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Highs & Lows of 2012


John Ghent reflects on the highs and lows of the 2012 racing season


And so the season is drawing to a close and the pigeon papers and websites will be full of adverts for birds to improve your performances next season, chemicals and methods that will send you shooting up the sheet and details of shows and presentation evenings with the odd loft report of the big names that we all know.

Well, for a change, let's look back at 2012 and see what has been great and what has not in this year of pigeon racing in the UK and Ireland. It has, so I have been told, been one of the most unusual and difficult years on record, losses at a premium, both young and old, weather causing problems throughout the National and International calendars in June and July and the traditional issues with the hawks and peregrines. If however you are reading this article, as I am writing it, with an optimism of what 2013 will bring, then I must applaud you and welcome you to the club. Too often in pigeons we moan, grumble and blame others when we should maybe be looking at ourselves. Did I feed right? Did I train correctly? Did they get the attention from me that they deserved? Did I plan correctly through the Winter months? All of these questions must be asked to ourselves, looking in the mirror as we do, for the only people we will be lying to is ourselves!

It is no coincidence that the same names reach the top every year, in the same races, whether it be sprint, middle distance, long distance or marathon racing on the International stage. I don't need to name them, you know who they are. I am not in a position to sit here and preach, as I do not know what it takes yet to reach the top but in a song that I am very fond of is the lyric, "reach for the stars, and if you miss it at least you'll fall on top of the world." Very apt considering my intentions over the next 3-5 years, with a little help from my friends. The question is, what are your plans? If you cannot answer this question then you need to start polishing that mirror NOW, ready for the back of September next year.

So, as the heading states, "The Highs and Lows of 2012." Human nature dictates that we are more able to criticise than compliment so let's start with the lows, at least then we will finish on a high note! Some of these issues and achievements will be well known to you. Others maybe not so much. If you would like more information on any of the issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch via any of the methods at the bottom of the page.

LOWS OF 2012

  • The Weather. Without a doubt the single biggest issue this year. We've had storms, rain showers, blistering heat in March, and I am now here in early September, the day of the MNFC Carentan race, sweating. What has gone wrong? Is it global warming, are the seasons changing? Could we be racing our pigeons in October, November and December in future years? Could there be a Christmas National? Probably not. But without a doubt the weather has caused us problems. That said the birdage in the big Internationals has not altered massively, nor the Nationals. Even now, at the end of this horrific year of weather, I hear there are around 3,000 bids in the MNFC Carentan race, birdage that is nothing short of remarkable.
  • The Barcelona debacle. As stated in my previous article, Barcelona is my dream and obsession, so to see the UK arm of the biggest pigeon race in the world descend into a shambles was very disappointing. The Belgians can organise one result from 11,700 and the International race of over 20,000, yet in the UK, due to pigeon politics, we cannot put together one result for 534 birds. What seems like a slight plus point is the increased send, 534 from 290 the previous year. However, compare this to the 1876 pigeons from Poland and you will see we in the UK still have a long way to go to really embrace International racing.
  • Olympic Fever, or should that be flu.... The Olympics was great, I loved it. People embracing different sports, supporting people they had never heard of. I found myself watching women's basketball at 11.30pm on a work night in the middle of August. So, with all this optimism about why did we not embrace it with our sport more than we did? Yes we had the Olympic race but it wasn't nationally publicised as it could have been. Could we not have had a race, or series of races to crown our own Olympic style champion? Really push the boat out for 1 month. No other races in the UK apart from four races each week, North Section racing South, South Section racing South, North Section racing North, South Section racing North. We could have had 5 bird limits, sprint races one week, middle distance the next, long distance races, a marathon race tied in with one of the Internationals, team races where you would be in teams of 4, one from each section, North, South, East and West, with the highest average velocity of all four giving us a team score. The fancy press would have gone crazy for it, as would the media I believe. But alas, the fat lady has sung and we will probably never get the opportunity again but hang on... what would be stopping us putting any of these ideas into place? Nothing! The Belgians live for big events. I believe when a Europa Cup International is raced it is the only race of the day in Belgium. So if you want to race that weekend, you send in the International and guess what, 11,000+ Belgian birds went to Barcelona this year. Now that's Olympic size racing!!

Anyway, enough of the belly-aching, let's move onto the good stuff!!


