National Flying Club

February Committee Meeting

The National Flying Club held a committee meeting at Alveley Workingmen’s Club, Shropshire, on Wednesday February 23rd, the change of location having been arranged by Section J representative Ray Scriven on the grounds of cost saving.

It was good to see all the current Section representatives present and a word of acknowledgment should go to all those who give up their time on behalf of the members of the National Flying, none more so than those who have a round trip of upwards of seven or eight hours.

There was a comprehensive agenda but let’s get straight to the primary issue, which concerns the 2006 race programme. Please read the following carefully so that false information doesn’t start doing the rounds. At present the first preference will be to race the published programme of St Malo, St Nazaire, Tarbes, Dax, Saintes and Fougeres (YBs and OHs). The second preference is to have a mixture of Guernsey, Belgian racepoints and San Sebastian for the Grand National, that’s if France is closed to us. There again, if Spain is closed that option will be out. The third preference (and a last resort) is to race from the north, whereupon the programme would be Berwick, Perth, Fraserburgh, Thurso, and Lerwick as the Grand National. It needs emphasising that this is a last resort.

Currently licences have been applied for to race all races from Guernsey, and the NFC has booked a number of racepoints in Belgium, all scheduled racepoints in France plus San Sebastian. No further decision will be made on a possible programme until April 15th, a cut off date which allows for adverts in the fancy press before the first race takes place, and which enables fanciers to train as per the designated route. Chairman Roy Stretton (Section I) pointed out that because the NFC now has control over its transportation it is able to change routes with immediate effect as circumstances alter. Whilst on the race programme, the dates for 2007 are: St Malo May 19th, St Nazaire June 2nd, Tarbes June 29th, Saintes July 28th and the YB/OH race September 1st. The Dax race date will be decided by the Entente Belge.

Nobby Henley (Section D) raised the issue of how prize money is allocated and proposed that the percentage paid out as Open prize money be reduced from 15% to 5% and therefore that 95% of all prize money paid out would be paid out to the Sections pro rata the number of birds entered. Ken Hanby (Section K) gave his support to this suggestion and Brian Long, sitting on the committee for the first time (as a Section H representative), said he thought it sounded a very fair proposal. Nobby’s proposition was passed unanimously. Geoff Cooper (Section G, returning to the committee after several years’ absence) asked whether there was a case for the NFC to retain a greater percentage of the prize money pot to aid club funds, but Roy Stretton and Paul Naum (Section D), newly-elected Treasurer with Rod Harding having stepped down, said this was unnecessary.

Brian Stansfield asked that the guaranteed sponsorship money be paid out to the four bands equally regardless of the number of birds entered in each band, thus further flying members would be able to win the same amount as shorter flying members.

Regarding the make up of Sections, Brian Long said that he was aware there was some dissatisfaction amongst Section E members regarding the size of their Section (Section E is by some margin the best supported Section). John Wills (Section E representative) concurred and suggested it was time to split the Section into two bands. John Edwards (Section E) felt this might not be what some Section E members wanted and he felt it only right they be given the opportunity to let their feelings be known. John Wills is to arrange a venue and the NFC is to advertise an open meeting for Section E members. Roy Stretton said he would be willing to chair the meeting.

It was pointed out that there was an error in the new handbook relating to sponsorship noms for the W. A Gough & Son-sponsored Tarbes Grand National and the Roy Stretton-sponsored St Malo race. It reads £2 when it should read £5. An amendment will appear on a fly sheet. Roy confirmed that he will sponsor the first race from wherever it is staged but Brian Stansfield spoke on behalf of Roy and Arthur Gough to say that in the event of Tarbes not being flown in 2006, their sponsorship will be deferred to 2007. Brian also urged his fellow committee members to look for sponsorship for the other races.

Roy was congratulated on the production of the new handbook, which he co-ordinated, and Brian Stansfield was thanked for attracting £1500 of advertising, which helped offset some of the production cost. Members will be receiving their handbook in due course and will surely be impressed. It contains all the details carried in the old format plus all race entry sheets, which can be detached from perforated pages. Subject to an increase in advertising revenue, there is the potential to improve the handbook so that it carries all the previous year’s full race results, trophy winners, photographs of winners etc.

The Secretary was awarded a 3% pay increase, and the Convoyer and the Assistant Convoyer were awarded a 10 % increase, to make up for the fact they had not had a rise for several years. Mr Hanby did point out, however, that with the perk of being on the new transporters, they should accept a wage reduction! The convoyers are also to be provided with smart uniforms.

