Lucky for some, unlucky for others, the number 13 proved lucky for the North Road Championship Club. Their young bird national from Berwick on Saturday 13th September turned out to be an excellent race on a day when other organisations, both north and south, did not enjoy such good returns.
It was a great day, too, for 27-year-old Darren Perry, of Alford, who, after twice suffering the agony of being runner-up in previous young bird nationals, clinched the top prize with a blue white flight hen bird which just prevented Ray Knight and Sons, of Old Leake, from repeating last year’s clean sweep from this race.
But, while Darren may have been the party pooper who rained on Ray’s big parade, the Knights have plenty to be happy about. What the provisional results don’t reveal is that they will again dominate the final result sheet, from second place downwards, having timed 25 pigeons inside 19 minutes.
The win, however, emphasises Darren’s arrival in recent years as a top competitor in the top north road competition.
He has been second open NRCC young birds twice before, and first section, second open old hens from Dunbar, plus many other encouraging open positions.
His 2014 NRCC results include: Berwick 10th open (this was on the provisional result because I do not have the final result to hand); Perth 1st Section, 118th open; Arbroath 2nd section, 4th open; Lerwick 4th section, 18th open; Thurso 3rd section, 6th open.
Add these results to consistent success in his Alford club and the Peterborough and District Federation, you can understand why Darren reckons he has had a decent season, the first flying on his own after previously being in partnership with his grandfather.
The bird that took top honours on Saturday was a March hatched youngster off a Gaby Vandenabeele hen and a Janssen cock bird.
The mother was given to Darren by Colin McRae, a member of the Alford club for the short time he lived at Sloothby before returning to his native Fraserburgh, and the father was a blend of Warren Foster and PJ Lofts pigeons.
The winning bird was bred later than is usual for Darren, who had given the first round to his dad Mick, who races south road with the Louth-area Marshchapel club, and was taken away from her parents at the start of old bird racing.
NRCC chairman, Brian Garnham, who verified the pigeon and took the photographs, described it as “a cracking pigeon, as deep as a boat.” He said he would have mistaken it for a cock bird.
She had, however, laid well before the race and was sent sitting four eggs. That is a motivational ruse Darren likes to use, sometimes adding a bantam’s egg as well. She had competed in the whole young bird programme but, in the excitement of the win, Darren had not got around to checking her performances.
It has been an eventful year for Darren for, not only has he spent some time working away from home – he is a self-employed carpenter – his girlfriend Sarah has had their son Ross, who is now five months old.
So, with sleepless nights, work, and looking after the pigeons, it is perhaps surprising that the birds have flown so well. Oh, and there has also been the problem with hawks, to such an extent that he dare not let the birds out for exercise and has had to rely on training only. He has had five young birds hawked and another killed when it crashed into the house window in its bid to escape.
However, he started racing 36 young birds and has 32 left, which may now lead to a bit of sorting out as he fits them into his old bird team.
Darren races his young pigeons on the darkness system, but did not think that was so important this year as his race team was later bred. He normally pairs up at the beginning of December. The winner had dropped two flights, and was in good body feather.
He had trained regularly, including the week before the national but, during the previous week, he had given them a rest from training.
At the start of the week he gives his birds a light mix, mainly using barley, and then brings them on via a Merrimans mix on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Currently he is busy building a new L-shaped loft, not for himself but for his father, who go the “bug” after Darren started competing alongside his grandfather, and, who knows, loft building may become another sideline? He made his own out of any unwanted timber he could get his hands on. Other fanciers may be looking with interest at his latest project.
Darren has won this race from excellent competition, as there were a lot of in-form contenders for the title, including fellow club members Dave and Pat Evans who, he says, have been a big help to him.
There were also signs in the weeks before the big race, that Ray Knight was revving up his team. He just missed the top prize, and only the final result will show just how impressive, once again, his performance was, as he takes over from his friend, the late Frank Tasker, the mantle of probably the best young bird racer in the NRCC.
Ironically, his second triumph, requiring, knowledge, dedication, a winning system, and lots of hard work, comes after his threat, a little over a year ago, to quit north road racing, after a disappointing race from Berwick OBs.
Luckily, for the enhancement of the competition in the NRCC, he changed his mind.
All sections were well represented in the timings, and there were outstanding performances all round, which must reflect well on convoyer Steve Spinks and race adviser Brian Garnham.
They have had more than their share of criticism, often not fairly, but bounce back to serve the organisation conscientiously and to the best of their ability, and it is good that they – and the loyal members – were rewarded with an excellent race.
Early morning mist, east in the wind and a high K factor were all possible enemies of a good liberation, but patience was rewarded with the arrival of the sun to allow a 10-55am liberation.
No wonder chairman Garnham was thrilled with the outcome of the race, although he had been a little worried about the delayed liberation putting longer-flying fanciers in a disadvantageous position. But, as usual, they took it in their stride and again proved their calibre with excellent results.
Liberation was in a light north-west wind, but that soon changed to south-east, and at the Humber to north east.
The convoyer, said Brian, was impressed by the condition of the birds and the work that had obviously gone into their preparation, and he said they “disappeared with a whoosh.”
The anticipated 45mph was achieved by the early birds.
As usual, said the chairman, there was helpfulness all around the race, and he wished to give a big thank you to advisers on the line of flight, and to those volunteers who helped with marking.
“The NRCC is like a big family, and there are not only good fanciers involved, but also good people,” he said. “We are grateful for all the help we get from so many people.
“We particularly appreciate the patience of the longer flyers on days like Saturday when we had to wait for the right moment to liberate.”
At the time of writing race secretary, Ian Bellamy, was having to wait for clock details before being sure of the provisional result of the old hens race, but section winners in the young bird race are provisionally:
Section One – F and T Salt Bros and Son, Kimberley; Section Two – Darren Perry, Alford; Section Three – G Chaplin and Sons, Leicester; Section Four – JW Lensen, Holbeach; Section Five - Miss M Judd, Ramsey; Section Six – K and D Batch, Norwich; Section Seven – F Dawkins and Son, London; Section Eight – A Pountney, Romford.