  • Press Coverage. More to the point the coverage of the Nationals and Internationals. The reports in the Homing World are excellent, giving people a real insight to the star performers in the huge clubs (BBC, BICC, NFC, MNFC). The press officers for all these clubs deserve a real pat on the back for all their hard work. I am sure it is not an easy task to get together all the information, photographs and particulars for various pigeons and members. I must not forget to mention the NIPA and SNFC. If we can pull together such excellent reports from all these individual clubs, think of the potential if we could all pull together for one big race, giving results for each section, each group of sections, each country and one big result! TAKE THAT BELGIUM! We would need an edition of the Homing World all to ourselves for one race!
  • Show Of The Year. I know, I know, it's in a dilapidated old building in a derelict seaside town on the Irish Sea in the middle of Winter. But it's great isn't it! According to the RPRA visitor numbers were up again this year, showing that the sport is still alive and that the passion remains across the country. The charity of the RPRA and the sport does not get publicised enough but when the show comes along we all really get to see the work that is put in behind the scenes to raise money for so many good causes. Add this to the hustle and bustle in the bars and restaurants, the eclectic mix of nationalities, the different ideas, methods and viewpoints put forward, and you have it, my favourite weekend of the year!
  • One Loft Races. Bigger, better, more prize money. Are they the future of the sport, I'm not so sure? Are they a great advert for the sport and a superb way to maximise prize money, without a doubt! One loft races are increasing in popularity and this year was no exception. I have several club mates who participate in the various ones around the country, the continent and the globe and they thoroughly enjoy them, although it does not match the buzz of clocking your own birds in your own garden. What they do offer is a chance to test your stock in different locations, different environments and at different race points. Having the chance to test your own birds at Barcelona through the Barcelona One Loft Challenge, or imagining your birds flying across the South African desert in the Million Dollar Classic, makes for different racing than a 15 member club blow home from 70 miles! And if your a bit wary on the organisation, the RPRA One Loft Race is the way to go. If you've never done it before then why not have a crack in 2013, I know I'm going to!
  • Massive individual performances. Where do I start? There have been some simply breathtaking performances this season by numerous fanciers, in the face of all the adversity that we have had to survive. I would need several articles, countless weeks, and some serious time off work to highlight each and every one of them but the few that spring to mind are highlighted below.
  • Mark Gilbert's 1 from 1 in the International from Marseilles. There should be a book written about this performance; I already know the title - "Silencing The Critics". Mark is probably the most well known fancier ever to race to these shores, even at the fairly tender age of 45. Clubs up and down the country will have conversations regarding him on a weekly basis, both discussing his results, his pigeons, his methods and amount of stock kept. I'll admit, I was a critic. "Ha," I thought, "Keep that many pigeons and send that many and you're bound to get a good one." I first started to change my opinion in 2011 and after meeting him briefly at Blackpool this year and realising what a humble fellow he is, my thought process was beginning to alter. Fast forward to the 3rd week of of July 2012 and Mark sends 1 pigeon the 653 miles to Marseilles to win the BICC. Fantastic flying from an extremely difficult race point.
  • Team RML @ Barcelona. Now I know I had a little rant earlier about the Barcelona race but that takes nothing away from this performance. Team RML took 1st and 2nd Open in the BBC and would have placed 1st and 4th in a UK wide result incorporating both the BBC and BICC. Their first pigeon was over 200 yards in front of their own second and just shy of 200 yards clear of Mark Gilbert's BICC winner. Some flying from "Eanud", the first Open winner.
  • Lol Turner's Three in 10 minutes from Bordeaux. As people will probably know by now, long distance racing/marathon racing is where I am at. Now although Bordeaux is not Barcelona, there is still a certain awe about it, much like Nantes I believe, and Lol Turner put up one of the greatest displays of team distance racing in the last 12 months. I have a certain bias towards the performance, as it is in the MNFC, my closest National Club, but nothing can be taken away from the performance by Mr Turner on July 21st 2012. Typical of the UK pigeon world, the winner took all the plaudits, but this team performance was special. That's not taking anything away from Mr Jackson of Woodend, who sent just 2 pigeons and won the National, or Smith & Wilson who finished 2nd Open, or for that matter, the partnership of the fantastic flyers R & N Dennett, 3rd Open at 575 miles. The 10 minutes that followed the arrival of Lol Turner's first bird must have been the best 10 minutes of his season, if not his racing career I imagine. After 13 hours 23 minutes on the wing Lol Turner clocked his first bird and by 13 hours and 33 minutes he had clocked 2 more, all hens, to take 2nd, 3rd and 4th South Centre Section, 4th, 6th and 7th Open from 1281 birds. Just for the record he also clocked 1 after 13 hours and 57 minutes on the wing to take 6th Section, 13th Open. What a great night it must have been for the Turner house on that July evening!So there we go, my thoughts on 2012.

The beauty, and the beast, of pigeon racing is that January draws a line under 2012 and 2013 begins. The work starts again. And there are always other fanciers trying to knock last season's winners off their perch (excuse the pun). Are you trying to knock someone off, stay on yourself, or dwell on last season's might have beens? I'm firmly in the first camp!

John Ghent

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