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Race Reports 2008

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S1 - Kouchibouguac (107 km) July 11th


Stage 1 Results    Overall Results

Oops!  Racing has begun but I didn’t expect these results.

 I thought it was a perfect morning for a release.  The race team was liberated at 8:30 in cool weather, sunny skies and into a brisk crosswind which remained brisk but changed to a headwind on the way back.  The drive home was 30 minutes longer than normal because of 3 detours due to road construction so I expected to see the birds when I arrived home or shortly after as has been the norm in the past.  When I arrived at the loft the skies were a mix of sun and cloud and the headwinds were a moderate 17 km/h.  It was a long uncomfortable wait as the 3 hour mark was quickly approaching and no birds were in sight.  Then out of nowhere at 11:15 about 80% of team appeared, dropped to the roof without hesitation and trapped immediately.  Close to 90% of the birds were back by 4:00 AST.  I am glad this one was over without too many casualties.

 I can’t explain why this was probably the slowest the Le Tour birds have flown from this distance.  I thought perhaps they were still sightseeing or maybe detours due to road construction had something to do with it.  Na!  Not road construction.  Who would believe that?  Of course, it can’t be management.  I think I’ve said enough.

Congratulations go out to Marv Gilewicz, and Iain Greer for not only winning the race but taking the first 2 positionsReturns were 97.5%.


 Stage 1 Results    Overall Results

S2 - Moncton 1 (183 km) July 15th


Stage 2 Results    Overall Results

Ground Hog Day Release:  When I arrived at the release site a ground hog was waiting patiently to watch the release.  I hope we don't have too many repeats of today's race.

The birds were released at 8:50 in a field west of Moncton.  The conditions were quite favorable.  The skies were mostly cloudy and there was a slight helping southerly breeze.  Upon release the birds without circling headed in the exact direction of home and quickly disappeared over the trees in the distance.  The skies cleared on the way home and the wind picked up in velocity to 15 km but from a more westerly direction (WSW).  At home the conditions were similar.  I expected a quick race but was disappointed. 

At about 11:43 only 2 birds arrived and trapped quickly.  Several minutes later a blue bar arrived and circled the loft for about 10 minutes and then landed just as 4 more birds arrived.  Five minutes later a single bird landed.  After a 15 minute torturous wait a large group finally reached home.   You guessed it right.  I get a bit paranoid about smashes early in the schedule.  The eventual returns were very good (97.4%).

Congratulations go out to Joe Erwin for winning the race.  The father & son team of Shawn & Dave Putnam also did very well by taking 2nd and 3rd positions. 

Stage 2 Results    Overall Results

S3 - Moncton 2 (183 km) July 20th


Stage 3 Results    Overall Results

The birds homed in record time - 2:21:39.  The previous best time from this station was 2:36:08. 

The racers were released at 8:37 in dead calm with the skies a mix of sun and cloud.  Upon release, the birds quickly circled a couple of times then headed in the direction of home.  The conditions on the way home were similar except when I crossed the Miramichi River it was sunnier. At 11:00 Environment Canada reported 5 km helping winds between the Miramichi River and Bathurst.

When I arrived home I saw one bird playing stupid.  It was trying to get into the loft through a side window into an adjacent section.  As I got out of the truck I quickly glanced at clock.  The time was 11:10, 2:30 hrs after the birds were released.  Then I looked towards the windows of the main section of the loft and saw several heads bobbing around.  Needless to say, when I entered the loft I was very happy to see it full of birds.

Congratulations go out to Joe Erwin again for getting his second win in a row and placing a 2nd bird in the top 10.  Alex Crane had a very good race as well by placing 3 birds in the first 10.  The returns were 99.1%.  

Joe Connors is the gentleman sitting on the tailgate of my truck.  He owns the field that I have been releasing from and once a year he stops by for a chat.  Joe is 78 years old and with his son runs a dairy and beef cattle farm of about 400 head.  Joe told me that because he can't get any hired help and his son's health is not the best he plans to cut down to about 300 head.  As well Joe raises Standardbreds and drives to Charlottetown twice a week to harness race them.  I am slightly embarrassed to say that I winter less than 100 pigeons and plan to cut down to half that number because I am finding it too much work and time consuming.  Joe is old enough to be my father and of course he is perfectly fit.      

