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California mountain friends syndicate, Netherlands crowned Arona champions 2021/21

It’s mid-March and after weeks and months of challenging training and racing we’re finally in a position to stage this year’s Derby Arona final race with a testing double island flight from Fuerteventura, a distance of approx. 280 klm, a route based mainly over open spans of the Atlantic Ocean.


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With so many restrictions in place not only on the island of Tenerife but worldwide, the only way the team were able to stage the final race was via agreement with local authorities that it would be done with limited invited guests and although not many would be able to travel, they would not encourage a gathering in or around the lofts.

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Each pigeon race marked, stamped and presented prior to going in the basket.

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Gladys Ledesma "the Admin boss" in her traditional role checking each entrant’s ring number going into the basket presented by Abel Ledesma and the loft team.

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With basketing taking place on Thursday 24th March all the proceeding were carried out under the watchful eye of those participating via livestream as they keenly awaited for their entry to come to the ring marker to be entered, each pigeon was scanned, numbers checked, a unique wing stamp applied then presented to the camera for the final viewing before going into the crates, this procedure was carried out for every pigeon until the final pigeon was marked, with the basket sealed under the watchful eye of the independent security appointed to accompany the birds throughout the journey to the race point.

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Jose & Gladys Ledesma, present the completed basketing list of 2021 finalists.

By late afternoon and with the pigeons on their way, the journey would take them north through Tenerife to the northern town of Porta Santa Cruz, where they would board the late ferry to Gran Canaria, on disembarking in Gran Canaria they then take the journey from west to east to meet with the second ferry that would take them on to Fuerteventura, once back on land they made several stops to refresh the pigeons with corn and water on route as they made their final leg of the trip down to the liberation site on the east coast of the island arriving midday Friday, following their arrival and with fresh water available, they were left to settle in preparation for the planned liberation the following morning.

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Feeding and watering on route to the liberation site

With the birds safely on site at the lofts, things were also starting to be arranged at the loft with the arrival of the Spanish broadcasting company who have documented proceeding for the past years, more  important this year than ever, with the absent gathering which usually congregate to welcome the returning finalists, with everything set up and ready to go, with birds on site, live broadcasting ready and invited guests confirmed, everyone’s minds were set on the following morning.

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24 hour security throughout the journey and seen checking and removing the security tags ready for the liberation.

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Race day, and with a clear morning sky and a strong westerly head wind coming across the Atlantic, Abel for the final time, released the 251, 2021 derby Arona finalists at 08:00, at the lofts with the lack of people to fulfil and entertain the team made the most of the situation by replaying past enjoyable memories of previous finals.

As the clocked ticked toward last year winning time of four hours which swiftly came and went and with five hours approaching, we could all see that the head wind the first of which they had faced all year was going to play a major part in today’s returns.

With the clock ticking on past the six and seven hour marker and with no birds as yet to be seen, the thoughts and flash backs of past years Derby Arona finals when only one or two pigeons returned no doubt started to play on people’s minds.

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Team California Mountain Friends 1st international and Derby Arona champions 2021

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Matter Horn 1st International Derby Arona final 2021

Thankfully after just over 7 hrs on the wing at 15.05.31 our long anticipated wait seemed to be over as the first pigeon, a red hen named "Matter Horn" entered by Team Mountain California Friends syn from the Netherlands landed and made its way in to record its arrival therefore duly crowned winner of the Derby Arona 2021, as for the winning pigeon, during the past weeks its maintained a modest mid table place throughout the series with the highest ranking being 125th, but when it came down to it proved to have what was required to face today`s challenging winds To claim the top honor and winner’s trophy.

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Team P.E.C. & Batenbourg and pigeon Sindy 2nd International Derby Arona final 2021

With one on the clock it brought fresh expectations as we keenly awaited more pigeons, but once again the time went on and it was a further hour or so until a second pigeon appeared this time for Team  Belgium in Team P.E.C. & Batenburg as their entry a blue white flighted hen named Sindy recorded its arrival at 16.09.00 to claim 2nd international and runners up award, the latest racing and training flights for this game hen again shows steady progress in positions which includes 7oth international in the previous semi final.

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Lorenzo van Russel and pigeon Targus 3rd international Derby Arona final 2021

With two arrivals recorded and without doubt a long challenging day behind us we’re rewarded with one more arrival for 3rd international with a second pigeon for Team Netherlands as we seen Lorenzo van Russell and his entry Targus coming in at 18.50.02 for 3rd international winning the third place  trophy, this gallant and brave pigeon after nearly 11hours flying time is no stranger to the podium after coming in 3rd international in the semi-final.

