It all began in the winter of 2013/14, when bookings were taken, by myself, for the Algarve Golden One Loft Race, scheduled for the 27th of September 2014. Youngsters are taken into the loft in three monthly intervals from March through to May, although with most flyers in the UK placing their first round into their own racing lofts, it was not until April that the first UK birds reached the loft in Portugal.
With them being delivered to me in Leicester their short journey began. I had acquired a Geraldy Trailer, kindly loaned to me by my good friend Ray Knight, for the trip to Holland where they were placed on an airplane destined for Lisbon Airport. A procedure, which enabled the young pigeons to be fed and watered several times on route and once placed on the plane, is collected just three hours later by Rui Emedio, the main organizer of the Algarve Golden Race. In fact, I was still driving home through Belgium on my return to the UK when I received a phone call from Rui, saying they had collected the pigeons and they were all in good health. A further shipment took place in May, which completed the intake for the 2014 race.
At a cost of 500 euros, fanciers can enter a team of three pigeons. Two of which are eligible to compete in the final and one placed as reserve incase of any losses. A series of four Hot Spot races takes place during the build up to the final in which all three pigeons are competing for the prizes right up to and including the penultimate Silver race. Also they all accumulate points for the Ace Pigeon competition, which is completed in the final, and another brand new motorcar is up for grabs for the highest points accumulated in all the pre designated races. Should a team have all three pigeons remaining in the loft after the Silver race, the reserve can be activated for the final for a further 250 Euros and that too can race for the prizes.
The main first prize of 75,000 Euros drew a very large entry in this the third year of the Algarve Golden Race and just over 2800 pigeons were entered from many countries around the world. Top pigeon fanciers entered their best pigeons and on intake their identification ring was covered to alleviate any knowledge of its breeder until all would be given a name and electronic racing ring, just before the main training tosses began in July. From then on, after each training point, the Internet reveals the safe entry back into the loft.
A video is recorded and a series of webcams can be viewed in the internet, via a password given to entrants for their personal page on the website. All information from the organisers is also emailed to each fancier, so it is important to carefully write an email address on the entry form so as not to miss any important announcements. As a little clarification, on the website the prizes are under a tab called “In Dispute” which roughly translated means “up for grabs” A little confusing to some and I hope to change this to “Prize Moneys” for the 2015 season to save me explaining on the telephone, that there is not a problem with the prize money and never has been. It’s just a language thing, but an important correction that is needed.
The UK and Ireland had a very good entry although the German fanciers had entered considerably more but our quality pigeons achieved some very good performances against them. In the first Hot Spot race, held on the 22nd of August, from a distance of 120 km, a total of 2390 birds were competing for a total of 2800 Euros with a first prize of 1000 Euros and the reminder paying out down to 20th Open position. First UK and 5th Open was Leon Viljoen , a well known Web Designer for fanciers all over the world, whilst second UK, 7th Open, was a club mate of mine, Tad Truszkowski. Tad enters many One Loft Races around the world and has left no stone unturned in acquiring the best pigeons for the job. Third UK and 14th Open was Prettejohn & Underhill from the south west and a welsh pigeon took 4th UK 24th Open, owned by Paul Bamford. Paul is another One Loft Race fanatic and as he explained to me a few years ago, they are an ideal way for him to compete on equal terms against the best in the world, considering his loft position is on the west Wales coast. Paul also took 5th UK and 51st Open so he too is a master of selection for birds able to compete in these races.
Irish Agent for the Algarve Golden race, Maurice O’Donnell won first Ireland and 9th Open with Jos Reily taking second, third and fifth Ireland, 12th 28th and 35th Open. Jos has a fantastic team of Janssen pigeons that had proven themselves in Sun City and other major One Loft Races. His performances were split in fourth place for all Ireland by team Corn Low Sun, of which I know very little.
