Latest news from the National Flying Club is that the Chairman Paul Naum has decided to cancel the AGM for 2020 as racing is due to begin and it would have to be held on a race day which is clearly counterproductive. The balance sheet has previously been sent to all members and any queries should be directed to the Chairman or Treasurer where they would be more than happy to assist. The proposition votes have been submitted online or by post and the results can be included in the handbook, which will now be distributed. Paul Naum has also decided to continue as I/C for the Bridgewater marking station as no one has come forward to take on the role as I/C at Frome.
My apologies for not previously publicising the dates for the two AnnualPresentations which will be held on Friday the 26th of November for the 2020 winners, and Saturday the 27thNovember for the 2021 winners at Torquay. Mick McGrevy is now taking bookings and it is important to let him know now your numbers required for the Friday evenings event. If you have won one of our fantastic arrays of trophies, this is your opportunity to be photographed with them as we will of course have to represent them again the very next evening to the 2021 winners.
The delayed start in a very difficult season began with the first race being held on the 4th of July and once again, I travelled down the leafy Kent lanes overlooking the Stockbury Valley in the North Downs, to visit the loft of Colin Fagg and his partner Linda Nicholas to report on their second National Flying Club win.
The first time was in 2013 when they won 1st Open NFC Messac and on the 6th July, after a two day holdover they put up a fantastic performance against 9960b by winning 1st Open NFC from Fougéres in a fresh north west wind which made for a good testing day.
For the last 18 years they have lived close to “Queensdown Warrens”, an area which once fed the ancient Royal household and is now run as a nature reserve by the Kent Trust. Rare wildflowers including Spider Orchids cohabit the bank sides with many other species including Adders, which are often seen around the partners premises from which they run a very successful pigeon supplies business along with their own extensive range of racing lofts. It was in 2004 that Colin visited Lier market for the first time as the designated driver of a club outing. He was not really interested in buying any pigeons, but one dark chequer cock stuck his head over the top of a basket and caught his eye. “It must have been the most expensive youngster in Lier Market” said Colin “but what a pigeon he turned out to be” and for his birthday present Linda had made contact with the breeder, Frans Laeremans to order 10 more youngsters from him. A friendly relationship developed, and his birds quickly made a positive affect on their results. Of the ten youngsters they bought, seven made it through the young bird programme of which four had won their club including a 1st Federation. The following season more birds were ordered and so it went on for the next few years. A red cock bird bred in 2007 made his mark by winning 7st club including 1st Federation plus a 1st Combine and Colin later discovered that Frans Laeremans and Andrea Drapper regularly exchanged pigeons with the red cock being a grandson down from “Ronaldo”, a top racing bird for Drapper. He also raced a very good Laermans hen which had won the Kent Invicta Combine from Westbay and subsequently, in they were paired together.
In 2016 they bred a chequer hen which won two channel races in the club and was awarded “Bird of the Year” in 2019 and this year she was paired early in the season to rear two youngsters which were passed on to a club mate. She would then have normally been separated to race on widowhood, but as the Covid 19 situation unfolded racing seemed very unlikely to happen, so she was left paired with her partner and as Colin and Linda were shielding for several weeks they were resigned to not racing this season at all. But as the restriction on racing was lifted and the club headquarters made every precaution possible, they decided to race but continue with the hens on natural.
The club race a week before the NFC Fougéres turned out to be a very fast velocity and their 2016 hen was second club whilst very keen to her nest with 3 day old eggs. The following week sitting 10 days on eggs she was still very tight on her nest, so she was basketed for the National and came to win although as she is a shy trapper, she took her time to come in. After verifying, Colin does not like to know how the race is going, his nerves get to him and Linda said “it’s the only thing he does not want to know” but he was delighted to hear they had once again won the biggest club in the country.
The second race was held on the 18th July from Messac with the overall winner flying 5 hours and 6 minutes to the loft of Paul Arnold in Sutton, South London for a distance of 255 miles.