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Paul & Christine Titcomb 1st England 1st UK 4th International Derby Arona final 2021 with pigeon Oscar

As day turned to night on the island of Tenerife, there were without doubt some very disappointed people around the world, who had been following today’s events, no more than Jose and the Derby Arona team as it clearly showed that, whilst the day seemed right with perfect visibility a moderate temperature, the strong westerly wind obviously proved to be a lot stronger than anticipated for the pigeons to face and therefore everyone was hoping for improved conditions the following morning and  there would be more pigeons arriving. 

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Frits Paulssen, 5th international Derby Arona final with pigeon Robian

Day 2 and with the tv crew now packed up and gone the traditional livestream continuing to monitor the loft, the wait continued for the second day in hope that more pigeons that which initially taken offline and taking refuge on the neighboring islands would correct themselves and make their way home.

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Team Anitta & Tage Gravesen and pigeon Tilla 747 6th international Derby Arona final and runner up king of sprint average winner 2021

It was just after 9am that we were rewarded in our wait as the first arrival of the day had recorded its return this being a pigeon for the husband and wife partnership of Paul and Christine Titcomb from England as their remaining entry Oscar timed in at 09.15.04 winning the 1st UK honors and 4th international to its credit, their pigeon is a Cheq hen has again like previous returnees made a steady climb in the results after enduring a night or two out previously with positions including 102nd and 172nd in the semi final


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Team Monick Nys & Kris Govers with pigeon Fallina 7th international Derby Arona and king of sprint averages winner 2021

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Team Hendriksen with pigeon Max 8th international, knock-out winner, 3rd king of sprint average and runner up King of the Atlantic averages

With no flurry of arrivals which we thought we would witness, we had to wait a few minutes before we  saw another arrival the second of the day at 09.21.45 with a third pigeon for the winning nation of the Netherlands with the arrival of pigeon Robian for Team Frits Paulssen taking the 5th international   prize with a Cheq hen which was amongst the leaders in the semi-final taking 5th international. 

In 6th we go to Team Denmark with previous years hotspot race winners Anita and Tage Gravesen timing their entry Tilla 747 at 10.41.04, whilst in 7th international position and therefore collect 1,000 euro we see pigeon Fallina for Team Monick, Nys & Kris Govers for Team Belgium a pigeon we`ve previously reported on following its 6th international performance in the endurance race one.

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Daniel Hash (USA) 9th international & King of the Atlantic winner 2021 with pigeon Gaucho

During the afternoon we thankfully seen a few more pigeons returning with the numbers rising with  8th place be awarded to team Henriksen with Denmark’s second arrival as pigeon Max comes in on 12.02.53, with so little returns it was good to see Daniel Hash from the USA take 9th international with his entry Gaucho close behind with a time 12.06.41 considering they send their pigeons across to Tenerife in April after undergoing many weeks of quarantine before they arrive, it’s a justifying reward for the American team

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Team Knol & pigeon Toutatis 10th international final race and hotspot race 2 winner

Following a further two hours wait we then seen the hotspot 2 race winners team Knol from the Netherlands pigeon Toutatis record its arrival at 14, 07 39 for 10th international, followed up by a second arrival for the UK team as what proved to be the last pigeon of the day with team Will Curtis and the endurance race one winning pigeon Sharron battling the elements to return with a time of 15.53.01, which put closure on yet another disappointing day.

With the team making the decision to close the race upon darkness on day three and with conditions calming down, the clock continued to record any future arrivals and as such on the third and final day we witnessed just one gallant pigeon that had completed the journey in race time, with a second arrival for Team Pec & Batenburg from Belgium with pigeon Kalypso.

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Team Will Curtis endurance race 1 winner 11th Derby Arona final 2021 with pigeon Sharron

As we could all imagine and appreciate with the close of race approaching, this brought a  disappointing end to this year’s Derby Arona adventure for many, who after seeing their entries overcoming previous tasks were more than ever waiting for this year’s final event.


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Pigeon Kalypso 2nd arrival 12th international final race for Team P.E.C. & Batenburg

The conditions proved to be that lot more challenging than anticipated compared to previous years, but this is the Canary Islands where weather patterns can change so quick, with a moderate head wind on liberation and increasing winds over the open waters, the final result of just twelve pigeons timing in obviously proved such, indicating that this year’s final race wasn’t so much about the distance but the winds.


