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N R C C Lerwick 27-07-18

NRCC Lerwick sections H and I


By George Wheatman


Whenever North Road Championship Club results are published, the eye is soon drawn to the performances of the longer flying fanciers. These are to be found in Sections H (London area) and I (the Eastern tip of the country) and rarely do they fail to produce results that are the envy of many.

The respective winners of these two sections in the 2018 Lerwick race are the latest examples of the outstanding distance fanciers who compete with the NRCC.

Ray Luffman’s Section H winner, the only bird on the day in London, will be hailed by many as the best performer in the race, especially as she also won the section from Thurso the previous year.

Ross Olive, winner of Section I with a bird early on the second day, has distance racing in his genes, inherited from his dad, and although only 31 young in pigeon racing terms has already established himself as a competitor to be feared when the going is tough and long.

Here is my attempt to paint a picture of two outstanding performances, and put the spotlight on two amazing racing pigeons.





Where were  you at 5-45am on Saturday June 30th?

Most likely in bed unless you are a pigeon race controller, or convoyer.  Or Ray Luffman because he is always up early, having had experience of both of these jobs and still being available for callers assessing weather conditions in the London area. No alarm clock needed.

Where were you at 9am? Probably breakfast time. Midday? Lunch and a few pints down at the pub and, after that an afternoon siesta.

Feeling peckish early evening? More food, and a stroll in the garden. It had been a hot day and a cooling breeze was welcome.

The wind was due East, and the sun had been roasting all day.

Ray was glancing skywards more regularly now, pacing up and down, trying to ignore the opinion of a Whitley Bay contact that there was no chance of a pigeon being timed from Lerwick into London that day.

It was just 15 minutes before 10 pm, when all self-respecting pensioners should be thinking of bedtime (Ray, after all, is 72). It had been a long, tiring day, but suddenly all tiredness, the doubts and fears, were forgotten. His chosen bird dropped out of the sky, she was home, the only bird to make it back to London on the day.

Remember, she had been released at 5-45am by the NRCC convoying duo of Darren Shepherd and Merv Greatrix.

Ray was all of a dither now. He gave Anne’s Pride a kiss, a drink of water and some seed, put her in her nest box and floated towards the house to verify her.

Then he realised he had not timed her in!

He had dispensed with the use of his recently-introduced ETS system for this special North Road Championship Club King’s Cup race because fellow fancier John Hore had experienced some problem with the ETS and he did not want to risk a repeat of a similar hiccup. Rubbers and clocking in would be more reliable, he felt . . .

His memory lapse cost a little time, but nothing that could spoil the moment of a lifetime. He could not get out of his mind that, during all his waking hours that day, a 16-ounce bundle of feathers had been pounding away, all guts and determination, undeterred by the 600 miles that separated its release from the Shetland Isles to its home in Buckhurst Hill, a suburban town in the Epping Forest District of Essex, adjacent to the northern boundary of Greater London.

Buckhurst Hill was once the home of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin and it was claimed that he and his famous horse Black Bess rode the 200 miles from London to York overnight.

But that was all fiction. There was nothing fictional about the epic flight by the four-year-old blue hen, Anne’s Pride, all courage and staying power.

It was a performance to keep Ray awake that night, and he so wished that he had been able to share his best moment in pigeon racing with his late wife Anne. The next best thing he could do was talk to her via the photograph on his bedside table, uncork a long-unopened bottle of champagne, drink a toast and re-name his pigeon Champion Champagne Anne.

Ray was confident that Champagne Anne was capable of completing the arduous task from Lerwick. She had already proved that she could cope with hard racing by winning Section H from Thurso the previous year, and had a 16 and a half hour flight from a difficult Fraserburgh race on her record sheet, plus 14 and a half hours from Perth as she prepared for that Thurso test.

Preparation for Lerwick was more sedate, with build-up races from Wetherby (2) and Berwick. She was sent sitting seven days. Ray would have preferred 14 which had been the condition of her best performances, but he had been confused by dates in the handbook.

He had been reassured, however, by other distance aces who preferred the shorter sitting period.

She had been paired in February but parted from her cock bird for a good part of the summer.

At the time we spoke, Ray had three birds home from Lerwick. He had sent four.

Ray is experienced in many facets of pigeon racing, and is former convoyer for the London North Road Combine, but he is comparatively new to NRCC racing, having joined just four years ago.

