NO GUTS, NO GLORY Loft - Part 1
By Jonathan Bailie.
Paul Swindell has had a lifelong passion for pigeon racing. This began as a small boy, when along with a schoolboy friend he used to catch feral pigeons. When he caught a stray racing pigeon he asked around local fanciers, how to look after it and so began a lifelong passion.
Pauls ambition has always to been to race for the ultimate accolade. In his opinion this is, to compete against the cream of Europe, in the Barcelona International the Blue Riband of pigeon racing.
Growing up he absorbed all the information he could lay his hands on, about the history of the sport, the oldest bloodlines and anything he could find about Barcelona. Today, he still will buy old magazines and stock books to trace bloodlines and anything that may help him achieve his goal.
His mentors during his early days were Frankie Philipps and Harold Elliott from Lisburn, both respected national flyers in their own rights. He raced to a loft in his parents back yard and was never frightened to dig deep into his pockets to purchase the best breeding stock he could. Often saving for months as a schoolboy, money earned from odd jobs and paper rounds to compete against working men in the sales room. This is something he advocates to this day, always striving to get the best blood to develop his own ultimate family of pigeons. A family of pigeons bred for one purpose to achieve what most of the International pigeon fanciers around Europe believe is impossible, clock a pigeon from Barcelona into Ireland in race time. This is why he regularly sells top stock birds, all of which would grace any loft. Once he has the bloodline mixed into his own he goes forward always forward and so is happy to let these top birds go on to others as what he is looking for is not the 500 to 700 miler, he is looking for the 1,000 miler pigeon with a heart as big as a lion and the determination to get home no matter how tough the conditions.
To many it would appear, that all that has to be done, is get a bird to home from over 1,500kms. That has been done before, in many parts of the world including Europe. Why is it so difficult into Ireland? and why has no one ever done it before in race-time?
Please take a look at our race points and see if you can work it out.
The sport of pigeon racing in Ireland, because it is an island, is dominated by sprint racing, (up to 250 miles). This racing has a better chance of the fancier getting more home and allows the average fancier a bit of sport every week. This branch of the sport is very well supported with birdages in some organisations such as the NIPA around 30,000 in many of the races. These numbers fall dramatically when the cold windy Irish sea enters the equation.
When the birds go to the 3 French races the convoy falls to 2 to 3 thousand birds. The earliest French race is the old bird national at the end of June. This race is when all organisations in Ireland send to the same race point on the same day, traditionally race points like St. Malo, Lamballe, Fourgeres. Those organisations affiliated to the Irish Homing Union race for the Millar Gold Cup; the NIPA as an RPRA affiliated organisation, race for their old bird national.
The other French races happen on subsequent weeks. The INFC (Irish National Flying Club) organises both of these (with restrictions of 20 birds per loft), on the first weekend in July they hold The Kings Cup Grand National, it is the blue riband and the longest of the traditional races into Ireland. The final race being held a week later, the INFC Friendship national when what is left will bravely face the sea once again. These events are considered to be good races when 15% of the entry return to their lofts, in recent years these returns have been closer to 5% so difficult has been the race conditions, in 2017 the Old bird national from St. Malo returned less than 1% of the entry, the Friendship national returned under 2% of the entry.
So, for the French national racer or long-distance racer in Ireland, their season is over a period of 15 days, usually limiting a bird to one serious race each season. This is why Swindells Racing Pigeons will for the 2018 season, also be competing with the Eclipse 650 club in England and the (BICC) British International Championship Club in the internationals.
For the Swindell loft to clock a bird in race time from Barcelona, it has to fly back to back Kings Cups + another 60 miles. The achievement by NEVER GIVE UP a black chequer tip cock in returning from the Mont De Marsan International 2017, albeit well outside race time (as he had been badly injured and rested up somewhere to heal before flying home), has galvanised the conviction that we are on the right track.
In the words of retired USA air force Major Gen. Frederick C. Blesse, "NO GUTS, NO GLORY".
These 4 simple words sum up everything that Swindells Racing Pigeons is about, this is why the decision has been made to call the new state of the art, bespoke loft specially designed and built to race the internationals THE NO GUTS, NO GLORY LOFT.