address rings as per RPRA rule 121. In the end we marked 113 birds (127 entered) from 18 members which was most disappointing given we have over 40 paid up members. I would like to thank everyone for their support with the marking it does make my job a lot easier.
Once marking finished the crates were quickly loaded and transported on the night to Sheffield where they were safely transferred to the NFC Transporter. Marking on a Wednesday means a minimum of 3 nights in the crates for the birds. We now know that the birds were liberated on the Sunday at 7.45am with inclement weather having caused the holdover. From the weather information available it looked to me like Tuesday would be the earliest we would get a race. It was much to everyone’s surprise when the message came through that the birds had been liberated at 7.45am on the Sunday. The website indicated that the birds had a good start and all cleared within 2 minutes. During the course of the day and because of some unprecedented weather a disappointing race evolved with poor returns across the whole country. Watching the early arrival times on the NFC website it soon became obvious that North East birds were in for an exceptionally difficult time of it. So much so that we saw nothing timed in the club on the day of release.
However after an anxious wait a brave little yearling hen was timed by Barrie Blackett flying 435 miles into Butterknowle in the west of Co Durham. He wins the Sportsman doing 723 ypm and her brother, a yearling cock was 2nd club timed at 9.47 am doing 696 ypm. Barrie is no stranger to the winners table as in recent years his birds have performed consistently at local and national level. And to top it all this was his first win using his new IPigeon ETS. However at clocks on the Monday night he still only had 2/10 in the loft.
In 3rd place came Mr & Mrs Allan Walker from Stockton. They timed a 3year old Cheq. Cock flying 430 miles doing 689 ypm. This was a good start to the national season for Allan and Carol making up for the disappointment of Middlesbrough FC missing out on promotion! Then in 4th place came the partnership of Ian & Lyn Carter from Middlesbrough who timed at 9.54 am flying 429 miles doing 683ypm. A brave effort from one of their 2year old Blue cocks. They also had a second bird at 14.08pm.
Next in the frame taking 5th place were John & Stephen Best in Stockton who timed a very consistent 4 year old Blue cock doing 678 ypm over 431miles. John was extremely upset about the race outcome as this was their only bird home from 14 at clocks.
In 6th place at 11.10am came Bob Mckie at Chopwell with Dawson’s Boy a very experienced and reliable 5 years national pigeon. Flying 456 miles his velocity was 654 ypm He will now be made ready for Cholet in just under 4 weeks hence.
At clocks we had 10 birds back in the club from 114 sent. Less than 10% and only a handful making it in the days following.
New member Craig Thompson who races into Seaton Delaval, Northumberland (465 miles) was most unlucky. Called into work early morning on his day off and when the loft was checked just after 1pm 2 of his 4 birds entries had made it back safely but unfortunately the ETS battery was flat. One of the downsides of flying to an allotment garden. However Craig said it would not discourage him from sending again in the near future.
Barrie Blackett wins the Vanrobaey Feeds of Belgium sponsorship prizes of corn and a range of their excellent products. This is the 4th season in a row that they have sponsored our full race programme and it is much appreciated. Many of our members now use their feeds and supplements especially their Premiun Power range developed for extreme distance racing. In addition Barrie, also picked up the £50 sponsorship from Mr & Mrs Harry Crowther of Consett.
I have touched on the issue of Mother Nature in several previous articles and once again this national indicates the severity that changing weather patterns will have on our sport. In my view whilst BOP are problematical Climate Change is by far the biggest and current danger to our sport. We need to ensure that we have clear liberation processes in place. Comprehensive information flows and strong communications between racing organisations/convoyers to help better understand and minimise risks to racing. We need line of flight reports from key locations by fanciers on the ground and especially on the Channel. Animal welfare is of paramount importance and this includes not only the quality of our transporters and their management regimes but the suitability of our crates and capacity levels. All the risks of a changing climate are also staring us in the face including, unprecedented tropical downpours which can be increasingly localised with rapidly changing pace on the one hand and possible extreme temperature levels as experienced in 2018 on the other. All major racing organisations need to be ahead of the curve on this score and ensure our sport can stand up to scrutiny from Animal Welfare groups or we may face unwelcome Regulations being imposed by DEFRA. The time for ACTION is now and I hope the NFC has the vision and foresights to take the lead.
By the time this article is published we will have moved on the next national. Let’s hope for a better race and we wish you all successful racing.
April 19, 2019
Sportsman Phone-in Sale
Our Sportsman phone-in sale proved to be another great success. Our members would like to thank all donors and buyers for their support.
April 7, 2019
Today is Sunday the 7th April leaving only 48 Days to basketing night Wednesday 15th May for the Fougeres National.
Race Sponsors: Vanrobaey Feeds (Belgium)
Mr & Mrs Crowther (Consett) who have donated £50 to winner of the race.
Basketing at Toft Hill is from 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm. Please get there early and give a hand with marking. We are looking to have the transport van loaded and away to Sheffield no later than 7.15pm.
Race entries must be with the NFC Secretary no later than Monday 13th May. Check your handbook for more details but remember you can book on line or by post but don’t leave it to the last minute. Best to do this early in case you encounter any problems especially as it is the first National of the season and the IT System and User skills may be a bit rusty!!
Also members must bring fully completed Part B forms with you to marking which I will check-off before marking of your birds is authorised. And make sure where using ETS systems that any previous race has been killed-off.