Paul has raced his Staf Van Reet family to a small back garden loft since the early 1990’s and enjoyed the sprint racing scene for many years. He would regularly get his team drop together winning right up to Combine level and large Open races. “The Van Reets were difficult to beat back then” he said “and although I tried to find something better, nothing could touch them” but after many years of close breeding within his loft, they began to lose their spark and be a couple of minutes off the pace. His brother encouraged him to try a cross so they went to see Derek Nichols at Premier Stud which was then situated in Hull. They got on very well and after listening to their requirements Derek had advised them to try the Gaston Van de Wouwer pigeons. The following young bird season there was a Combine race, with a clear blue sky and a fresh east head wind. Malik & Khan won the Combine that day and Pauls first bird was a cross Van Reet/Van de Wouwer just a few yards per minute behind them, but as the old family of Van Reets came they looked very tired and as Paul knew there was nothing wrong with the health, he realised he had found the cross to go into his line, so they went back to Premier Stud for a few more to breed from. Years ago sprint racing was all he was interested in but he now realises that this cross has given his birds something else, and taken them to another level.
It was from around 2014 that he really began to enjoy his racing again and although he raced in the Classics, he has only just re-joined the National Flying Club. He had been 16th and 27th Open in the first race from Fougéres and sent them back to the second race with confidence. On the day he had seen the Portsmouth pigeons being verified on the leader board and estimated the time he required a bird home to beat them. He positioned himself in a shady spot and sat with flirt bird in hand when he saw two birds coming directly from the south a few minutes before expected. One of them flew as hard as possible right to the loft and trapped immediately with the other circling around before continuing its homeward journey to another fancier. Normally Paul would have been on edge all day but he said for some surreal reason, he calmly verified his first bird even though it was a good few minutes ahead of the expected time and when he went top of the leader board, he knew he could be beaten by birds flying further up into north London and Essex. He waited for his other three birds but his wife was checking regularly when all of a sudden she called out “we have been beaten” and his heart sank “here we go, second again” he thought, but when he realised it was a bird in Crewe, with the wind against and pockets of rain from the midlands northwards, they were not surprised to see it disappear as a mistake and happily they held the top position throughout the rest of the day. “You have to have everything in your favour and that little bit of luck to win the National Flying Club” he stated “it’s a heart stopping moment every time you refresh the website”
As previously stated, Paul keeps a small team of around 16 widowhood cocks, which in order to keep them happy and content, he likes to overwinter all his birds coupled. They moult slower, are calmer and they are allowed to perch on the front ledge of the box, with very few eggs appearing. Then about the middle of December he will part them for about three weeks before opening the boxes and allowing them to run together again in the first week of January. “They all just go back together nicely” he said “there is very little fighting over boxes and the fertility is around 90%” He does not like to rear any young birds from his race cocks though and puts pots eggs under them before splitting them after they sit them out. They are then on widowhood until training begins when he will put the hens back whilst taking the cocks twice per day at a distance of 20 miles, so when the federation races begin, they are pretty much switched on to the system.
This season during the lockdown and with the nice weather we experienced, the cocks were given an open hole all morning every day and they really enjoyed themselves he said. “They would be off for 20 minutes and return from every direction playing in the sky and it was a joy to watch them” once racing was allowed by the RPRA, he just put the hens back with them and trained twice per day as usual up to the first Federation race.
The sire of the National winner is a Van Reet from his old line and the dam is a Gaston Van de Wouwer from Derek Nichols. The blue widowhood cock is 4 years old so he will now be retired to the stock loft to pass on his genes and let the younger blood come through to race in his box. He is named “True Faith” giving reference to the loss of a family member just a couple of years ago.
The National Flying Club Grand National was held on the 31st of July from Pau and the winner was an outstanding yearling racing to the world famous loft of Mark Gilbert.
