Last September, as the European racing season came to a close, hundreds of fanciers from all corners of the world gathered in Monte Gordo, for sun, relaxation and Pigeon Racing. Growing yet again on previous years, a large contingent of the UK and Ireland’s pigeon fraternity made the annual trip out to Golden Race Algarve, to enjoy what has become a pilgrimage for the final race of 2016.
After an extensive 9 toss training program the first of the races began on the 19th August from a distance of 207km with a total of 4546 birds competing. Thus began the money prizes and the Ace Pigeon competition. The UK and Ireland put up a great show in this International field with Mark Evans and Micky Watts taking 5th Open and First UK. Second UK and 9th open was Pat Doherty with one of his Doherty Kids team entries and 3rd UK 12th open was Tony Adams and Les Cross with another Scottish team William Donachie 4ht UK 16th open and last years first UK winner in the final, Roger Sutton taking 5th UK 49th open. First Ireland 15th open was team J & J Carabini with Wallace & Stobs 2nd Ireland 29th open. Maurice O’donnell with his Magnificent 4 team took 3rd and 4th Ireland along with 43rd and 45th open from the field of 4546 pigeons.
The second race on the 29th of August, from a distance of 229km saw 4411b released and in this race the UK began to really prove the quality of their birds in International competition. Taking 1st UK and 2nd open was Callagens Team headed by Eddy Hull of Manchester, 2nd UK and 3rd open was Shaun Proctor from Newport in Wales, 3rd UK 4th open was Castle Rock Team headed by Tam Blair from Scotland and 4th UK 5th open came Paul Bamford from west Wales along with Michael Massarella taking 5th UK 6th open. Indeed, out of a field of 4411b entered by 23 countries, the UK took 5 of the first 6 open International positions. Maurice O’Donnell again with his Magnificent 4 team won first and second Ireland, 21st & 26th open. 3rd Ireland 38th open was team Curran & Rush with 4th Ireland 61st open going to East Coast Flyers. Close behind in 5th Ireland 71st open was Gregory & Hodgkinson.
On to the semi final race from Castelo Branco on the 10th of September, a distance of 291km there was 4004b still in the International competition and although we did not dominate the top ten as before, we did take the first place and the first of the major prizes. Racing from a distance of 300km, 1st International and 1st UK were Team Wang winning 10,000 euros or a brand new car. Choosing the cash over the money because the Ford Fiesta was a left hand drive, on or two in the team of 4 fanciers were a little disappointed, as this had not been a foreseen problem and is something to bear in mind for the future. Out of the 23 countries entering the race we almost stand alone in driving on the left in the UK and Ireland, so all things considered, taking the 10,000 euros was the best option. Personally I too did not anticipate this, but being as the motor car is purchased and sponsored locally, it could not be converted to suit the UK and it was literally the first prize option or the money. Anyway it was thrilling to see the UK take first place International, following on from the previous race success.
Second UK 38th open was Duncan Kittow from Devon with Team Wang getting another to take 3rd UK 41st open. 4th UK and 42nd open was Alan Akmenkains who has had major wins himself in previous years with 5th UK 45th open going to Murhpys Mob. First Ireland and 4th open went to J McDermot & Sons with 2nd Ireland 8th open going to the Mighty Munster RFC syndicate. Third was Danny Dixion taking 30th open and that man Maurice O’Donnell was there again in 4th place 44th open. Jos Reily, again a previous winner of major prizes, came 5th Ireland 56th open.
So a two-week break followed the semi final in order for the birds to rest due to the every high temperature and forest fires along the training route. But the extra time was planned before the final in order to give fanciers time to decide if they wished to activate any reserve pigeons. A team of three pigeons is sent initially with two being activated and one reserve, although all three pigeons compete and can win prizes up to and including the semi final.
As the weekend of the final drew nearer, hundreds of fanciers arrived from all over Europe and the world. Hotels are booked to the maximum with the bars and restaurants buzzing with the high expectations and enjoyment of a well earned break in the sunshine after a long racing season has ended. A large number of fanciers from the UK and Ireland joined the mix of fanciers at the very top of the European pigeon sport, accompanied by the lively chatter of children enjoying their family holiday. With Spain, golf courses, beaches and other one-loft races in close proximity there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.
