THE ARONA DERBY TENERIFE ONE LOFT RACE 2013
Report by Tom Harris
Jose Ledesma holding aloft this year's winning pigeon
Saturday 23rd March saw the final event for the Arona One Loft Race, on the island of Tenerife. The Welsh contingent flew out to the island on Tuesday 19th March, and ideally this year we were all centrally located in the holiday resort of Playa Las Americas.
This year’s campaign started way back in June 2012 with 32 Welsh entries transported to Germany to meet up with pigeons from Belgium, Holland, Germany and other eastern European countries, at the home of Karl and Andrea Dickmann/Stroetges for a joint consignment to Tenerife, to the home and lofts of Jose Ledesma and family in the quiet resort of Guazza positioned at the foot of the Mount Tiede between Tenerife south airport and Los Cristianos.
On arrival at the lofts you receive notification of entry into the system and the birds are placed under netting for a few weeks enabling them to get accustomed to the environment and surroundings, prior to release into the warm Canarian skies. With just loft exercise taking place it all went quiet for a while, until mid November whereupon all the entries remaining after the breaking in period are photographed and placed on the Arona website allowing the fancier the opportunity of seeing how their entrants had developed over the past weeks and months. I had the advantage in October of traditionally visiting the Arona set up whilst visiting our eldest who lives and works in Tenerife along with Dylan Russel also a participant in our syndicate. On arrival at the loft we were met and greeted by Glady and Abel who invited us to view the pigeons housed and to seek out our entries. This then gave us the opportunity of being able to handle them for the first time since they were handed over at approx 30 days old. We as a syndicate (Men of Gwent) initially sent twelve over and at the time of the visit eight remained in preparation for the forthcoming training programme.
Right to left: myself, Dylan Russel and Craig in October 2012 visiting the loft
Yes we were four adrift over the first four months before anything started, but like most countries birds of prey are the greatest fear for both pigeon and fanciers alike. The Canaries suffer the same problems so losing pigeons off the loft is nothing new to any fancier be it a raptor problem or simply flying off.
On the 5th December the training programme kicked off and the 2013 campaign was underway. With the added advantage of the internet and live streams we are all able to view the daily updates and videos of liberations and trapping provided by the Arona team throughout the training schedule. We were therefore able to watch each and every race as it happened from the comfort of our own living room hundreds of miles away.
Moving on to late February, the pigeons who had survived the inland training had moved into the more serious parts of the campaign, when the liberations were taking place from mid water between Tenerife and Gran Canaria. This for many of the entrants is the make or break stage for them. It’s here that quite a few of the pigeons don’t adapt or wish to face the conditions and miss the island of Tenerife resulting in being drawn to other Canarian islands. A few make their way back, whilst others refuse to encounter the water solo, or take the option of heading for the nearest land they see on liberation which is often Gran Canaria, and once settled there it’s a hard job to get them to come across as previous results have shown. However quite a few who make their way to Gran Canaria do eventually come across under their own steam over the days after liberation and it’s these birds that do take on the challenge and come through this stage that are usually still there in the later stages flying for the major prizes.
The Arona team
There are three major races leading up to the final and each race holds a first prize of a new car for the winners. These are the survival race from south Gran Canaria 95km, car race 2 from north Gran Canaria 135km and the semi-final from Fuertaventura 220km.
So here we are Thursday 21st March and the basketing day for the 2013 final and from the initial entry, just 138 game and courageous pigeons remain. Myself and John Shields from Skegness met up and arrived at the lofts around 10.30 to find all the refreshments were once again laid on by the Arona organisation at 11am and with temperatures reaching 30+ degrees the basketing kicked off. This took a few hours, as you could imagine as nothing is rushed and everything is open for viewing. For transparency the procedure of marking each pigeon is filmed once again via live stream showing everything that was happening as if you were standing in the loft. For those fanciers who were in attendance it also gave them the opportunity of handling and viewing their entrant for the final time before the race. With the official union ring taped up for added security and each pigeon wing stamped with the unique Arona stamp, the pigeons were placed into the crates and all were sealed prior to departure.
Throughout the basketing and the journey the team are accompanied by an outside security officer to verify every movement in or around the pigeons prior to release. With all 138 birds accounted for, they set off on Thursday evening for their overnight ferry to the north of Fuertaventura liberation site where they sat awaiting the Saturday liberation.
During basketing we met up with Alan Knowles and his wife Teresa from Ireland, who were there for the first time this year as observers with the intention of participating in 2014. After an afternoon in each other’s company and introducing them to a few regulars at the race, we arranged to meet up that evening for a few drinks in a local bar close to our hotels and enjoyed each other’s company till the early hours discussing the forthcoming event and expectations come Saturday.
Alan and Teresa Knowles
Race day Saturday 23rd March
Myself and Gaynor and our Meg arrived at the lofts around 10am to meet up with our fellow Welsh counterparts, syndicate members and fanciers from many countries who were already in attendance. On our arrival we were informed that the pigeons were released at 07.45 into a head wind and whilst the skies were blue the sun was out and the wind itself was very brisk and would no doubt have an effect on the outcome of the race.
Once again in the hospitality corner, free food in the form of paella and hog roast accompanied by beers and soft drinks was laid on for the gathering by the Arona team, which went down well.
Time was getting on and before long there seemed to be a lot of doubt circulating as to where the pigeons had gone as they were now well overdue. It wasn’t till 15.32 that the first arrival was timed in for German entrant Klass & Son with a pigeon named "Gallopin Garbage". Only one more pigeon was courageous enough to face the elements on the winning day and this was a pigeon named "Lexy" entered by last year’s winner Jorge Amleida Santos from Portugal timed in at 19.03.
This year's top ten pigeons
So yes a little disappointing not to see more pigeons, but they don’t call this the most extreme one loft race in the world for nothing. Also for consideration when entering this event is these game pigeons are flying over 80% of water to return to their perch, so we must congratulate the pigeons and fanciers that do make it not only on the winning day but also the days that follow. Nine more pigeons were recorded during our stay on the island and we must congratulate Will Donachie of Scotland on timing the only British entry in race time (Big Bro) to take 6th spot.
Willie Donachie from Scotland
Sunday night saw the prize presentation and representing our syndicate team Men of Gwent Wales was Mark Williams who gracefully accepted our awards for 3rd hotspot 2 and 14th semi-final with "Old Peg" entered by Tommy Lamsdale, this being our second award in as many years after winning 2nd hotspot 2 in 2012 with "Bond" bred by Shaun Proctor.
So that is it for another year, and now back home preparations are well and truly underway to send our 2014 contenders over. A date has been set for July 13th where the birds will once again be convoyed via Mark Williams from North Wales who has taken on the task as co-ordinator for the forthcoming 2013/14 campagin which covers Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. The cost is 30 euro per pigeon transport costs, plus the entry fee of 220 euro per team of five - 1 paid entry and 4 reserves.
Mark Williams receiving the award for the Men of Gwent syndicate from Wales