Recording a winning velocity of 1144 yard per minute, Mark is now the undisputed holder of this title, as his recent record breaking performances at marathon races has been nothing short of outstanding and now he can add the National Flying Club Pau Grand National to add to his list of achievements, along with the added bonus of RPRA UK Masters winner of the joint liberation of three major clubs. It is no secret that Mark has set himself the goal of winning the Barcelona International, which is 716 miles to his loft in Windsor and as an aid for selecting his 2021 team, he decided to send 50 yearlings bred out of his very best marathon bloodlines to the National Flying Club Grand National from Pau, 562 miles, which is considered by all his peers to be the very best race in the UK to win. This is rarely an easy race and it would help to identify his future Barcelona candidates, plus it has been a life long dream for Mark to win the NFC Pau Grand National and with the Covid 19 restrictions earlier in the year, circumstances meant that the Barcelona International race would take place on the same day, so to compete in both of the very best long distance races in the UK and Europe was certainly a day to look forward to.
The high temperatures the pigeons experienced during the race took its toll on the entry of 2700b and after 13 hours 47 minutes, just one brave pigeon appeared on the leader board for the 2018 Tarbes Grand National loft of Wearn Bros & Neilson flying 531 miles. Just under an hour later Mark saw a pigeon approaching from the south which flew straight to the trap in the fading light, to record a time of 14 hours 25 minutes flying 562 miles on the hottest day of the year so far and still just a yearling, bred for the task and acquired from a fortuitous misunderstanding.
A couple of years ago Mark had asked a friend in Holland to try to acquire young birds from a fancier called Cees Van Heartem in Terborg, who he had noticed had been putting up some very good Barcelona performances. In 2017 the race was arduous, and he achieved 7th and 12th International so Mark wanted to buy youngsters out of those very pigeons, his friend made contact and a price was agreed. When the youngsters were ready and the payment due, Mark questioned that they were indeed out of the seventh and twelfth international pigeons “No” came the reply “Cees van der Laan had third and fifth International”. He had gone to the wrong fancier, there had been a misunderstanding and they were not from the birds Mark had wanted. He was then presented with a dilemma and as his agent had taken delivery of the two youngsters, he decided to buy them to save any future problems and they were put into the breeding loft, paired together with only one pair of youngsters taken from them to race. Now named “Southfield King” the Pau Grand National winner is one of those youngsters.
The NFC young bird race in 2020 was held on the 5th September in conjunction with the Old Hens race which resulted in an absolutely outstanding record breaking result for Formula One Lofts.
One of the systems used in preparation for the Young bird races by some fanciers begins late in the previous year, with breeding taking place immediately after the moult at the end of November. Lighting is provided for the stock birds in order for them to rear strong, robust babies which are weaned into their own loft in January and go straight on to natural daylight hours. This then provides the ideal conditions for them to behave like darkness youngsters, without having to close down the lofts to restrict daylight during April until June. They will moult out their body feathers completely but retain their flight feathers. After the longest day the lights are put on to continue the “day light hours” which effectually extends the summertime period for the birds and their hormones stay at a heightened level. This can be capitalised upon by racing them against those who have not considered or practised this method and great team performances can be achieved.
One such fancier who has prepared his young bird team in this way is John Cowlin of Hullbridge, winner of this year’s National Flying Club young bird race, and his birds have responded in style.
With careful consideration and a lot of road training he managed to achieve a team performance second to none by having eight of his thirty entries come together to record velocities that were all faster than the next loft in the result, thereby winning the first eight positions. He and his father Rob have worked on those young birds for nearly 10 months, in the hope that when the day comes to race them in the National, all the stars will be in alignment for them to capitalise on the conditions. North West winds and a fair racing day would give them the best opportunity in the part of the country where they live and that is exactly what they got.
I am led to believe that winning the first eight positions in the National Flying Club is a new club record and I also think John Cowlin still holds the record for the youngest ever winner of the National Flying Club, when he won 1st Open in 2008 flying completely on his own at 20 years of age and John has also won the British International Championship Club in 2017. Another interesting fact is that his partner in the pigeon stud Formula 1 Lofts, John Gladwin will take the next three positions with the same Frans Zwols bloodlines and fellow club mates followed shortly after with their birds, which will mean the first 13 positions in the National Flying Club will be with their birds and the bird which will be 14this a Formula 1 lofts Frans Zwols cross. To give credit where it is due, Frans Zwols in the UK have been at least 43 times in the first 2 places at National, Combine or Amal levels since 2017 and members of the Hullbridge club have won 3 x 1st Nationals and 5 x2nd Nationals in 2020.