Mick Lennon, though not a committee member (yet!), travelled over from Nuneaton to give an update on the new transporters. Mick has been overseeing their construction over the past couple of months and his help has been invaluable as he has been on hand to suggest any necessary modifications. He confirmed that everything is on schedule for a completion date of March 31st and he stated that, in his opinion, these transporters will be the best in the world. He pointed out that at the press of a button the drinkers around every crate (and there is 8ft of drinking trough per crate) would be filled with water within twenty minutes. The water is stored in two tanks made of food grade polycarbonate, which means bacteria can’t grow in them. They can be drained by means of an unscrewable seal underneath and the tops can be removed so the tanks can be steam cleaned. On these transporters, even the ten electric fans can be steam cleaned! The gull wing design coupled with the hydraulic system ensures the transporters cannot be broken into; every basket is ventilated to the same dregree; the transporters can carry enough water to replenish the watering system twice before the convoyers have to refill the tanks; there is a jacking system which is self-levelling so water will be evenly dispersed; the roof has a two-inch thick insulation board; each vehicle has its own generator; the fans will change the air evenly throughout the transporters every twenty seconds.

The first time the transporters are used for a race, ten loggers will be installed to record the temperature and humidity – every two minutes – and the information can read on a laptop. The airflow is calculated by the amount of air that comes in through the louvers, therefore between one and ten of the fans come on to compensate to suit the atmosphere. Richard King queried how long the fans would last on a long ferry journey such as to San Sebastian, the answer being indefinitely as, in addition to them having their own generators, there is a back-up battery system. There are two 18-inch long food trays for each basket and these are so designed that the corn can’t slip to one end when they are being inserted. Brian Stansfield is organising an open day so that fanciers can go along and see these new vehicles. The provisional venue is Drayton Manor Theme Park near Tamworth, at approximately midday on Sunday May 7th. When confirmed, an advert will appear in the Fancy Press. Brian Long pointed out that the BBC is currently making a programme on pigeon racing so they might be worth approaching to see if they will attend. Her Majesty the Queen had been approached for permission to use the words ‘Patron: Her Majesty the Queen’ on the graphics on the transporters and Her Majesty has agreed to allow it. The graphics will also include the club logo of a Union Jack in the shape of the UK.

A new marking station will be in operation for 2006. This is at Ashby-de-La-Zouch Rugby Club. Whether it will continue in 2007 will depend on whether it generates new members.

The 2006 dinner will be held at Hinckley Island in Warwickshire and has been brought forward one weekend to Saturday December 1st to enable NFC members to attend the Entente Belg Dax dinner the following weekend should they so wish. Torquay is the likely venue for 2007 and York is a strong contender for 2008. John Wills is to look into possible south-east of England venues for the future. Doreen Kneller confirmed that she would be willing to continue organising the dinner arrangements. Mick McGrevy (Section K), who did a sterling job as a last minute MC stand in at the December dinner, is to sing (you read correctly) two songs at the 2006 dinner (with The Fields of Athenry a strong contender to be one of them).

Brian Stansfield agreed to seek out new trade stand equipment. He will store it and take it to the shows.

Brian Long and Bill Lewis were appointed the race advisors for 2006. Both have many years’ experience in this field and have built up an extensive network of contacts.

The club had received a letter from David Higgins of the North-East Region to inform them that the Region had found in favour of Fred Bloor in his appeal against the NFC. There were several letters concerning the wrong allocation and incorrect engraving of trophies this being due to some incorrect county address details. Henceforth the NFC will revert to advertisng the list of trophy winners in the Fancy Press so that fanciers have time to object should there be any mistakes. There was also some dissatisfaction from members who had attended the prize presentation but had not received trophies. This was the result of wires being crossed following an earlier committee meeting decision to save money by cutting back on replicas. Trevor Harris (Section H) said the members expect to be rewarded and the committee agreed that the 2005 awards had been unsatisfactory and indeed they had full sympathy with those who had been disappointed. This mistake won’t happen again.

The Club is investigating claiming VAT back for the last three years. If successful, a claim for the past 6 years will be made.

It was agreed to invite the following as guests for the 2006 dinner: Mr & Mrs Napolitano, the editors of the RP and the BHW and their wives, two gentlemen from Defra who have assisted with the transporter development, Paul Bakewell (the transport contractor), and Pat Mitchell and Ken Skelton and their partners of the North-East Region of the RPRA.

The final item concerned a document the NFC is putting together in conjunction with Neil Forbes, a leading Vet who works on behalf of the RSPCA. In the aftermath of the Saintes race the National committee felt it prudent to ascertain what the club needed to do to satisfy the RSPCA vis a vis bird welfare, particularly with regard to the length of time in the basket, so as to avoid any future conflict. This document clarifies the position and will protect the NFC against claims of cruelty. Roy Stretton and Stan Dangerfield were tasked with meeting Mr Forbes, which they did on three occasions to iron everything out. The main point is that the total transporter time limit from loading at Sheffield (the first pick-up point) to liberation is 168 hours. The committee agreed that this seemed satisfactory and acknowledged the value to the NFC of having such a document.

To summarise the meeting, the National Flying Club looks to be going forward and the committee is working together. The new handbooks, the new transporters and the existence of this last-mentioned bird welfare document show that the Club is facing up to the issues of the day and looking for ways to make the whole organisation more professional in its outlook.

Cameron Stansfield