If you have any questions or concerns just give me a call on M. 07828961442
February 16, 2019
On the 30th January all roads led to Toft Hill for the Sportsman FC. Annual General meeting. In October this year we will celebrate our 10th Anniversary during which time we have made brilliant progress year on year in the NFC. We now have own North East Section (N) and marking station at Toft Hill financed by the Sportsman club and every year have seen stronger performances being posted. However above all it is the wonderful friendships we have built up with fellow national fanciers across the UK who have unselfishly supported our club. The list is too long to thank all of these fanciers individually suffice to say they embrace the real positive aspects of our sport.
The poor weather did not prevent another excellent AGM turn out which is a credit to our members who have an average journey of over 25 miles to reach Toft Hill. After a short General Meeting where we had one resignation and several new applicants (the club membership is now 47) we moved quickly into the AGM. Officials for 2019 confirmed as Chairman, Jeff Walton, Secretary/Treasurer, Bob Mckie. The Balance sheet was unanimously accepted with the club in a strong financial position. No changes to club rules were required. Annual club subscriptions remain at £20 per loft. Club Prize monies as 2018 with recognition included for the winner of Averages, Highest Open position achieved and the club Bird of the Year. Negotiations with Sponsors are also ongoing.
As in 2018 we will be ferrying the birds down to Sheffield to meet up with the NFC transporter. Arrangements will be finalised before the end of April which will include club members accompanying the birds. Clock Committee arrangements as 2018 where the use of our Group text operated by the Chairman has proved so successful. (Thanks Jeff).
Annual Young Bird Sale
The club will again run a telephone young bird Sale in April which Jeff Walton will lead on. Several excellent youngsters have already been pledged so watch out for our advert in the weekly Pigeon Press. There are always top quality stock available at competitive prices.
2019 Show Race
Gary Heslington, outlined the arrangements for the show. It will be held at Toft Hill on Saturday the 16th February. Race point Messac National with penning between 11.00 to 12 noon. Entry fee £5 per bird (all paid out) limited to maximum of 2 cocks/2 hens per loft. Race prize split 60/40% with £100 added prize money. There will be a single £10 nomination, winner take all. BIS/BOS prizes of £25.
Show Judge, Kevin Winter, from Sunderland.
Finally our Annual presentation will be held on the 24th October and our next General Meeting will be on 20th March.
What is ahead for Racing in 2019
It is that time of the year when fanciers are conjuring up many thoughts of the racing ahead. For the predominantly sprint minded fancier their plans will be in full swing. Many will be paired and some will already have their 1st round of babies separated. This however is not the preferred approach for many distance/extreme distance fanciers whose target National races don’t take place until late May, June and July. Nevertheless you have to be on top of things and there is always something to do around the lofts preparing your charges. Personally I will shortly have to think about changing the birds over from their winter feeding regime to their regular breeding mix. All birds including stock were vaccinated early December and will be out every day weather permitting from early February. To be fair the weather has been very kind to us in the North East and some of my own hens are already acting quite amorous. Weather permitting I will start pairing stock birds up in the next couple of weeks and the race team from early March.
Whether your preference is sprint or Distance racing 2019 appears to be more unpredictable than ever before. With no sign of any Brexit breakthrough we must remain positive and assume that the National racing programme will go forward as scheduled. The elephant in the room is without question Climate Change.
I believe this will be the biggest challenge facing our sport in coming years. Yes the BOP problem is problematical in many areas but the dynamics of Mother Nature should not be underestimated. Extreme heat, atmospheric disturbances and tropical downpours are set to test our metal with 2018 giving us a taste of what could be around the corner. Remember that on days when weather conditions appeared to be perfect for racing many birds failed to make it home with erratic returns being more and more the norm. I ask the question how many fanciers have really exercised their mind about team management as the sport evolves in a changing climate environment. Is your approach to breeding and training still fit for purpose or do you simply continue to apply old dated and tired routines.
I sincerely believe we need to be smarter and smell the coffee otherwise results will suffer and I suspect losses will hit new levels.
Race Controller/Convoyer Roles
I do not envy those who take on these responsibilities and would urge all organisations, Amalgamations, Combines and National clubs to give due care and diligence to the decision making process to all races but especially from across the Channel. Current weather forecasting techniques and the use of high tech equipment provide much more information than in years past, still there is scope for the process of telephone contacts on the line of flight and especially along the full channel coast line from East to West. Many years ago the great National fancier Jim Biss urged the NFC to develop this approach because channel conditions not least the formation and movement of fog banks were so problematical. Also if we see the extreme temperatures repeated in coming seasons Convoyers should not hesitate to consider mid-afternoon liberations. I accept this will force all birds to spend a night out but heavy losses at distance events is bound to attract bad publicity under the banner of animal welfare which we must avoid at all costs.
North East Central Route FC
Finally we wanted to mention this new club at Ferryhill which will start racing in 2019. There are a number of fanciers hesitating about joining the National scene because of a fear that losses will be heavy. Well here is a club which will be racing down the centre of the country providing an excellent chance to give your birds valuable experience on a flight path more in tune with the NFC race programme. This club will be holding a top quality youngbird sale in the coming weeks which will be in the fancy press to raise funds to purchase race baskets/crates. Definitely a sale to watch out for. For more information ring John on 07955392127 or Jeff on 07966495952