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ARPF Ward Race 18th October 2014.   2 comments

Steve Archer with his hard ARPF Ward winner 18th October 2014, a 3 year old BBH 639 .

Steve Archer with the Archer’s hard ARPF Ward winner 18th October 2014, a 3 year old BBH 639.

The Auckland Racing Pigeon Federation (ARPF) held its first Federation race of the South Island series on the 18th of October 2014. At basketing some fanciers were already picking that the weather would be pretty bad for Saturday if the pigeons were let up. However this wasn’t the forecast for perhaps the first 25 to 30% of the race depending on whether one was a back marker or a front marker.
The problem that some people could see was that a ‘weather bomb’ might hit the race birds in the later part of the race. For back markers that could be about 220km i.e. 35% of the race and for front markers considerably less, about 100km i.e. 20% of the race.

Of course weather forecasts do change and this was Thursday night. Weather forecast viewed just prior to liberation can also be wrong in some instances.

The night before the anticipated Saturday liberation I viewed the metservice rural and 3 day rain forecast to see how things were looking. It actually appeared like there might be a narrow window of opportunity for a race that produced a fair percentage of pigeons home on the day i.e. 50% on average to ARPF lofts. Call me ‘optimistic ferg’, but I think many of us are naturally of this ‘ilk’.

The next morning I rose early and assessed the weather online and thought, there is a possibility that the pigeons would be let up, however, for the mid and back markers pigeon’s sake, it could be seen as a bit risky. Of course the first 25 to 30% of the race was highly likely to be good weather (including the treacherous Cook Strait) and a later video of the Ward liberation shows that the pigeons went up in sunny conditions with plenty of blue sky in a light nor-west wind. So one could surmise that the most important box i.e. reasonable conditions over the Cook Strait was indeed definitely ticked.

When later a post was made on the Federation site my eyes and mind misread it, it said AUCKLAND – HAMILTON AND MANAIA LIBERATED AT 7.15AM, but I had to do a double take as I did not see the word Auckland the first time. I had been convinced that the Auckland pigeons probably would not go up. However, at the same time I could see that there was still a possibility of a fair race to the liberated pigeons. Perhaps those involved with letting the pigeons go had seen something others including myself hadn’t.

So, I hoped that it still would be a good race and that there wouldn’t be too many empty perches that night for everyone. On the closed Facebook pigeon chat site I wrote “Good luck everybody! 7.15am lib. 8 hours to my place maybe i.e. 3.15pm, earliest 3pm but very unlikely, more likely 3.45 to 4.15pm i.e. 8.5 to 9 hours. Keep watching the rain radar but they would have had a good start for several hours or so. Get your gumboots out!”

The Archer Loft. Steve and Magda have shifted since the 2014 Ward race.

The Archer Loft. Steve and Magda have shifted since the 2014 Ward race.

Well this is what transpired at my place that Saturday afternoon. By 2pm it was raining at my place, but just light. From 3pm it was on the light side of moderate. Also by 3pm my back was wet through (even though I was wearing a thick coat) as I was looking to the south and the wind was from the north. At 4pm the skies turned dark grey/black to the north about 8km away and the wind picked up to moderate to strong northerlies. At this stage I thought that we are now in for a shit dunger and that only a few pigeons would make it home on the day, even to my loft and I was the front marker in this race! It would depend how far down this ‘weather bomb’ was tracking and when family came down the farm I asked my wife to look at the rain radar. When she returned with a hand drawn diagram I could see it was down as far south as Pio Pio and even parts of Aria i.e. about 140km from my place in Onewhero.

After a while I started looking north, sitting down all the time since by this stage it had worn me out. Sure enough a few minutes before 6pm a pigeon could be seen a long way in the distance coming back from the due north and obviously it had gone through with other pigeons and likely once it had got to the other side of the Waikato River somewhere it then realised that it needed to turn around. That was a 2 year old BCC 314; he finished 5th Flock East Section. Another two pigeons came about a minute apart about 10 minutes after 314, they were both hens. Both pooled, the first hen 1118 had scraped her wing, so she had done really well.

So for me, just the three home on the day from 50 sent and it was an early rise the next morning to greet each pigeon that came home. In the end I lost 12 of the 50 sent. Usually I don’t lose any from this racepoint. Apart from the weather conditions enroute my losses can be explained also by a number of features.