The second Hot Spot race was on the 29th August only this time from a distance of 180 km and an entry of 2345 pigeons were released at 7:30am. The same prize money was to be competed for and this time a first UK went to Gareth Williams, a Welsh fancier from Fishguard who won third Open in the final of the very first race two years ago. Gareth also won third UK with his first pigeon being 24th Open and his second 57th Open. Steve Harris from Southampton won second UK, 50th Open and Bellchambers Brothers took forth UK 66th Open with yet another Welsh man, Shaun Proctor, taking 5th UK 77th Open.
Darren Lyons won first Ireland and 4th Open, with Frank McEmroe taking the next two for 8th and 45th Open. Darren Lyons had another good pigeon for forth Ireland 51st Open with Dylan& Daniel Boylan taking 5th Ireland 60th Open position.
On the 5th of September, from a distance of 200 km, the third race took place with a higher first prize of 1500 Euros. An entry of 2282 pigeons were released at 9:50am which was slightly delayed due to fog in the morning and a maximum temperature of 32c was expected. Not to worry our UK pigeons though, as David Hinckel from Wimbolden won first UK and First Open with his Janssen pigeon. David had been meaning to enter in the previous two years but work commitments prevented it. This year he was able to show the equality of his birds and collect 1500 Euros prize money. Second UK and 7th Open was the Planet Brothers with one of their Van Loons and Team Untouchables were third and fourth UK, 33rd & 36th Open with a pigeon from Mark Gilbert and Crammond & Langstaff. Fifth UK 50th Open was “Starbuster Toe” entered by Alan Aknenkains, a name to remember for the Ace Pigeon competition.
Darren Lyons won the Irish race also taking 5th Open. Team Rislto Rockets were 6th Open second Ireland with Maurice O’Donnell taking third and forth, 17th & 76th Open. Fifth place was Jos Reily for Team Ireland 115th Open.
The fourth and penultimate Silver Race was held on the 13th of September with a super first prize of a brand new car or 10,000 Euros, whichever the winner choose. Prizes also went down to 30th place in the Open and this race was the last that all three entries in each team competed. The entries of 2176 pigeons were released 300 km away at 8:30 and a testing race ensued.
First UK and 10th Open was Soderland & Maddison with Bob Fenech taking second UK 63rd Open position. Mark Trinder came 3rd UK 75th Open with the Welsh loft of J Cooper & Sons being forth UK 105th Open. Brian Holland completed the first five coming in at 111th Open.
The Irish did very well with Jos Reily being first Ireland 3rd Open and Gibb & Byrne second Ireland 13th Open. Third Ireland was Maurice O’Donnell at 29th Open with Jos Reily taking fourth Ireland 44th Open. Frank McEnroe came in fifth Ireland and 59th Open to complement a very good Irish performance in the Open.
So now was the time to activate any remaining reserve pigeons and a good number were still in the running. Everyone except two were paid for so a final UK entry of 182 pigeons and 132 Irish pigeons were basketed for the final on the 27th September out of a total entry of 1817 birds. The Germans had the strongest entry of 667 pigeons and a very large contingent of pigeon fanciers from all over Europe descended on Monte Gordo for the final weekend. Basketing commenced at 2pm on the Thursday and took a total of 6 hours to complete. A netted tent was erected for the unmasking of the rings and race marking, with a large crowd in party mood gathered around. The netting allowed all to view and various fanciers were asked to help in turn, to ensure all was above board and fair.
The party continued right through Friday with many more fanciers arriving to see the race and all talk in the restaurants was about the final from 500 km and how long it would take. Times from 7 hours to 10 hours were banded about but a belt of thundery rain forecast to be after the first 100 km made it even more interesting.
