National Flying Club

Report by Cameron Stansfield and Les Parkinson of


The National Flying Club’s final old bird race of the season was flown from Saintes last Saturday when the convoy of 3,144 birds entered by 576 members were liberated at 6.00am into a light and variable wind turning to light west en route and then south.

Trevor and Carol Durows and below their winner

This turned out to be another successful race and the honour of 1st Open NFC Saintes goes to Trevor Durows of Birmingham who has an excellent record from this race point flying with the National. Trevor timed a 2y widowhood cock who has taken 3 or 4 cards inland previously and he is a brother to a 2nd Section MCC and a fed topper from Bath and his sister was his best young hen in 05. His sire is an Albert Marcelis from Johnny Birch of Birmingham and his dam was timed by Trevor in the 2000 YB National. She was bred out of another direct-bred Marcelis from Bleke & Gust. The g.dam was bred by Albert Marcelis out of Small Gust when he was paired to a daughter of David. Trevor told me that he sent his 12 best cocks to NFC Bordeaux, so he didn’t know what to expect from his entry of 7 in this race. He sent the cock that was his first bird at St Malo and the other six, including the winner, were effectively sent to gain experience for next year. Trevor races 48 cocks on a straightforward widowhood system, exercising them for an hour in the morning and for an hour to an hour and a half in the evening. He closes the doors, puts a flag up while cleaning out, which takes him 30-45 minutes, then drops the flag and opens the doors so the cocks can come and go. He says that over the years he has altered the feed but has never found one mix or brand overwhelmingly better than another. He feeds a straight widowhood mix and adds peanuts, a handful per sixteen pigeons, each day as the longer races approach. He says the winner is not one you would pick out as he tends to be looser feathered than some of his loftmates but many years of experience has taught him that whether they look tight or handle tight is a quirk of individual birds and not a guide to their ability. Trevor had 6 of his 7 entries home on the day and said they were all in very good nick. His winner has now been retired, which is unusual for this loft as he tends to race them until they are six. However, he has been influenced by the fact that he continued to race his MCC Saintes Classic winner and lost it. He said winning the National hadn’t sunk in yet, adding that he would have liked it to have been more planned as this would have given him greater satisfaction, but nonetheless he was very pleased.


The winners of 1st Section A are Dave and Anne Ball of Shoreham-On-Sea who clocked a 2y Janssen widowhood cock. This season he had been ticking along with inland races as Dave wouldn’t send him north, then he received an injury which sidelined him for three weeks. He recovered in time to fly NFC St Malo, taking six hours. He was not originally earmarked for Saintes and was therefore a replacement for a loftmate who messed up in a prep race. He was given his hen the night before basketing and returned in perfect condition. Both of his parents were gifts from Fred Hall and are the lines of Jackson & Andrew of Goole. Dave started with pigeons aged sixteen and is now seventy. His aim is to do well in the Nationals and also the L&SECC. His birds are hopper fed Gem widowhood mixture and are never broken down. They also have a bit of small seed and bread pudding now and again. Dave was telling me how he was quite relaxed when his bird arrived but I could here Anne in the background saying he went through the roof in his excitement!

David Ball

The Section B spoils fell to John Zerafa and his son Kevin of Portsmouth. They clocked a 2y hen of their own strain, which they have developed since the mid-nineties with birds from various sources. This hen won 1st Club Guernsey as a youngster and in her last prep race from Messac a fortnight ago she won 1st Club by half an hour and 4th Fed, pickling up £171 in pools. She held her form so Kevin and John pooled her heavily for this Saintes race. In between those two races she was given no training. She had raced on widowhood all season but was paired and sent sitting 7 or 8 days for Saintes. She returned in good condition and John and Kevin had 6 of their 8 entries home by teatime. The Zerafas set out to do well in the NFC, the CSCFC and the BBC and indeed they have also won 1st Section in the Barcelona Club this season. Last year they clocked a very good bird from NFC Dax International, which demonstrates the versatility of their family of pigeons.

John & Kevin Zerafa

Section C was won by Tony Porter who has been racing pigeons since he was eleven. Five years ago Tony concluded that the only chance he had of doing well in Nationals living where he does on Portland, was in the longer races so he brought in birds from Geoff Hunt of Westmarsh and Vic and Terry Preddy of High Littleton. His timer, who was also on the result from Tarbes last year, is a 4y hen who is a combination of these two lines. This season she has had one club race, that being from Cheltenham on the north, and four tosses, the last one being the previous Saturday. She was fed on Gerry Plus this year and had plenty of peanuts and rice in the fortnight before Saintes. Tony said that giving his birds so little work is now his preferred method of conditioning pigeons because he’s found that the more work he gives them the worse they perform. Working them harder has led to more steps backward than forward, he said. Tony runs two quarries and a factory so his time is limited. In accordance with this he keeps a small team numbering just 28 and they are on open hole night and day. He doesn’t race youngsters, and the youngsters live with the old birds. His winning hen has been sat on plastic eggs all year but was sent to Saintes on an egg, which had just hatched, a method of motivation suggested to him by Geoff Hunt. Tony’s main ambition is to time in from Palamos.

Tony Porter and his father plus below there section winner

Andrew and Denise Hodge of Cullompton win Section D with a Van Loon x Van Reet widowhood cock.This pigeon is the nestmate to their 2nd Open NFC St Nazaire and 21st Open St Malo pigeon.They sent 8 birds to the race of which 6 homed on the day, all in excellent condition. The Van Loons originate from Hudson & Lowe stock purchased in 1994 and the Van Reets from Brian Kaid of Wales 6 years ago. Andrew & Denise would like to thank the NFC Convoyers and the NFC clock station at Honiton for all the hard work they put in to make these races a success and also the members of Tiverton Flying Club for making their club racing so enjoyable. The picture shows Andrew holding the 2 national performers.

Andrew Hodge

Mark Gilbert’s fantastic run of form continues with another 1st Section E and this time the bird in the clock is 3y widowhood cock of Frank Sheader Soontjen lines. It is a cracker as it has been four times in the first 20 in middle-distance Classic races, was 2nd Fed on the north road earlier in the year and won 2nd Section NFC St Malo a month ago. It’s no surprise therefore to find this cock is pooled to £50 Section and Open. Mark’s season has ended on a high note but it began on a very low one when he sent 81 birds to Wetherby on the north road and had just 9 home in two days. Altogether he had 43 home, including this Soontjen cock who returned in an Amtrak box having been reported 7 miles outside of Wetherby. This, Mark says, is the only mistake he has made in his life. Mark’s widowhood system is to pair in early December, let them rear the youngsters and remove the hens at 15 days. He does not re-pair before racing. This method ensures his birds are not too far down the wing when the long races come along at the end of the season and for this race his Soontjen cock was on his second flight. He was given his hen for half an hour before basketing. Mark had 13 of his 16 entries home by teatime and said they were in fantastic condition. He added that he thinks the new NFC crates are ‘great’ and that his birds returned in better condition than from many National races of the past. Mark’s ambition now is to win Palamos with the BBC. I asked him if his team was as strong as ever, to which he replied, ‘It was till Wetherby!’

Mark Gilbert

Section F was won by Peter Gilbert, a previous winner of 2nd Open NFC Pau with Fast Eddie. On this occasion he timed a hen bought out of a breeder/buyer sale in Didcot. This bird was brought over from Holland for the sale by Mark Kidby and was one of two donated by the Dutch loft of Hpoppen Elbury. Last year she flew the BB&O programme plus two national races through to Bergerac. This year she has not had a lot of flying, just a couple of club races, though she has been trained hard down to the coast. She was sent sitting 8 days and was on her third flight. He thought she would do ok but this performance exceeded his expectations. In addition to a basic mix his birds also have garlic and glucose, and the young birds have Ad Herb on their food. Peter says he has tried widowhood in the past but is happier with a kind of roundabout/celibacy system where the pigeons exercise well and then he re-pairs them for the longer races. Asked why he couldn’t get his birds to perform on widowhood, he could only surmise that he hadn’t been doing it right, though he does believe that his type of pigeon, many of which are Grooters, may not be suited to the system. He also added that his birds and methods are best suited to 900-1100ypm days so this performance was a surprise.

Peter Gilbert

When they come to write the history of UK pigeon racing the next fancier should have a chapter all to his own. I’m talking about Brian Sheppard who is simply an all-time great. Here he wins 1st Section G for what he thinks is the 12th time and the pedigree of his Section winner is full of winners, all from his old original lines. His sire won 2nd Open Saintes National and his dam is a nest sister to his 2nd Open International Dax. His g.sire was clocked on the day from NFC San Sebastian having finished high up earlier that season in the very hard Anglo-Welsh San Sebastian. Brian sent 10 to this race and had 9 on the day and all 10 had previously had every race (seven) on the north through to Fraserburgh a month ago. In fact his winner was clocked from Fraserburgh. Once the ban was lifted he turned them round, sending them first to Chale on the Isle of Wight with the Wiltshire Continental, then to St Malo with the National and now this Saintes. These are the only three south road races Brian has competed in this year. I asked him if he wasn’t taking a risk sending virtually all his birds to every race but he replied that this is what he has always done and if he does hit a smash, the best will still come. He began this year with 22 cocks and has finished it with 14 and he says they are all top pigeons. Prior to the season starting I spoke to Brian and asked if he was going to send north. He said of course because a good pigeon will come from anywhere. To prove the point, his winner of 2nd NFC Dax last year was his first pigeon in the clock from Fraserburgh winning 13th Open SW of England Lerwick Club, then was switched to Chale which it won easily and then was his second bird on Saturday. Brian asked that I mention two things. Firstly, he wishes to thank Brian Long who has gifted him three pigeons out of his Red Barcelona blood and these are showing great promise on the road, and also Brian said he waited at the marking station so he could see the new NFC transporter for himself. He was very impressed with what he saw and reported that his birds returned in perfect condition.

Brian Sheppard

Section H was won by Colin Crick who timed a 3y cock of his own Janssen-based family, these Janssen’s having come from various sources over many years. I asked Colin, who has kept pigeons since he was six, why he concentrates on Janssen’s and he said there’s no reason other than he fancied the look of them at the time he originally got them. His Section winner scored as a 2y and three weeks ago was 2nd Club, 2nd Fed, 4th Combine St Nazaire. He had been on widowhood earlier in the season but was sitting when he scored at St Nazaire and was on a 6-day youngster for this race. Colin said his pigeon returned in reasonable nick but he could see he’d tried. The birds are fed good quality corn, usually Versele Laga. Colin topped the Section in the Young Bird National last year, and back in 1980 when he lived elsewhere he won Section E from Nantes. He has also won the London & South East Classic from Pau and been 24th Open NFC Pau on two different occasions. These latter three performances came from Janssen’s crossed with Peter Titmuss birds. Colin’s preference is for races up to 500 miles, which can be done and dusted on the day, and his ambition is simply to keep on winning.

Colin Crick

1st Section J was won by a National stalwart Keith Rhodes of Telford, and this is some pigeon as last year he won a Western Region RPRA Award having won 11th Open MCC Picauville, 11th Section MNFC Falaise, 28th MCC Fougeres, 200th Open Saintes Classic and he also scored from Messac in the MCC. He has also won as a young bird and as a yearling. His brother has won 34th Open NFC St Malo this year and his half-brother (same sire) has been 23rd Open MNFC Bergerac. The sire, who won £3,000 in National racing, is a Desmet-Matthys going back to originals brought in 1980 and the dam was bought from Jim Gibbon of Sunderland six years ago being from Jim’s old family. Keith flies a basic widowhood system, keeping 26 cocks, and does no training whatsoever. He says his birds always fly well around the loft, in fact last Thursday he was worried he wouldn’t get them in in time for race marking for the Saintes race. He usually pairs early but this year because of the ban on Channel racing he held them back until March; he says it made no difference to them coming into form at the right time. He had all 7 of his entries home by 6pm and when I asked about their condition he said: ‘Perfect, all seven, the best condition they have ever come back in from a National.’ He very nearly missed his pigeons as he had only been back from clock reading for his local club’s young birds race, where he finished 1st & 2nd. This is the second time he has won the Section in the NFC having been runner up no end of times, and his Section winner was pooled to £10 Section and Open.

Keith Rhodes 1st section winner

Peter Hagland of Doncaster put up a fabulous performance to win 1st Section K, 2nd Open and what’s more he had two hens together, these being separated by just seven seconds on the clock. His Section topper, who last year won 1st Section, 12th Open MNFC Tours, is following in the footsteps of her sire who also won 1st Section K (only bird on the day), 2nd Open NFC Saintes. He is a Herman Beverdam x Andre Berte Janssen. Her dam is a Haelterman of Frank Tasker lines, which Peter brought in many years ago. His second pigeon is out of a Herbot cock and a Busschaert hen from Peter’s brother John, who races into Wetherby. Both these hens were flown on widowhood up to being got ready for this race. His Section winner was then paired and her eggs were due to chip on the day of return but Peter slipped her first youngster of the year under her on the Tuesday before marking. This is the first time he has tried this method as his widowhood hens have flown dry for the last three years and he says their performances have been out of this world, in fact he says he has never had hens race as well in all his life. They fly to their individual boxes where they are always fed and watered and they keep themselves in brilliant condition. He has 14 hens on this system and they fly half an hour morning and night and then are back in their boxes. He has never had an egg in three years and he says they can’t wait to get back in their boxes. They have high carbohydrate food in front of them at all times and extra protein is added via peanuts for the longer races. Peter hasn’t club raced since 1998. He sends his birds as trainers with the North East Provincial (no clock set) and concentrates on the Nationals. Peter had been monitoring the progress of the Saintes birds on the NFC website and this is what he had to say: ‘I knew I had to have one before half-three to stand a chance, so when I had two drop together at 28 minutes past, can you imagine how I was shaking. I’ve been racing for nearly 40 years and it felt brilliant.’ He would like to thank his friend Rob Pashley who took his birds to Sheffield for the marking, and he pointed out that without the help of his wife Cynthia he would find it much harder to race pigeons. Fittingly, his Section winner is known as Cynthia’s Pride having been christened this on topping the Section from Tours last year.


Roger Sutton tops Section L for the ninth time and for the second time from Saintes, his other Section wins having been from Nantes, the Young Bird race and the Old Hens’ race. On this occasion he had two hens in quick succession, the Section winner being a 2y from his own family, which he has developed over the years. The base are Delbars and Andre Berte Janssen’s. This hen has taken minor prizes before and her loftmate who was next in the clock is the nestmate to the cock Roger timed on the day from Bordeaux last week and she was 2nd Section St Nazaire last year. She is of Roger’s family combined with Warren Robertson’s Dark Destroyer blood. Roger has a very successful way of racing hens. Basically they race unpaired for the land races, exercising with the youngsters. As the big races approach he pairs them to stock cocks, which have finished breeding for the year and sends them on their first nest of the year. He sent 12 hens in such condition, 10 which were sitting and two of which were feeding a 5-6 day youngster, and it was the two hens sent feeding which he clocked first. Roger says it can’t be a coincidence but he wasn’t absolutely confident of it working as he has found that not all hens react positively to being sent in this nest condition. These hens are hopper fed beans early in the season and are fed a widowhood mix and a fat mix as the big races approach, with peanuts and sunflower seeds being given liberally in the last 2 or 3 days before marking. The aim is to send them feeling as big as possible without being heavy as Roger believes they want to be carrying plenty of body. This rounds off an excellent season for Roger, who commented that his birds had raced outstandingly out of the new transporters.

Roger Sutton

Wing of Roger Sutton's 1st section winner