Firstly the Federation programme had cut out the usual first Bulls two day basket race. We had had a not so good for quite a few pigeons Bulls race the previous Old Bird season and this had put some people off having Bulls on the programme. Secondly, (and I agreed with the principle of this decision), the first scheduled two day basket i.e. the 7th race on the Old Bird programme was cancelled due to a bad storm forecast for that weekend, so in my case the pigeons got nothing that weekend and I am not able to train them. However, full credit to the ARPF team they arranged a Bulls race the following weekend in addition to the scheduled shorter Raetihi race. Some Federation members took advantage of this and raced the Bulls. I didn’t as the first Federation race from Raumati was the following weekend and I didn’t want to flatten them. As it turned out we had a good Federation race from Raumati and that got a lot of pigeons off to a good start.

Here’s some food for thought, an alternative way to proceed with racing after a key race weekend is cancelled would be to race that racepoint the following week and thus return to the scheduled programme. This would lengthen the season by a week, however, I think it is something worth discussing in meetings by those with the health to attend them (until the ARPF provide video conferencing for the infirm like myself). Race fitness is attained by the steady, gradual build up of the distance. To me that would be a better method than putting a two day basket on the week before the first Federation race.

Jim Cater, a West Section flier had the best returns in the results after the two days allowed for this Ward race. The West had raced from Raumati the weekend of the storm when Auckland racing was cancelled. They hitched a ride with the South Waikato pigeons. They had a good race, as the weather, although showery, allowed a liberation on the Sunday. This obviously helped the West pigeons reach a better level of match fitness for a hard race like this Ward race was.

Full credit to Steve and Magda Archer’s pigeon which won this Ward race by a long, long way (almost an hour). The East Section Futurity Yearling was won by Peter Longville senior and Jim Cater did the double in the West Section which meant he had won 6 West trophies by this stage (and he wasn’t finished yet!). In fact, if there was an overall result, Jim Caters pigeons would have taken the next three places after Archer and with further distance to fly than many, an excellent effort!

Please have a look at the results for the East and West Sections of the ARPF Ward by scrolling down to the Ward result blog on the 28th December last year.

As far as the East result goes, of the 328 pigeons sent, there were just 13 pigeons home on the official result sheet on the day i.e. 3.9%. In the West Section, 5 pigeons from 198 i.e. 2.5%, of course in general their distances are greater, although not the greatest.

I think that everyone participating in the race would agree that this is not brilliant; however, it is likely that not everyone would have been in agreement as to whether the pigeons should have instead been held over. There is no way of knowing for sure that day returns would be so bleak for a race ranging from 505 to 626km’s i.e. it was not really a long distance race at least in my mind, even for the back markers, so perhaps the risk of a ‘weather bomb’ was under estimated. All the same, run the race another day with exactly the same forecasting and on that particular day returns could well be much better, so it’s a very difficult one.

Steve Archer outside the Archer's new loft at their new residence (looks impressive!) holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner and trophy it won.

Steve Archer outside the Archer’s new loft at their new residence (looks impressive!) holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner and trophy it won.

I think that there are two key factors why the race did not pan out as expected. Firstly, the misty, showery murk, probably from Whanganui northwards blanketing east to west across the island, with likely mainly less than moderate northerly headwinds and secondly the weather bomb, which perhaps exploded a bit earlier than expected into the final section of the race and travelled further south than expected, acting for many pigeons like a ‘gate’ between Kawhia Harbour and the west side of Hamilton City i.e. Mount Pirongia etc was completely hemmed in and to the south as far as Aria by around 4pm.

However, the bulk of the North Island looked reasonably good on the rain radar prior to liberation. With a front approaching from the north you are always going to get murky, showery conditions extending a lot further down the country. The weather was quite clear from Ward to somewhere perhaps almost as far north as Whanganui, so the pigeons had a good start and it was up to them whether they crossed the Strait with enthusiasm while enjoying the pleasant ferry crossing conditions in only light north winds. They also encountered these over land in the North Island for some time, perhaps to the northern border of the King Country i.e. just south of Aria. However as I mentioned before, there was this likely blanket of murk, mist and showers making it slow going through the many hills and valleys enroute.