I asked John how he had trained his birds leading up to the race and he said he had given them a 50 mile chuck on the Monday, 30 miles on Tuesday and 38 miles from Battle on Wednesday before basketing them on Thursday for the race. They had been allowed together to go through the nesting process for the young bird races with the BICC and NFC but as things transpired, he had to be flexible with his plans. In his own words; “They say patience is a virtue and in this case it is very true, I had my young birds ready for the first BICC Y/B race but with the weather forecast as it was for that weekend, I decided not send them and wait for the second BICC Y/B race. Once again, the weather did not look great, so I decided to send some old hens and just my Gold Ring youngsters and waited for yet another week hoping for a better forecast for the NFC race. When the time came the weather forecast looked like the best flying day we have had all season, so I decided to send my full team of young birds. I thought that timing of around 12:20 to 12:30 would be a very good pigeon on the day, so at 12:12 when I saw 8 pigeons coming off line and heading straight to my loft, diving for the loft like rockets, I was dazed for a second or two thinking “what are these coming in a flock”. I soon realised they were NFC pigeons as they hit the trap and they were so full of themselves; a couple of the cocks were fighting each other as they went through the trap. I could not believe it when I checked my ETS clock, I had 8 young birds come together, All Formula 1 lofts Frans Zwols and all clocked within 17 seconds. I verified and when I saw I was top of the provisional result I realised that anyone of which could have been the winner”.
First on the clock is from a cock which raced for his partner, Gladwin & Jarvis in Formula 1 lofts, winning a few positions before being stopped for stock as he is direct from “D’Artagian” and his full sister “Dream Girl 200” these are the last brother and sister bred the same way as Frans Zwol famous 3 Musketeers. The dam of the winner being a child of “Brother Frans”. “D’Artagain” is now responsible for an amazing 9 x 1st at National, Amal and Combine level. Second on the clock just 2 seconds later is a direct child of the “Amal Cock” which won 1st and 4th Amal against 4,000+ birds and the dam is “Guernsey Princess” daughter of the “Dream Pair” which won 1st and 3rd Open BICC for John in 2017 as well as 5th section NFC in the 3 channel races she had before going to stock. This pair also bred “Theresa Boy” which won 1st BBC National in 2018 for Gladwin & Jarvis. The third bird recorded on the clock and just another two seconds further back is a pencil cock which is direct from “006” who in turn is bred from “Sun Star”, the winner of 1st National Morlincourt and the dam is a 2019 bred direct daughter of “Amor” and “Tip Top Goldmine”. Both of which have already bred National winners.
Forth was another pencil cock which is another grandchild of “Amor” only this time when he was paired to the “Queen of Reekem”. The sire of this pigeon is a child of “Sky Runner” winner of 47 prizes for Frans Zwols, when paired to “Tip Top 076” one of the best daughters of “Tip Top Junior” being responsible for over 30 winners. The fifth bird home is another cock, bred from a son of “Bold Eagle” when paired to “Argon 052” and the dam is a good racing daughter before going to stock of “Sea Eagle” and “Fransje”. In sixth place we have a direct daughter of the new wonder breeder “Dream Maker” who in only three breeding seasons is responsible for 2nd & 3rd Open National, 8 other top 10 Open National positions, plus 6 other results in the top 30 of National results, along with Club & Federation winners. She in turn is bred from “D’Aratgian 065” and “Tip Top 076”. Sire of the fifth pigeon is a direct son of the “Prince of Reekem” and “Sweet Princess” who is also Granddam of 1st open Agen 531 miles. Seventh on the clock is a direct daughter of “The Dream Pair” consisting of the “Prince of Rekkem” and “Dreamy”. The Dream Pair are responsible for four 1st National winners for four different people also 2nd, 4th and 5th national winners. The last of the eight loft mates is another hen which is bred from “Tip Top Star” which is the last son of “Tip Top Junior” when he was paired to “Dream Maker”, the dam being “N63” a ex racer that won five 1sts and now a top breeder of many good racers, she in turn is from “D’artagain 065” and “Tip Top 076”.