A release time of 7:45am on the Saturday was announced and everyone made their way to the loft for lunchtime and the waiting began. Hundreds of people gathered around with the lofts being open for viewing from 12 until 2pm. Then everyone was asked to retreat behind the barriers where a very large marque had been erected with seating areas and bars. The sun was beating down at the home end when news came through the a small thunder storm had broken out on the line of flight some 200 km away. This gave a very anxious time for the organisers until a cheer went up from the crowd and a single pigeon appeared above the loft. The loft manager appealed for quiet and as he blew his whistle another two arrived to make an instant trap with the first arrival actually being timed into third place. A further 15 minutes passed before another arrived and the Irish gave a huge cheer as Jos Reily’s name appeared on the large screen. They had occasion to cheer again a few minutes later, only this time for Maurice O’Donnell who’s pigeon came with a kit of three to win 10th Open. A very hard race followed with pigeons arriving throughout the afternoon and by evening time 309 pigeons had arrived with Bob Fenech recording the last bird on the day in the dark!
The next day the first 30 open pigeons were being sold by auction at 11am so many made their way to the lofts early to watch the second day pigeons coming home. Over 700 pigeons completed the 500 km course in a very testing race which is surely one of the best in Europe for youngsters. A holiday area with good weather almost guaranteed is a huge draw and with it being held at the end of the season for northern Europe it is attracting a lot of interest.
First UK 27th Open was Alan Aknenkains with “Starbuster Toe” which also won second Ace Pigeon overall, so although Alan was not at the venue, a few phone calls of congratulations were made back to the UK. Right behind at 28th Open second UK was Prettejohn & Underhill with Henderson & Graham third UK 47th Open. Fourth UK 60th Open was Billy Bilsland and my clubmate Tad Truszkowski made fifth UK 75th Open.
The pigeon “Starbuster Toe” is inbred on both sides of it’s pedigree to ‘Oude Gryzen’ (Oude Grey) inner of 19 x 1st, 3 x 1st ACE Pigeon, 2 x’s Silver ring over 10,000b. 2 x’s 3rd Provincial Champion aso. Oude Grey is sire of Rode Bingo 10 x 1st, 2 x 1st Bingo & Silver ring 10,000b. Ace Pigeon 4 consecutive years. Both the winning pigeons sire and dam were bred & supplied by Louella.
“Starbuster Toe” was 2nd International ACE Pigeon Algarve Golden race, 1st National UK, 1st UK National Braganca, 27th International, 25 countries, 29th National UK, 50th International Portalegre.
Alans “Starbuster Toe” beat the best from 25 countries including those entered by Leo Heremans, Jos Thone, SG Mack racing, M.C. Hansen, Alfons Klaas, Hardy Kruger, Gaby Vandenabeele, Rik Cools, Erik Limbourg, Ed Mol, Adelige Algauer, Marc Brett, Beverdam Racing and of course the BEST of Britain including Michael Massarella who said “all credit to Alan and his “Starbuster Toe”, if we are going to be beat it might just as well be a pigeon of Louella origin”
But what about the Irish pigeons! 4th and 10th Open for Jos Reily and Maurice O’Donnell, which was a fantastic performance, and both were congratulated well into the Saturday night. Jos won 15000 Euros and Maurice 3000 Euros for their respective positions and both pigeons made very a very good price in the following auction, half of which is retained by the organisation to make charity contributions to local children in need. Third Ireland and 39th Open was team “Corn Direct” and fourth went to team “Corn Store” also taking 72nd Open. Fifth in 74th Open position was Dylan & Daniel Boylan.
It has to be said, that it was not a race where the pigeons were dropping in kits of 20 or more, like they did in a previous race, but more a testing race where the toughest pigeons came to the fore. For the second year running it has been won by an Eastern European pigeon, which begs the question as to the type of racing they have there. Maybe it is a tough race program for youngsters in the Czech Republic where only the “diggers” survive?
All in all a very enjoyable weekend was had by all, and the many people that watched the live feed on the Internet will want to be there in person next year. Bookings for 2015 will be taken from December with first choice being given to fanciers who have supported the race in 2013 and 2014. My contact details are displayed on the website and indeed freely available on the Internet. If you wish to be a part of the party for the last weekend in September 2015, I can assure you of a very good weekend amongst some of the best fanciers in the world. Chris Sutton.