I wouldn’t say that the liberation for this race was a poor one, it just wasn’t in my mind a really good one (due to the weather bomb risk factor) and it’s likely that every man and his dog in the ARPF both before and after this race would have an opinion on this one!

It could be that Steve and Magda Archer’s 3 year BBH 639 got around this ‘gate’ by taking a route through Hamilton with perhaps some Hamilton pigeons which were liberated with the ARPF’s, or it could simply be that it happened much earlier in the race somehow. All I know is that it was a terrific, gutsy effort by 639 and that all the other pigeons were ‘also-rans’ in this particular race. To win the East section against another 327 pigeons by 55 minutes is no mean feat and we must take our hat off to both the pigeon and the fanciers. Steve is blessed with a wife who enjoys the pigeons and they enjoy the many facets of the hobby together. Good luck to them at their new position over towards the firth of Thames! Also good luck fishing, Steve’s other hobby!

Steve and Magda Archer at the ARPF Young Bird Futurity prize presentation back in 2012. This was Steve's first year back in racing and view the article Stevo's back on this blog for further details. The Archers also won our second longest distance race in 2013 i.e. the ARPF Timaru. So 3 OPEN Fed wins in 3 years, no mean feat!

Steve and Magda Archer at the ARPF Young Bird Futurity prize presentation back in 2012. This was Steve’s first year back in racing and view the article Stevo’s back on this blog for further details. The Archers also won our second longest distance race in 2013 i.e. the ARPF Timaru. So 3 OPEN Fed wins in 3 years, no mean feat!

I’d like to thank all those involved in the running of this race. It wasn’t what most of us were banking on but it was another one under their belts for the rest of the South Island programme that lay ahead. I think it also shows that if say for instance when the little truck is down at Christchurch for a club race or the Old Bird National, then Ward is a relatively safe option for a plan b or c when we are presented with unfavourable weather conditions for our Christchurch races over any given weekend e.g. moderate or stronger east or nor-east winds in the South Island, Christchurch and north of, plus or minus one other factor e.g. gale headwinds over the Cook Strait any time during daylight on the anticipated day of release or drizzle and murk/mist along much of the South Island flight path corridors north of Christchurch.

This race showed that if the Cook Strait is good, then many of the pigeons return to their lofts within a few days of liberation, even if a worse case scenario weather forecast pans out as it did in the case of this Ward race. Assuming the overall losses from this race were 20 to 25%, then compared to the likely losses from last year’s Christchurch Old Bird National of perhaps around 75% given just 11.5% (34 pigeons) were clocked in three days from 294 pigeons released in the East Section race, then I think my argument of ‘if in doubt’, after trying for a liberation from Christchurch for two days then the little truck should drive to a shorter release point, somewhere along the Kaikoura Coast or even as far north as Ward for a possible mid morning release after watering the birds.

Incidentally we are looking at an extra 45 minutes or so in day length in late November early December than mid October and although an e.g. Ward race doesn’t guarantee freedom from heavy losses, if the Cook Strait is reasonable, then well over half the pigeons are likely to make it home in a few days. In the Ward race of the 18th October 2014 the figure was 57% to East lofts and that doesn’t take into account the situation where fanciers disconnect their clock well before leaving for strike off and any fliers that for whatever reason, don’t present a clock, even though some pigeons are home.

Your thoughts and wise comments are welcome below in the comments or on any of the Facebook forums this article is published in. Alternatively email me at ferguselley@gmail.com or message me on Facebook Fergus James Elley.

Any of you (including overseas readers) who would like to ask Kerry Frazer some questions about pigeon racing, especially the long distance please email them to me or pop them in the comments section below please. There are some blogs in the pipe line on our last year’s Invercargill race which Kerry won along with the Old Bird National from Christchurch.

Steve Archer outside the Archer's new loft from an another angle again holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner. Steve likes flying the long distance. Steve and Magda will fly the 2015 Old Bird season in the Pukekohe Pigeon club, the same club as the writer.

Steve Archer outside the Archer’s new loft from an another angle again holding their 2013 ARPF Timaru winner. Steve likes flying the long distance. Steve and Magda will fly the 2015 Old Bird season in the Pukekohe Pigeon club, the same club as the writer.