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N F C Certificate Merit Award 12-01-18

Stuart Potter of Coalville Leicestershire 

NFC Certificate of Merit Award winner 2017


John Clements


I am finally writing my last article on the NFC Certificate of Merit pigeons of 2017. Those who have been following this series of five champions will know the NFC Certificate of Merit is awarded to those individual pigeons that have flown Tarbes (the NFC longest race) three times at least within the first 200 positions in the open result.


This is no mean feat  - in fact it is exceptional, for since the inception of the award  in 1979 there has been less than 40 pigeons who have qualified (an average of  One a Year) and are listed every year in the NFC Handbook. .



A Tony Cowan Idea

This award was first proposed by that well known auctioneer, Tony Cowan of Hampshire.  Tony’s inspiration has since proved to be 'far seeing'  for it has found the few exceptional pigeons that have proved themselves consistent at this distance. The view at the time the award was founded was  that there would be many if not hundreds of individual pigeons who would qualify over time. Tony disagreed with this assessment. Events have proved Tony right and his critics wrong. As I have already said there have been less than 40 in 38 years.



‘Hard Power’ versus  ‘Soft Power’

The usual materialistic 'hard power' approach with pigeons based on fitness acquired through work  - geographical position or - how much the original stock costs,  does not cover this type of pigeon.  There hasn’t been a winner through the ages that has’t  benefited  more from a  ‘Soft Power' approach aiming for  mental  happiness in the pigeon, contentment in the loft and friendship between fanciers.


Soft Power in our sport is at last  becoming recognised as being more of a vital factor in  marathon pigeon racing than  anything else.  Materialistic measurable  stuff (Hard Power) of feeding and training. . do not work when it comes to  cultivating a three times Tarbes pigeon.  This finding  is usually not spoken about because  soft power is difficult to express, difficult to measure and difficult to put into words.



Stuart Potter’s pigeon has an unusual name. It's called 'Imagain' a name derived from Stuarts wife's remark when she sees the pigeon arrive.  Stuart, for one reason or another,  has never actually seen 'Imagain' arrive only his wife has seen it who then calls out  ‘’it’s him again “ as the pigeon hits the loft. She must have shouted  it many times over the years or at least every year for the last three years.


‘Imagain’ Tarbes Performances

Three times Tarbes 661 miles

10th Section    142nd Open     2015

3rd   Section    53rd Open        2016

8th Section      128th Open      2017

‘Imagain’ - Him Again - the Potter `NFC Certificate of Merit award winner of 2017




Many things about ‘Imagain’ are typical marathon racing with ‘imagain’. For a start he is raced on the natural system. He is paired as late as April so that the moult is not too advanced when Tarbes comes around.   He rears one youngster and then is sent sitting on eggs from the second round. This appears to be a laid back approach but ‘laid back’  with much planning behind it   from the initial ‘pairing up’  to the big race marketing date. Everything has to go perfectly but some years this is not so.  ‘Imagain’ occasionally had to be sent straight to Tarbes from an inland race point. This is not perfect - ideally there should be a prep channel race prior to Tarbes - this is the aim but problems arise but really  good pigeons as I have found out writing about them, tend to overcome problems of strategy. . . . .


For a start Stuart has a Hawk problem - Sparrow Hawks have been known to fly into the loft and then do a rapid turn about and fly out again. Stuart has to physically stand over his pigeons when they take a bath. He also has had the odd Peregrine fly with his flock as they exercise.  The Peregrine in level flight cannot hope to catch the birds and the pigeons know this.  All this appears to be a risky way of managing pigeons but it has in fact turn out to be beneficial for the birds get street wise to raptors - so streetwise pigeons  can look after themselves during long marathon races when all sorts of hazards are bound to  crop up especially when a pigeon attempts Tarbes.  In 2017 Stuart sent six pigeons to Tarbes and got four back. This is a pretty good average in this the most difficult of all NFC races.



When it comes to pedigree or the source of blood  there is a mixture  but mostly from local sources. These are mainly gift pigeons; - these were from the Glover brothers from Ravenstone, J & H Williamson at Coleorton and Ron Mitcheson, These are all top distance fanciers.  In the past few years Stuart’s  good friend Jack Howe  before his retirement bred Stuart  a few late breds  These were mainly Glover's crossed with Cedric Barker's, who is a very knowledgeable long distance flier from Loughborough. Again an example of soft power expressing itself through friendship by fanciers trying to achieve the same thing and not by money trying to buy success. .  This method seems to disprove the theory that wads of money or huge investment is the only way to success.   When it comes to Marathon racing this is not so and has been prove time and time again. . This is  especially true when top individual pigeons are required to repeat  their performance more than once in subsequent years. These are  different pigeons - different than one good year but nothing the next season. These are pigeons that have reliability bred into them.


Looks and Build

I have attached a photograph of ‘Imagine’  which confirms my favourable view of the pigeon, it’s build and it’s posture. This is the sort of pigeon I myself would love to have in my team. A pigeon with a good head - wings wrapped around the body and a pigeon not showing pronounced wing buts more common in sprint explosive pigeons. Still staying power is there with a huge chest cavity able to process a lot of oxygen for many hours. 


Undiscovered Gems

I have enjoyed writing about Certificate of Merit pigeons. I hope I have been able to express the fact that these pigeons are different. They are individual pigeons that have been allowed to  express their tenacity, by virtue of their inborn natural instincts for self preservation. . For the most part this instinct responds better by being left alone rather  than being interfered with. These pigeons don’t want interference they want contentment through a  ‘hands off’ management style.  If the fancier can restrain himself the rewards are enormous. If he can’t restrain himself he will inevitably ruin a pigeon that in other hands would turn out to be a champion. ‘Soft Power’ more than ‘Hard Power’  is the underlying message for this type of pigeon. These pigeons  are one of the last undiscovered gems in a modern pigeon world that thinks mostly in terms of speed being always better than reliability.