His partner in Formula 1 Lofts John Gladwin came along whilst I was there, and I asked if he enjoyed the race and also about the parents of his birds.
He said that having chatted with John Cowlin before the birds were due and having two very experienced fanciers visiting him for the day to watch the race. They had come up with an eta of 12:15 for a super pigeon. So just after noon he sat near the loft to wait and three or four minutes later, he noticed two birds in the distance racing like mad to the loft. He knew these would be good pigeons by the way they were racing to the loft and just as those two landed he saw two more heading his way and both of these started to fold, however one was not his and it ended up making his third pigeon lose a few seconds on trapping. After clocking, the first person he spoke to was John Cowlin but upon hearing his time and how many he had come together he thought perhaps his race was not as good as he thought. It was later when the NFC website leader board was updated, that he realised John Cowlin was winning the race and he was in second place provisionally, knowing that he was really 9th at best. His first timer is the same way bred as John Cowlin 4th pigeon being a grandchild of “Amor” when paired to the “Queen of Reekem”. The sire being from “Sky Runner” winner of 47 prizes for Frans Zwols when paired to “Tip Top 076” one of the best daughters of “Tip Top Junior” being responsible for over 30 winners. His second bird is from “A03” an ex racer which had won inland and scored a few times before being put to stock, having bred winners for others and being direct from “Sky Runner” and “Tip Top 076”. The dam is a yearling hen bred for stock from “Theresa Boy” his 2018 young bird National winner and “My little Darling” one of the best race hens he had ever raced. His third pigeon is from a pair of yearlings which were bred especially for stock, the sire being from “Grandads Dream” his 2015 Thurso Combine winner from 514 miles and the dam being “Tip Top Tora” his 2019 BICC Agen winner that was also 56th open International 22,000+ birds. The dam is very inbred to “Micky boy 716” being bred from “Mr Consistent” who is a son of “Amor” and inbred “Micky boy 716” when paired to his own dam. A fantastic achievement with descendants of the Frans Zwols housed at Formula 1 Lofts and I make no apologies for listing them in detail here, especially when the Old Hens winner Micky Watts told me that his winning hen is also of the same bloodlines.
His first pigeon is a yearling hen which has previously scored both inland and in the BICC.
Her breeding is 50% Formula 1 lofts Frans Zwols with a pigeon from Rob Shelds and was bred by his good friend Lee Bastone. The dam is a full sister to the sire of John Cowlin Young bird winner being from “D’Artagain” and “Dream Girl 200” and her sire from Rob is Leo Heremans from his “Better than Bolt” lines. Micky as always has been knocking on the door all season having already won 2nd open NFC and 2nd open BICC and is provisionally 4th open in the Young bird race. His first young bird in the race is also a Formula 1 Lofts Frans Zwols, being bred from a child of “Amor” and a child of “Rekkem 083” and “Tip Top Devil”. Rekkem 083 is sire of the Amal cock, the Amal cock being sire of John Cowlin 2nd pigeon. “Tip Top Devil” is a daughter of “Tip Top Junior” and “Dream Maker”. In the Old Hens race and winning his thirteenth National on this occasion, Micky has won many with his Old Hens over the years and has perfected his system. The birds are widowhood hens for the first half of the season, being left at home for his Widowhood cocks to race back to. Once the cocks are finished for the season he puts the hens in the young bird section to train them with the youngsters and when they will go to nest for the chosen races later in the season. He has named his latest winner “Porn Star” which was a nick name for fellow Hullbridge member Frank Alonso who sadly passed away after a tragic accident in Malta earlier this year, whilst visiting family at the young age of 51. John Cowlin has also called his bird “The Maltese Falcon” in memory of the same great friend and fancier.
Things are looking so much more positive for the coming races in 2021 and I look forward to reporting on all the winners once again for the most Premier club in the country. A big shout out to all our dedicated members who assist in any way they can, because it is them that make it the club work so well.