He accepts that he is  having to adapt his management to this type of national racing, preparing the birds differently and holding them back a little more than previously.

He has been reflecting on the large number of miles Champion Champagne Anne must have flown on her own in her various long distance challenges.

“For me now, all racing is geared towards preparing for the NRCC races,” he said. “I have enjoyed it very much.”

Ray is convinced that, before long, a London area fancier will be celebrating an NRCC open win, something that I have suggested over recent years based on the increasing number of outstanding performances from that area. Given the favourable conditions, the quality of fanciers and birds is equal to the task. His latest performance is more evidence to support this theory.

Ray took over the birds from his dad in 1965.

Now retired, he experienced a variety of jobs, including working for an engineering firm, securing his heavy goods driving licence, still shivering at memories of the time he moved from a warm office to take up work as a scaffolder on a day when the temperature was well below freezing, yet going on to thoroughly enjoy this job where he became a supervisor, before finishing his working life in property maintenance with Islington Council.

Away from the birds, he enjoys pike fishing in the Fens, but his real joy in life is enjoying the company of his livewire granddaughter, 13-year-old Emma who makes sure that he retains a positive outlook on life.




Ross Olive’s wait for his Section I winner from Lerwick was a little longer than that for Ray Luffman, but it was more leisurely. He was on a family holiday in Spain!

Like many of the young family men who are fanciers, he has to juggle the needs of family with his desire to perform at the highest level in pigeon racing, and he reasoned that his work was finished when the birds were despatched to Lerwick after the best preparation he could give them.

Luckily, and this is something he very much appreciates, he was able to rely on his brother Neil, a non-fancier, to endure the long wait that is inevitably part of distance racing and look after the birds. Modern day communications ensured that they were able to keep in close contact.

Ross’s home in Wickford, Essex, is 30 miles east of London, and 593 miles from Lerwick according to official measurement. So here we have another 600-mile pigeon being timed at shortly after 5am on the second day to record a velocity of 1034ypm and finish 46th open as well as win a section occupied by some of the best distance flyers in the NRCC. Another great performance.

The section win is not the end of it, for Ross had seven birds on the result, finishing 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 13 section; 46, 70, 84, 92, 111, 114 and 216 open.

No doubt the good news helped Ross enjoy the rest of the holiday with his young children.

Explained Ross: “I reasoned that the important time for me to be working with the pigeons was in the build-up to the Lerwick race. Once the birds were in the basket I could do no more to help them but, thanks to Neil, I could enjoy a holiday with the family and it is important to keep them happy. So I had a good race and a good holiday.”

The section winner was a five-year-old blue hen, small to medium, sent sitting 12 days. She had never won anything before but was always consistent, and certainly a tryer, said Ross.

His brother witnessed the arrival of other second day pigeons to give the loft a very satisfying 2018 Lerwick.

An out and out distance man, just like his dad, Ross would love to test his birds even beyond Lerwick, and would be a keen supporter of a race from Saxa Vord should the NRCC ever decide to venture there again.

In preparation for the latest Shetland Isles test, the Section I winner had races from Wetherby, Ripon and Dunbar, and a lot of 25 to 30-mile training tosses, in addition to morning and evening exercise around the loft. But, with the weather being so hot, she did not do much at all during the week before basketing.

The birds were fed a high fat mixture, supplemented by peanuts and small seeds.

When re-united with the section winner after his holiday, he said that she looked a picture, which was testimony to the way the birds had been looked after by the convoying team.

Ross sent 10 birds to Lerwick, and had seven of them in race time.

Now 32, he is a plasterer by trade but works as a general tradesman on property maintenance. He is the only one of a large family who followed his father into pigeon racing.

He still uses his father’s old loft, which he reckons is about 50 years old and which is still situated at his mum’s house, and many of his pigeons are descended from those he inherited from his dad.

Bloodlines include those of Venner of Street, Mitchelson and Eric Cannon.

Ross is patient with his birds and, following the pattern of many long distance aces, allows them time to develop. This is shown by the treatment of the young birds who are trained well but given only one or two races.

Now and again he introduces new pigeons, mainly through exchanges, and currently has a couple from Ipswich and NRCC legend Peter Crawford which he hopes will enhance his team.