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Team Tinks Treasures 1st tree bird average hotspot race 1 & Team P.S.S.S.S Belgium 1st tree bird average winner hoptsot 2


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GBR Janssen Netherlands tree bird average winners hotspot 3 

With the race closed, the team were therefore able to confirm the added awards in relation to the averages and other schemes running, firstly the king of sprint average this is run from the first race through to the final, taking the top honors we see Monick, Nys & Kris Grovers crowned champion with pigeon Fallina from Belgium with 73,496pts and 1,000 euro prize, Team Denmark take the runners up  position and 3rd places with Team Anita & Tage Gravesen and pigeon Tilla747 on 72,085pts and team Heneriksen in 3rd with pigeon max on 71,987

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Some fortunate Belgium participants who were able to be in Tenerife for this year’s final 

In the King of Atlantic averages that takes in all crossings of the Atlantic Ocean Team Daniel Hash from the USA is the recipient of the top honors with his pigeon Gaucho on 59,231pts in 2nd its Team Henriksen and their pigeon Max claiming its second average award on 58,384 holding Team Pec & Batenburg with pigeon Sindy from Belgium in 3rd with 58,234pts.

Also claimed is the knock-out competition which has run through all the hotspot races this year’s winners are Team Henrikson from Denmark claiming the 1,000 euro prize with pigeon Max.

With all the major awards claimed, there was also the three bird average awards for hotpot races 1, 2 & 3 where each winner will put claim to a 500 e payout, in the survival race we seen Team Tinks Treasures from England claiming the hotspot 1 survival race award, Team P-S-S-S from Belgium take the team honors in hotspot race 2, whilst team GBR Janssen from the Netherlands take the same awards in the hotspot 3 semi-final race.


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Twelve champions of the sky, Derby Arona returning finalists 2021.

In the early years of the Derby Arona, race participants knew the challenges and uncertainty to what  the Atlantic offered and experienced races with a small number of returns from the final race and were  worthy of the honors they received, however over the past years we’ve been a little complacent and taken things for granted in regards to large groups returning from the final, we must take into account that for the past two years the team have altered the programme which answers numerous  comments that the final race is too short and not competitive or testing enough with so many pigeons coming together so with moving the semi-final to Gran Canaria, the only time the pigeons compete over the double island route now is in the final race, this therefore gives each fancier who`s pigeons have  completed the four Gran Canaria races an equal chance in the final race, all be it a more testing event but a race to test the finalists to the extreme in the ultimate goal of completing the race series.

We can report that since closure of the race, two more pigeons have returned to the loft these were for Team Essex Rockets England and one for the syn of Even, Peter and Noemi from Slovakia

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The Derby Arona tenerife one loft race is not for everyone we understand this, it’s because it’s different that makes it so unique in its own way unlike most one loft races that fly over land, the Derby Arona course is flying 90% over water which something pigeons are more than reluctant to face, a race where selection is critical, the ability, agility, courage and bravery is tested to the extreme which is what we believe the modern day fancier is looking for, a race to test their pigeons capability and whilst the chances are lower in getting a pigeon through to the final, it’s return proved this year to be even greater, as they faced the double island flight from Fuerteventura.


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Jose Ledesma, carrying out the verification of wing stamp for each arrival.

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As we round off another year the team have been closely monitoring participants concerns over the recent weeks and as a result have hopefully made some drastic changes to the training programme for the coming year, introducing a number of additional island training flights from 50klm and a new liberation site beyond the usual 60 klm of Sant Cruz to the town of San Andreas which is approx. 70klm from the North to the current loft location in Guazza, in the hope that the extra training will enhance the fitness of the pigeons before they head toward Gran Canaria for the future hotspot races.

Also taken into account is the activations period over the past years activations of reserve pigeons fall within the xmas period, to assist participants with the costs that this implies, the Derby Arona as most are aware operate an in house account system with personal private logins, this can now be used by fanciers to transfer funds as little and as often as they wish during the year to reduce the large outlay later on. 

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Scenes we hope to see in the future for the Derby Arona final

On a personal note with this being the final report of 2020/21 , I would once again like to thank Jose and the Derby Arona team for inviting me to cover this year’s racing, during the current series it’s been a pleasure to report and publish the achievements of so many, it’s been a troubled year throughout for everyone, coordinators, the race team and participants due to covid etc., but once again with as little as possible disruption we’ve come through it, let’s hope next year will be different with some level of normality and we can all meet up once again on the island of Tenerife for next year’s final race

Arrangements are no doubt currently being made by your country coordinators in regards to shipping for the next Derby Arona series, which gets underway in December the loft is open for entries from April till October, if you wish to take on the next Atlantic challenge all contacts and shipping information is available at

All that remains now on behalf of myself, Jose and the Derby Arona team is to thank everyone for this year’s participation and we hope to see you all again soon for

"Another Year in Arona"

Stay safe !!

Tom Harris