Stage 3 Results    Overall Results

S4 - Truro (310 km) July 26th

Stage 4 Results   Overall Results

The real racing begins. 

The release was delayed until 8:40 due to a heavy morning fog.  At 8:00 the fog cleared in the area but I waited because normally the fog clears later in the near direction of home.  It remained overcast but the sun peeked out a few times during the wait.  At the time there was a slight helping southerly wind.  Upon release, except for 2 birds, 108 racers quickly grouped, circled a few times and departed in the direction of home.  The 2 exceptions took off in the wrong direction – Halifax.  Not that I blame them; Halifax is a beautiful coastal city.  On the way home and within 15 minutes the cloud cover began to disappear and within 30 minutes the skies were cloudless. 

As I crossed the Miramichi River the clouds reappeared and from then on it became mostly cloudy.  Shortly after 1:00, as I approached Bathurst, it was clearly obvious that a substantial thundershower had passed through.  Margie reported that during the dinner hour a major thunderstorm struck with a 10 minute torrential downpour and with extremely loud claps of thunder.  However I did not see any evidence of thunderstorm activity on the way home until I approached the southerly city limits of Bathurst.  Radar showed a large cell of thunderstorm activity over the general area but nowhere else. 

I arrived home about 1:45 and few minutes later a group of 19 birds arrived after flying just over 5 hours and within 7 minutes of record time for this distance.  They were wet.  However, they did not look tired and were hesitant to trap like I am accustomed to seeing.  They sat around for less than a minute preening their feathers and just about the time my lips were beginning to dry out from whistling they began to trap.  One blue bar preened itself on the loft balcony for 45 minutes.  From then on birds began arriving as singles and in small groups.  Most of them were hesitant to trap.  Some of them looked like they flew through a tidal wave.  By mid afternoon about 50 birds had arrived home.  By the end of the day 75 birds had clocked and the next day 23 more arrived for a total of 98 birds (89.9% in race time).  Most of the second day birds arrived during the morning.  The morning began with drizzling rain, then a rain and then a downpour.  It continued in these cycles all morning.  Many of the birds arrived during the downpours.

Congratulations go out to Alex Crane for winning first with 07 TBY 249.  This bird is in 4th place Overall and scored a 4th in the previous race.  At this point Gordon Plews leads the Overall with     07 CU 18931.  So far this bird has placed 9th, 17th, 8th & 2nd.   

There was a crowd at the release.  Most of the Central Nova Racing Pigeon Club were present.  I appreciated the help unloading the birds.  From left to right they are:  Shawn Putnam, Andrew McGee, Dan Archibald, Ken McGee, Chandler Jennings & Carlyle Smith.  Missing is Jeff Hall.  He arrived a bit late for the photo but was present for the release.

The next race from Truro is scheduled for sometimes this weekend.  The long range forecast does not look good.

Stage 4 Results   Overall Results

S5 - Truro (310 km) August 6th

Stage 5 Results   Overall Results

The race team was released at 7:10 in mostly cloudy and calm conditions.  To the northeast dark ominous clouds were moving in quickly.  Upon release the birds circled the area considerably longer than they normally do.  Shortly after the birds disappeared a rainbow appeared.  I hoped it was a sign of good luck.

During the drive to the New Brunswick border I drove through areas of almost no ceiling, some fog, a heavy shower and brisk northerly headwinds.  Through the Cobequid Mountains the weather conditions were the most challenging.  This area has one of the highest elevations in Nova Scotia and is noted for its unsettled weather.  I drove through fog, light and heavy showers and clouds so low that they looked like the truck would barely pass under them.  At the border the winds were very strong from the north which is normal for the area.  The weather conditions through southern of NB were mostly cloudy with some short sunny breaks and the occasional light shower.  The winds were brisk from the northwest but as I traveled further north the winds shifted and blew from the northeast.  To the east the weather conditions appeared to be more threatening.  Twenty kilometers from Kouchibouguac the skies darkened and I drove through a downpour for close to 10 minutes.  From here the conditions improved considerably and rest of the way home was in mostly sunny conditions.  The radar image was taken at 3:40.  I suspect some of the precipitation may have been over western NS and NB when the birds were on their way home.