Basketing takes place on the Thursday in a huge marque erected on site and all are invited to view or indeed take part to ensure a complete transparency. Drinks and hog roasts provide refreshments and a real party atmosphere ensues boosted by the prospect of a 100,000-euro win. Once the pigeons are on their way, Friday is a free day at the loft and coach trips are organized from the Yellow Hotel, leaving around 9am to visit local lofts or a day trip to Santo Antonio. The nearest one loft race also holds its final on the Friday, which although a smaller enterprise, provides another option to participate or see a race unfold with a party atmosphere.
The temperatures in central Portugal finally subsided a little and the final took place on the 24th September as planned from a distance of 505km. This is a 214km jump from the previous race and is behind a range of mountains, so a different and much tougher race is always expected. But this is what one loft race finals are about and as the crowds gathered at the loft, differing times of arrival were being expressed.
One of our very own lady fanciers had her 50th birthday on the day of the final so as the crowds grew to capacity, watching the two large screens displaying live pictures of crowds, a stealthy unsuspicious film crew gathered around the unsuspecting Tracey Stacey from Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Rui Emedio and myself began chatting to Tracey and her husband Paul, who had supplied us with artwork to be displayed, whilst a live broadcast began, beamed around the world on the internet, to the UK and Ireland fanciers singing happy birthday to a very surprised young lady. A magical moment and one we hope with last in her memory. Well done to husband Paul Stacey.
At 7:50am the convoy of 3644 activated pigeons were released and after 7 hours 25 minutes the first pigeon arrived which was from Turkey. This race really stretched the countries out with the French, Belgian, Spanish and Romanian pigeons taking the first five positions.
First UK and a brilliant 14th open was Team Forge Loft headed by Derek Bellchambers of Brentford. Second UK 18th open was Lee Finan from Essex with Team Daggerchads, 3rd and 23rd open came the first Scottish pigeon entered by Andy Barbour of Kilruskin Lofts with 4th UK 40th open going to Steve Dunn & co of Team Epson. Fifth UK 61st open was Eddy Hull again heading up Team Callagens from Manchester. First arrival for Ireland taking 35th open was Donnelly & Kirkwood with Jos Reily taking 2nd Ireland 64th open. Third and 4th Ireland, 66th & 96th open was Maurice O’Donnell with his Magnificent 4 team with Paddy Brophy in 5th place 114th open International.
There was a total of 2310 pigeons timed out of the 3644 entered into this very tough final race under difficult circumstances and that in itself gives a true representation of the good condition of the birds at the loft. The loft manager does a fantastic job through out the season and due accolade should be given to his skills as a fancier.
The gala evening and prize presentation took place the very same evening and an auction followed on the Sunday morning at the lofts with many people sitting in the sun enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.
The Ace Pigeon competition is over the four races and again the UK and Ireland can hold their heads high as their birds put up a great show once again, bearing in mind a total of 4546 pigeons began in the competition. First UK and 27th overall was Coleman & Lawson with their pigeon Golum, 2nd UK 28th overall was Mark Evans and Micky Watts with Myrtle Debonair followed in 3rd place UK 40th overall by Lee & Dyer of Plymouth with Sophie 2. Fourth UK and 47th was Watts & Evans with a pigeon called WE 75 again, followed by Michael Massarella with Louella 196 taking 5th UK and 61st position overall.
The Irish also put in a great performance with 1st Ireland 35th overall going to P & L Jones with Paradise 96. Maurice O’Donnell had the next two for Ireland in 52nd and 57th overall with his pigeons called Liadain 1 from the Dream Team and Chloe with the Kirkwood team. Paddy Brophy was 4th Ireland 70th overall with his pigeon called Matthew with Jos Reily taking 5th Ireland 80th overall with Carlos Glass.
Considering the very best pigeons, from the cream of Europe and the World entered this race from the beginning I felt very proud indeed of teams UK and Ireland entered in 2016 and I am sure we can build upon this success into the next race to be held on the 30th September 2017, with the usual run up in races for the Ace Pigeon competition, and although the entrance costs has gone up from 500 Euros to 600 Euros this year bookings are growing strongly with only a month left before the first shipment in April.
Prize money for the 2017 race has risen to 400,000 Euros overall with the first prize of 100,000 euros being accompanied by many more smaller prizes being won further down the result to 300th place in the final. The hot spot races will hold their own prize structure and I would encourage a look at the website www.goldenracealgarve.com to see all the rules and prizes on offer in one of the biggest one loft races in the world.
I can be contacted by several means in this modern world of communication but for the more traditional way, my landline number is 01530 242548 or mobile 07792 356330.