Guernsey Young Bird/Old Hens National flown 6th September
This was the final race in this year’s NFC race card. A couple of months ago the race was being eagerly talked about especially for young birds. However, in what for many in the Northeast has been a most challenging season due to heavy losses many fanciers were forced to shut up shop and finish racing early. This had a significant impact on race entry levels.
Our regular readers will know that in the past Sportsman club members have put up some excellent Open performances in both events. The loft of McSween & Sexton from Sunderland always prepares a small team of darkie young birds with this race in mind. And in the Old hens race we have seen some sterling performances by Driver, Dawson & Dawson from Greenside as well as John Best & Son from Stockton. However, when it came to marking night at Toft Hill on Wednesday the 1st September birds for both races were sparse with only 7 members entering 31 Old Hens and 6 entering 36 Young birds. Club Pooling was brisk along with excellent Sponsorship Prizes for individual race winners from James & Vicky Cook at Tumley Lofts (£150 Vouchers for each) and Vanrobaey Feeds prizes of bags of corn and a range of their products.
Due to poor weather conditions over the weekend across Guernsey the Race Controller and Convoyer had to hold their nerve and wait for suitable conditions. It was not until Monday the 6th that they could liberate at 10am into a beautiful sky with a light northeast wind in the channel that turned to light southeast on the mainland. Our members knew that after 5 nights in the crates this would be tough yet eagerly watched the race progress on the NFC website and some early excellent performances in several Sections was encouraging. None more so in Section K where there were some excellent performances giving hope that we could with luck see birds reaching the Northeast on the day. Unfortunately, after an anxious wait it wasn’t to be and when hours of darkness kicked in no birds had arrived in the Section. This was bitterly disappointing, so alarms were set for an early morning rise at which time the prevailing conditions provided a more positive feeling. Just after 7am, word filtered through that Allan & Carol Walker, at Stockton flying 352 miles had timed 2 Old Hens recording velocities of 918 & 913ypm to take 1st and 2nd Sportsman, Section N. & 202nd & 205th Open. Later, they timed another 3birds to be 5th 6th & 8th Section. Mick Lilley and Son at Hartlepool flying 364 miles timed 3 of their 6 entries to claim 3rd 4th & 9th Section, with McSween & Sexton taking 7th place. As the day progressed the heat became quite extreme, it was therefore no surprise after a difficult first day coupled with the heat of day 2 no young birds made it into the Northeast within race time. This was most disappointing as this the first time in years that the Sportsman had not recorded young birds in race time.
So that’s it for another season of national racing which has seen a mixed bag of outcomes due to the lack of distance. Let’s hope this resolves itself before 2022 and we can get back across the channel but don’t get carried away with the over optimism of many officials as there remains some tough negotiations to be navigated before we see the desired outcome.
Young Bird Losses
Everyone you talk to has their own theories as to why the losses have been heavy and widespread but equally puzzling is why so few are being reported or making it home under their own steam. Because of this and the general uncertainty about future Continental racing many fanciers are in a quandary about whether to carry on racing. Many I think will simply knuckle down and will scale back on the size of their distance team and bring in some sprint/middle distance blood and enjoy whatever racing there is. Unfortunately, there are a few fanciers who love the Continental races and aren’t interested in sprinting who may decide to leave the sport completely if channel racing is not restored and would be a big loss.
The Sportsman annual presentation night will take place on Wednesday the 20th October. Because of lingering concerns about Covid this will be a low-key event but still a welcome social night for our members with a small buffet and plenty of Real Ale for those who enjoy a pint or two.
Barrie Blackett (Butterknowle)
Barrie who is one of our founder members has been absent for most of the season through ill health. We understand he is making steady improvement and look forward to him being fighting fit and back in the saddle for next season.
Well, that wraps racing reports up for this season, but we will keep you up to date with Sportsman FC business/events as we go through the close season.