For Nigel Templar of Bristol, a magical evening in July suggested it might just be possible. Even after topping his section, being 2nd section and 2nd open in the earlier races of the National Flying Club season, the sight of the little blue widowhood cock sitting in his nestbox, as the light quickly faded, made goose pimples rise on his arms. This was something akin to winning his very first race. One of only six birds on the day from Tarbes, and in an already fantastic season, The National Flying Club Average Trophy became a very possible achievement.
This trophy is awarded to the member with the best averages over all races (except the Old Hens) and is only eclipsed by the Tarbes Grand National Trophy, from the huge array of trophies to be won when flying with the National Flying Club.
In 2005 Nigel Templar went to visit a fancier in Holland called Gerrit Lahuis who was good friends with Dirk Van Dyke. Gerrit had been loaned pigeons direct out of The Kannabal so a dozen youngbirds were jointly bought by Brian Milkins, Chris Balson and himself, with each taking four of the youngsters home. From the beginning they began to do very well with them, breeding combine winners, section winners with many very good National results. In the following years, Nigel has bought top Frans Zwols pigeons and also the Soontjen pigeons from Alan Maull in Wales. One of which went on to breed a section winner in the National Flying Club. Nigel feels himself lucky to have been able to acquire such good pigeons and now knows that once a pairing shows their breeding potential in National races they have to be looked after, because they do not come around very often.
His system is mainly widowhood but last year he did fly some hens due to accumulating so many over the previous seasons. These were flown in a separate section all week seeing their mate for a few minutes just before basket time on a Friday. He was very pleased how they raced as they were beating the widowhood cocks early season so he continued them on the system into the 2016 season too.
The first race from Fougeres, a distance of 221 miles, Nigel was first section G and 88th Open from a total entry of 8756b with a Zwols crossed Soontjen hen flown on widowhood and although he thinks they are too unpredictable compared to the cocks, this same hen went on in the third race to win 2nd Open 2nd section G from Ancenis, a distance of 286 miles, and consequently he has now begun to enjoy racing his hens much more. She was paired early in January and although Nigel has previously tried pairing later in the year, he feels the cocks do not have time to recuperate before racing begins. All his racers rear two youngsters and once sitting their second round of eggs for 6 days they are parted.
He timed a hen as his first bird in the second race from Messac too, and Nigel felt they were beating the cocks because the cocks could not rest properly. He concluded they could hear the hens sitting in the section next to them. So he stopped racing the hens and moved them farther away, allowing the cocks to come into their own good form.
In the fourth NFC race of the season from Saintes, Nigel timed widowhood cocks only 40 seconds apart after flying 401 miles out of 3302b taking 4th and 5th section G 97th & 106th open. The first was a Maurice Mathews from his original imports in the late 90’s and his second was a Gerrit Lahuis. His third timer was 9th section and would go on to prove himself further. Nigel will normally send all birds his to this race and assess them to choose the Tarbes candidates three weeks later. But for the 2017 season he needs a rethink in his preparation, as the longest race has now been moved back to the longest day, which will mean his middle distance birds will be 5 weeks from one national race to the next. However he does have other options although he would prefer the distances increasing each NFC race until the longest Blue Ribbon race.
First section G and 6th open was achieved from Tarbes, a distance of 578 miles with a long distance pigeon bred by Joe Raeburn. This was one of six that he had been given to try and this little blue widowhood cock was well bred for the Tarbes Grand National. Nigel selected just three entries and at that distance, he thought their breeding would at least be tested. So around 9:30pm on the day of the Tarbes race, as it was getting dark, Nigel had gone back into the house for a few minutes and on returning to his garden he could hear a commotion in his loft so went to investigate. He could not believe his eyes when he saw his Tarbes pigeon in the darkness as it was his first time “getting one on the day” and he knew there were not too many timed in front. He came in to verify and realised he could have very easily missed the pigeon, having waited outside all afternoon and evening he had given up on anything turning up so late. Afterwards he found that this was the same pigeon that was 9th Section 119th open from Saintes three weeks earlier.
I asked how he felt after timing on the day from Tarbes and he just said, ”chuffed to bits” and then went on to recount it was exactly the same feeling he had when he won his first race.. Nigel says good pigeons come in all sizes and although his preference is for apple-bodied birds, he said they always look better if they are winning.
When it came to the young bird national, he knew a good result would keep him in the running for the coveted average trophy and as he always puts his youngsters on the darkness system from the 1st of April until the 1st of June, he could give them plenty of training, knowing they would be in good feather for the National. He had been gifted a pigeon from John Gerard from his Mandelartz lines which originated from Germany. This was after purchasing a pair a couple of seasons ago that had bred a section winner so he readily accepted the gift and put her in his team to try. She won 1st sect 1st open NFC from Coutances and was one of three that he had in the top ten of the open, bringing to a close a fantastic season and securing the National Flying Club trophy for the best average velocity over all races.
News hot off the press is that Steve Vaizey, who has kindly offered to stay as IC, is now running the marking station at Sarisbury Green. We must also thank Ken Francis for securing the Sarisbury Green Social Club, which has fantastic facilities, and if members could offer a few minutes help whilst waiting I am sure it would be gratefully received.
The Cambria Specialist Club is a two-bird club recently formed and now has 35 members that will back nominate from all National Flying Club races. We wish them a successful 2017 season and hope they enjoy the friendly competition such specialist clubs can offer.
The National Flying Club young bird sale will begin in late Feb/early March on the website www.nationalflyingclub.co.uk and your support would help to continue the success of previous seasons in fund raising for your club. Any news or views please call me, Chris Sutton on 01530 242548