I arrived home at 1:00 and 45 minutes later the first group of about 25 birds landed on the roof flying just over 6 1/2 hours.  The birds looked like they flew through the same conditions that I drove through.  Joe Erwin's entry CU 10563 trapped first flying 6:32:23 hrs.  By the way this is the 3rd first prize for Joe in the series.  He had an excellent day placing 4 birds in the first 10.   Mike van der Jagt has taken over 1st place in the overall standings.  His entry ORI 225 leads and has been in the first drop 4 times scoring 9th, 3rd & 2nd.  Dan Archibald's CU 249 follows closely behind by only 41 seconds.  The first 21 birds are  separated by less than an hour.  This is just a blink in time with the 3 most challenging races left. 

The first day returns are 89.8% and the final returns in race time were 92.9%.  Considering the weather conditions for the week before the race and during the race I am pleased with the results. 

         S6 is scheduled for August 13th weather permitting.

Stage 5 Results   Overall Results


S6 - Antigonish 1 (370 km) August 15th

Stage 6 Results   Overall Results


I expected a tough race but not this tough.

The overnight prediction was for rain but clearing in the morning.  At 6:00 am it was still raining as predicted but there were no signs of clearing.  At 7:00 I called Dan Archibald in Truro which is about 100 km as the crow flies from the release point.  He said that it was mostly sunny.  So Ken Gavel and I finished our coffees, loaded up the birds and drove off to the release site at  Richard Schoder’s which is 20 km southeast of Antigonish.  When we arrived there at 7:30 the skies were promising so I planned to release the birds at 8:00.  However by 8:00 it clouded over with an uncomfortable low ceiling and some fog could be seen in the valley.  Also a brisk headwind appeared.  By 8:25 the cloud cover lightened a bit.  I knew from the weather forecast that to the north along the Northumberland Strait the prediction was for more favorable weather.  I hoped the forecast was right.  The birds were released at 8:30 into a brisk headwind.   

Upon release the birds after circling for several minutes disappeared in the right direction towards home.  I knew it would be a challenging racing because the birds for the first time would be confronted with the decision whether to fly over water or hug the coastline towards home.  Within 20 km from the release point the cloud cover became very bright with a high ceiling.  Towards the north I could see blue sky and it remained that way throughout Nova Scotia.  Half way to Truro (see photo) the skies remained mostly cloudy but bright and the brisk headwind persisted.  At Truro it was an equal mixture of sun and cloud.  Once I reached the New Brunswick border the wind shifted from the northwest to a more helping wind from the southwest but it remained slight all the way home.  The conditions throughout NB could be described as an equal mixture of sun and cloud.  There was no precipitation during my drive home. 

As expected when I reached home around 3:30 no birds were back.  Just before 4:30 four birds arrived together and trapped quickly.  They looked like they had worked hard to get home.


Birds trickled in for the rest of the day.  By nightfall 32 valiant racers reached home.  Sixteen more birds arrived the next day for a total of 48 birds (49.5%)in race time.  I was very disappointed with the returns because I had hoped for 75%.  Two more birds arrived the next day.  It was a tough race but the birds with the “right stuff” performed well. 

Congratulations go out to Carlyle Smith who won his first race flying the Le Tour series.  Joe Erwin had another great day.  Three of his birds were in the first 10.   Cal Murray is now the Overall leader and he has a second bird in the top 10; Joe Erwin is 2nd and he has 3 more in the top 10; Ken Gavel is 3rd and 5th; the team of Gilewicz & Greer are 4th and Bjorn Bjornson is 6th. 

There are 2 more "hopefully" no more than 8 hour flights left.  A 5 hour lead in the Overall standing can quickly evaporate on this course.  Fall is in the air and the northwest headwinds are starting to get restless.  Up to now the wind has not been a major factor in the races but it can be and probably will be.  Just another reminder, "Le Tour ain't over until it's overall". 

