“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
L&SECCC / CSCFC Bergerac Classic 2010
I can’t believe we have come to the end of the old bird season already; it just seems like two weeks ago we enjoyed the first classic race from Messac. I can’t believe how quick this season has gone! I must say convoying for the Central Southern Classic Flying Club in the 2010 season has had it’s ups and down, as we have in all organizations, but on the whole it has been an enjoyable experience so far! They are a great bunch of people to work with! The Classic’s transporter has been a pleasure to work with this season and I know the classic members are proud of their magnificent vehicle. On our way back from Bergerac we were pulled in to a police check point at Argenton and one of the coppers looked up at me in the cab and asked in broken English, ‘pigeons’? I replied, ‘yes’ and he began to flap his arms asking where we had been racing from, and when I said Bergerac he asked if he could take a photo of the transporter. I told him he could and he proceeded to stop the traffic, walked to the other side of the road, and snapped off a couple of photos. I quickly dug through my convoying bag and found two enlargements of the lorry, which I gave him, and he said ‘mercy, you go’, and off we went. He must have been a pigeon man! Geoff Biffen of Boxhill Transport was my driver again this time and I must say he is a good man to go away with, always up for a laugh and he can certainly drive that artic lorry well, so well in fact, they have nick named him ‘sixpence’. He is a great cook and is always game to try something different, and on this trip to Bergerac he cooked horse in red wine. ‘What’, I said, when he mentioned it, but I did try a little bit and found it tough, it must have been an old cart horse!
We spent the night before marking at the Frome marking station and unloaded the crates ready for marking on Tuesday morning. When we first arrive at the Cattle Market one of my first jobs is too fill the transporter water tanks and they are so large, it takes almost two hours to fill. Having now used the CSCFC transporter for four old bird races, I think it is a first class bit of kit, with the most outstanding feature being the watering system. The lorry is self levelling and the birds drink out of nice plastic troughs that run the length of the centre isle of the trailer. I’m told the transporter has never run out of water, which I can quite believe, as the two tanks are huge. The trailer is fully air conditioned, but I do like to have the doors open as much as possible, so the inmates get as much natural air and light as I can give them. That is why you will read in my convoyer’s reports that I get up very early in the mornings while on the road, so I can open up the trailer doors and the birds can see it get naturally light. I think this is very important! The CSCFC aluminium crates are designed to carry 30 birds, but because of the intense heat in recent weeks, the Tarbes and Bergerac pigeons were transported 20 to a crate.
The London & South East Classic Club birds arrived at the Salisbury marking station in the mid-afternoon and they were re-crated very quick. All the birds were watered at both the Frome and Salisbury marking stations and I must say looked in very good order in the club’s crates. We sailed for France at 22.45hrs and arrived in Caen at 05.45hrs, where I levelled the trailer on the dock and watered the birds for two hours. We had a good run through France in black skies and rain, and arrived at the St. Leger services at 15.00hrs where the birds were watered on arrival. St. Leger motorway services is about 60 miles north of Bordeaux and is the favourite over night stop with most of the convoyer for long races, as it is quiet and has showers, and a nice restaurant. We awoke at 04.00hrs on the Thursday, dropped the water and left the St Leger services at 04.30hrs, arriving at the Bergerac liberation site at 07.30hrs, where I watered the convoy on arrival.
I was very impressed with the liberation site at Bergerac and when we pulled in to the sports centre the weather was brilliant. The field where the birds are liberated was nice and open, giving the pigeons a good clear fly out. The site has a WC, with showers and as I’ve stated several time before, is one of the best sites I’ve visited in France. By the way, I’m reliably told that that dangerous fence running down the centre of the liberation site car park in Poitiers has been removed. Great news! The Kent Combine were on site when we arrived and I must say it was great to meet up with my ol’ mates, Trevor Pennell and John Ottley again. Great lads these two, cooking a breakfast for the convoyers of all four organizations at Bergerac that weekend! John Ottley and I have met up several times on the road in past seasons and he is from Folkestone in Kent, and has been the convoyer of the Kent Cosmopolitan Federation for the last ten years. He has been in the sport 45 years and keeps, and shows mainly Chinese Owls and Oriental Frills. He has been very successful showing his birds abroad and in 2005 won European Champion with a Chinese Owl. Trevor Pennell has been racing successfully for over 40 years and he races his ‘Comanns’ pigeons in the Crown & Anchor club in Faversham, Kent. Trevor has been convoying the Kent Primary Federation for about 11 years and he tells me he loves the job.
I awoke at 04.45hrs on the Friday race day to a virtually clear blue sky and the sun coming up strong in the East. I rang my race advisors, Roy Ferriman and Steve Appleby, at 05.30hrs and although the weather conditions were perfect in Bergerac, there was a band of bad weather in mid France and I held over. The Saturday race day saw me get up at 04.00hrs to 100% cloud cover and I opened up and prepared the transporter for liberation. I telephoned Roy and Steve at 05.15hrs and they gave me a great line of flight through to the home lofts in main land England, but there was still 100% cloud cover at the Bergerac site. Sometimes it’s so easy convoying racing pigeons to France and then on the other hand, sometimes it’s very difficult. On some occasions my mother could convoy the pigeons, with the condition saying, great weather, obviously liberate or rubbish weather, obviously hold over! Sometimes when it’s a 50 / 50 chance and you are looking for a window in the weather, it’s a game of chess, and that’s when the skill factor comes in to play. Time dragged on at Bergerac and it seemed the cloud was never going to clear and show the much needed sun. The phones were ‘red hot’ on the site, as time was slipping by for the start of this Classic race, with some members flying 530 miles. At about 07.25hrs the site was lit up with sun shine as the cloud started to brake up and I was all over the transporter like a bad rash, cut strings and finalizing for the liberation. I liberated the 2,000 birds at 07.45hrs in a very light west / south west wind and convoy cleared the site with out turning in a northerly direction. I could not have liberated those pigeons a minute earlier! On our long drive back through France to Caen the weather was perfect for 500 mile racing and the wind was light, veering all the time between south west and north west. With the late liberation, I was very happy when Clare Norman and Terri Hoskin phoned me to tell me there were lot of day birds verified and I was especially pleased that there were birds in the northern sections. John and Trevor of the Kent Combine (1,000 birds) liberated at 08.10hrs and the French Combine (3,500 birds) at 08.30hrs.
Congratulations to Wesley and Jason Cheeseman of Snodland who won the L&SECC with his game pigeon, ‘Summer’s Boy’, on a ‘banger’ velocity of 1302ypm. The brother’s win has given me particular pleasure because L&SECC winners in Kent are very rare. Well done also to Thomas Burns of Marlborough who won the CSCFC in great style! Thomas’ loft is in great form, winning 1st, 2nd NE section, 7th, 10th open CSCFC from the very hard Tarbes race only three weeks before. Another brilliant performance worth a mention was that put up by Mel and Sue King of Blandford won clocked two pigeons in 4 seconds to record 1st, 2nd SE section, 2nd, 3rd open. Fantastic pigeon flying! Next race is the young bird classic held on 21st August. I can be contacted with any pigeon comments on telephone: 01372 463480.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT.