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How Pigeon Racing is Organised - (Chapter 1)...
Author: Guy BarrettTitle: How Pigeon Racing is Organised - (Chapter 1)
Date: 2002-09-08 22:02:23Uploaded by: webmaster
When Talking to non-fanciers, I am often asked, "How do you decide which pigeon is the winner, when all the birds are flying to different lofts?". This question is usually followed by, "How do you ensure that the time the fancier says his bird arrived is correct?". This first article will be devoted to answering these two questions, and to give other general information about the sport.

The pigeon racing season in Great Britain commences about the last Saturday in April, and continues untill the second or third Saturday in September. Each pigeon organisation - a club or Federation of clubs - arranges approximately twelve races for "Old Birds", and these are followed by about eight races for "Young Birds" - that is to say birds hatched during the current year, who will, therefore be three or four months old.

The Old Bird races commence with one from a distance of about sixty miles. This distance is gradually increased as the season progresses, until the longest race, held around the middle of July, is from a race point between five hundred and six hundred miles away.

The Young Bird races begin with one from a distance of sixty miles, and this is increased stage by stage until the last race, which is from a point, say, two hundred miles away.

It should be emphasised that all the race points are in the same direction from the organising club's headquarters, so that the birds fly in the same direction each week, travelling over the same "corridor" of land. Thus most clubs in the north of the United Kingdom fly the "South-West Route", or the "South-East Route", while most in the south fly the "North Route".

Before he can begin racing, the new fancier must first join his local pigeon flying club. The club will make him a member of the appropriate Homing Union. There are six Homing Unions in the British Isles:

          The Royal Pigeon Racing Association
          The Scottish Homing Union
          The North of England Homing Union
          The Welsh Homing Union
          The Irish Homing Union
          The North West Homing Union

addresses to which are supplied on the Lost Birds page.

The sport in Britain is governed by the Unions, who also issue metal identification leg-rings to clubs, and keep records of these rings, so that every stray bird can be traced to its owner. Alternatively, a fancier may be an "Individual Member" of a Union, and obtain his rings direct. No pigeon can be entered in a race or show unless it wears an official metal ring, and that ring must be registered in the name of the fancier racing or showing it. In other words; no fancier can race or show a bird which has been given or sold to him, until the ring has been transfered to him in the records of his Union.

Each club usually belongs to a Federation, which may consist of as many as twenty or thirty clubs. The Federation arranges the transportation of the birds belonging to members of its clubs to the various race points. Most convoys of birds travel by road, in specially constructed Pigeon Transporters. The pigeons are sent in the care of the convoyer, who is responcible for feeding and watering them en route. He also liberates them at the race point, after satisfying himself that the weather is favourable. The birds of one club are, of course, liberated simultaneously, so as far as is practicable, and the time of release it telephoned to the club secretary. The winner of the race is the bird which covers the distance from the race point to the owner's loft at the greatest speed or, as we say, at the highest "velocity".

In order to be able to calculate the "velocity" we must know two things; the distance from the race point to each competitors loft, and the time that each bird has taken for the journey. The velocity can be then calculated by dividing the distnace by the time, and is given in yards per minute; this is the formula, followed by an example:

Distance in yards x 60 (sixtieths) = Velocity in yards
           time in seconds                    per minute

Distance = 423miles 1684yards = 746164 yards = 44769840 sixtieths
Flying time = 10 hours 37 minutes 24 seconds = 38244 seconds

Velocity = Sixtieths = 44769840 = 1170.64 yards per minute
                                            Seconds       38244

Thus, 1760 yards per minute represents a speed of 60 miles per hour, and 1170 yards per minute approximately 40 miles per hour. Click here for the Yards/Minute Velocity Calculator and Metres/Minute Velocity Calculator.

The loft of every fancier, therefore, must be carefully pin-pointed on the appropriate 6 or 25-inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey Map. This map is then sent to the Association Headquarters, who will determine the latitude and longitude, known as the "location" of the loft. The latitude and longitude are each stated in degrees, minutes and seconds, and should be accurate to the nearest tenth of a second. For example 53° 24' 26.4" N. 1° 36' 10.7" W. The latitude in the British Isles is, of course always north, but the longitude may be either east or west of the meridian which runs through Greenwich. A tenth of a second on latitude equals about 3.4 yards, and in Britain a tenth of a second in longitude equals about 2 yards.

From the location of the loft and the known location of the liberation point, similarly determined, the distance can be measured. This is an involved calculaton and is only done by offical calculators appointed by the various Unions. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association, however, took over the task of calculating the distances for its members and this most important job done by computer.

Before he can compete in a race, each fancier must have a timing clock of an approved make. Most fanciers own thier clocks but they can be hired for a modest fee. They are all carefully checked and test-run before the start of each racing season. The evening before the day of the race all members' clocks are set by the club's offical "clock-setter", and checked against the club's "master-timer". After his clock has been sealed, each member takes it home.

Prior to being sent to the race, each pigeon is "race-rung". It has a rubber race-ring put on its leg by a member of the club's "marking committee". This ring carries a number which is noted by the club secretary on the owner's entry form, opposite the pigeons metal ring details.

Race Marking

When a bird returns from the race, the fancier must get it into the loft, catch it and remove the rubber race-ring. This ring is placed in a small metal box known as a "thimble", and the thimble put into the clock. The clock is then "struck" and, according to the make of the clock, either prints the time, or punctures the dials at the time the bird is clocked.

Most pigeon clocks can accommodate ten or twelve thimbles, according to the make, in divided sections of a revolving drum inside the clock. The receptacles are numbered from one upwards, so that when the thimbles are eventually removed, the club officals can determine the order in which the birds have been clocked.

After he has "clocked in", the owner takes his clock to his club's headquarters where it is again checked with the master-timer and the rubber rings removed. Probably the clock will have gained or lost slightly, and the recorded dial times must be ajusted as necessary to allow for this, so that each bird is given its correct time. In addition to this, the time must be corrected to allow for any variation at the time of setting between the members clock and the master-timer.

Now we have seen how the time of each bird has been clocked is accurately determined. The time that the birds were liberated is, of course, known, having been telephoned through by the convoyor, and the flying time in hours, minutes and seconds can be found for each pigeon clocked. The velocities can then be calculated from the formula given. As you have seen, pigeon racing is very carefully controled and, in my opinion, it is practically impossible to cheat.

In most local clubs, money prizes are awarded to the first three pigeons on the race-sheet. The fancier may also enter his birds in the 5p, 10p, 25p pool, where he must nominate the particular bird which he is entering in each pool. If for example, there are ten pigeons nominated for the 25p pool there will be 2.50 prize money, which will be awarded to the nominated pigeon with the highest velocity.

The ambition of most fanciers is to win a national race. These are organised by the National Flying Club of each country. Many thousands of birds compete in these races for a large amount of money in prizes and pools. Indeed it is not unusual for a bird to win several hundred pounds for its owner, and there are a number of pigeons in Britain that have won well over a thousand pounds. On the Continent the prizes are even bigger, and many fanciers I have met have won cars and even houses on the Belgiam and German national races.

Used with permisson. © RPRA.

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