Wind Speeds  August 20th 1:00

  Moncton - W 28 gust 37 km/h, Miramichi - NW 16 gust 32 km/h, Bathurst - WNW 26km

Stage 7 tentatively schedule for Monday, August 25th

     Stage 6 Results   Overall Results      


S7 - Antigonish 2 (370 km) August 26th


 Stage 7 Results   Overall Results

On this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday the temperatures throughout New Brunswick were hovering around 30 C with humidex values of 35 C.  The temperatures were similar throughout Nova Scotia.  Needless to say, racing on these days was probably not advisable.  Instead the Le Tour Team was exercised around the loft.  On these 3 consecutive mornings the team exercised 75, 60 and 95 minutes without being flagged.  Except for some molting conditions the birds never looked better.   I decided then it was time for the next race. 

Stage 7 was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday August 26th.  On Sunday the weather prediction for a Tuesday race from St Peter’s (450 km) was a bit “iffy” and there was only a 2 day window before more rain was predicted.   Carlyle Smith was responsible for the release and he was prepared to hold the birds over for several days if he had to.  On Monday evening the prediction for the release point had worsened considerably. 

Carlyle made plans to spend the night in Antigonish and  weather permitting he would travel to St. Peter’s in the morning for the release.  At 5:30 Tuesday morning the prediction had worsened further in St Peter’s for the day and the following day.  At that time it was mostly clear in Truro.  I phoned Carlyle and he said that it rained all night and it was heavily overcast at 6:00 am.  We made the decision to release the birds at 8:00 am in Antigonish if it was not raining.   

Carlyle’s description of the release:

The hills East of Antigonish distorted the solid mass of low dark clouds that were briskly moving from the West.  This opened the sky up and the town of Antigonish itself was bathed in 50% sun while all around was solid low foreboding dark cloud.  I held the birds for one hour, thinking I was watching the cover burn off but by 8:30 the opening in the clouds and the general cloud mass, although moving quite fast, had not changed appearance.  So the birds were released at 8:30 AM Tuesday from St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish (St FX).  They immediately headed in a NW Direction (home) but did circle briefly as they encountered the Northumberland Strait, at which time they disappeared from my view.   It appears the birds had a rather ideal day with brisk head winds and a mostly broken sky once they got closer to NB.  It is a very good thing that we released when and where we did, as the day remained dark and heavy for the morning and Wednesday was nothing but heavy steady rain.

On my way home from Truro all I encountered was favorable weather except for the brisk headwinds.  The skies were an equal mixture of sun and cloud and temperatures were in the high teens.  I encountered a brief shower when I entered the Bathurst City limits.  At the loft there were a few brief showers but of no consequence.  However a bird arrived in the early afternoon from the last race and it was wet.

I arrived home around 2:30 and didn’t have to wait long for the first birds to arrive.  Shortly after 3:30, there was a drop of 12 birds flying 7 ½ hours into a headwind.  Then another drop of about 10 birds arrived 15 minutes later.  Around 4:00 a group of 5 birds arrived.  By 5:30 there were 32 birds in the clock and one solo bird arrived in the evening.  The following day 8 more birds reached home in race time for a total of 41 birds out of 49 shipped (83.7%).

Joe Erwin had another great day scoring 1st, 2nd, 4th and 10th.  The other participants in the top 10 were: Stan Gawel 3rd, Bjorn Bjornson 5th, Cal Murray 6th, Tom & Anne Marie Spring 7th & 8th and Hardeep Sahota 9th.

Joe Erwin is now the Overall leader.  He holds 1st, 3rd, 5th & 6th.  The rest of the top 10 are: Bjorn Bjornson 2nd, Cal Murray 4th & 9th, Ken Gavel 7th, Dan Archibald 8th and Tom & Anne Marie Spring 10th. 

Congratulations go out to all that did well. 

The final stage (S8) is tentatively schedule for next weekend. 

Stage 7 Results   Overall Results


S8 - St Peter's (450 km) September 6th

 Stage 8 Results   Overall Results

Race report to follow shortly.