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 Le Tour Race Reports 2003

Stage 1: Kouchibouguac (110 km) July 20, 2003

The Le Tour Des Maritimes Futurity officially began this morning with the release of 165 young birds in Kouchibouguac National Park (115 km).  The race began at 8:45 with the release in overcast skies and in no wind conditions.  However, the birds journey home was mostly under sunny skies therefore a fast time was expected and the birds did not disappoint us.  About 160 birds dropped together with the first bird SC 1473 trapping immediately and timing in 1:38:19. 

Congratulations go out to Ed White for winning the first stage of the Le Tour Des Maritimes.  Photo of winning bird to follow.

I must mention a very unusual thing that happened immediately after the release.  The release point is a baseball field just inside Kouchibouquac National Park.  One hundred feet to the left of where the baskets were placed stand three 40' spruce trees that separated the baskets from the road.  When the 165 birds left the baskets they veered to the road and made 3 tight circles around the spruce trees like kids chasing each other around a pole.  They  were no more than 20 ' off the ground and many of them were just barely a few feet off.   For a second I got the impression that they were coming back to fly into the baskets.  After the 3rd circle they rose up and broke off in the direction of home.  I have released from this very same spot many times and never saw anything like this before.  It almost gave me an eerie feeling.  By the way I am glad this ones over.  The first one is always the worst.

1

SC 1473

White, Ed

1:38:19

11

SC 1471

White, Ed

1:38:45

2

Apollo 4225

Lyon, Glen

1:38:24

12

FS 328

Gauthier, Bernard

1:38:48

3

EDM 3906

Makowecki, Tom

1:38:27

13

Oak 3965

Larentzakis, Andy

1:38:49

4

Alg 3106

Daehn, Paul

1:38:31

14

CU 26576

Kulik, Myron

1:38:50

5

SC 1472

White, Ed

1:38:36

15

CU 26515

Kulik, Myron

1:38:51

6

CU 26528

"Mighty" McVicars

1:38:37

16

Regina 958

Gilewicz, Marv

1:38:51

7

EDM 1193

Forster & Phelan

1:38:39

17

HC 1923

Radoman, Zach

1:38:58

8

CAL 958

Tomshak, M

1:38:41

18

SL 1068

Sanders, Harry

1:39:02

9

MJ 3528

Harris, Bill

1:38:42

19

ORI 558

Radoman/VJagt

1:39:14

10

CU 17868

Ball, Kevin

1:38:43

20

FS 843

Boudreau, Johanne

1:39:17

For complete results go to Kouchibouguac

Stage 2: Moncton (200 km) July 26, 2003

The Le Tour birds were released at 8:45 in mostly sunny weather and with a brisk south-west wind blowing.  The route home is in a NNW direction and the journey was under cloudy skies but at the loft it was mostly sunny with a brisk 22 km/h south-west wind blowing with gusts up to 33 km/h. 

The first bird timed in at 11:31:42 and 54 birds clocked in the first minute.  This was much better than the last time.  By the end of the day 157 racers arrived home.

Weather permitting the next Moncton race is scheduled for Wednesday, July 30th.

Congratulations go out to Lothar Schmitt for his win and to all that did well.  Photo of winner will follow shortly.

           

   

1

EC 3513

Schmitt, Lothar

2:46:42

11

CU 25027

Smith, Nathan

2:46:56

2

AU 158

Petzold, K & A

2:46:43

12

MIRPC 447

Holbrook, Larry

2:46:57

3

CAL 958

Tomshak, M

2:46:46

13

CU 26576

Kulik, Myron

2:46:58

4

HC 2124

Sousa, John M.

2:46:47

14

EDM 3906

Makowecki, Tom

2:46:58

5

MIRPC 304

Mawbey, Jeff

2:46:48

15

Regina 808

Strayer, Daryl

2:47:00

6

CU 22019

Badgerow, Bill

2:46:49

16

CU 20865

Giasson, Henri

2:47:00

7

CU 17868

Ball, Kevin

2:46:51

17

EC 2715

Sangster, John

2:47:02

8

CU 26524

Kulik, Myron

2:46:52

18

MIRPC 307

Mawbey, Jeff

2:47:03

9

SC 1520

Bianchi, Adolfo

2:46:55

19

SC 1523

Bianchi, Adolfo

2:47:04

10

CU 26562

Kelm, Brian

2:46:55

20

SL 1066

Sanders, Harry

2:47:04

For complete results go to Moncton 1

Stage 3: Moncton (200 km) July 30, 2003

After crossing the Miramichi River, the trip to Moncton was mostly in heavy fog but within 60 km of the release point the fog had burnt off to reveal a beautiful Maritime day.

The Le Tour birds were released outside of Moncton (200 km) at 9:00 am in perfect flying conditions.  The release was in almost cloudless skies and with no wind blowing.  Some large non-threatening clouds could be seen to the north.  The journey home was mostly under an equal mixture of sun and cloud.  At home it was mostly cloudy and almost perfectly calm.  The birds responded to the excellent conditions by flying the distance in record time.  The first bird clocked at 11:35:30.

Congratulation go out to Kevin Ball for his win and to all those that did well.  Photo of winner will follow shortly.

Weather permitting, the next stage from New Glasgow (300 km) is tentatively scheduled for early next week.  It will be the last race to determine the Sprint Championship of the Le Tour Des Maritimes Series.  It looks like our Western Canada friends are trying to make a statement.  Presently they hold 4 out of the first 5 positions.  It should be an exciting finish to the sprint series.

1

CU 17868

Ball, Kevin

2:35:30

11

CU 22019

Badgerow, Bill

2:35:43

2

MIRPC 443

Holbrook, Larry

2:35:31

12

CU 26578

Gavel, Donna & Ken

2:35:45

3

SC 1472

White, Ed

2:35:32

13

MIRPC 447

Holbrook, Larry

2:35:46

4

CU 25027

Smith, Nathan

2:35:34

14

EDM 1193

Forster & Phelan

2:35:48

5

HC 1921

Radoman, Zach

2:35:35

15

CU 26515

Kulik, Myron

2:35:48

6

SL 0903

Plews, Gordon

2:35:37

16

CU 26561

Luttmerding, Alf

2:35:49

7

EDM 2705

Cesario, Frank

2:35:38

17

CU 26528

"Mighty" McVicars

2:35:50

8

EDM 1651

Bednorz, Denis

2:35:39

18

WPG 3603

Martens, Cornelius

2:35:51

9

CAL 958

Tomshak, M

2:35:41

19

CU 26558

"Mighty" McVicars

2:35:52

10

SC 1520

Bianchi, Adolfo

2:35:41

20

HC 1923

Radoman, Zach

2:35:54

For complete results go to Moncton 2

 

Stage 4: New Glasgow (300 km) August 14, 2003

It was a tough one.  All I can say is that the "Le Tour is not over until it's over."  The final results of the sprint portion of the Le Tour have changed considerably from the overall standings of the last race.

Go to Sprint Results for overall sprint results.

At Lothar Schmitt's farm just outside of New Glasgow, the birds were released Thursday morning August 14 at 7:20 am in calm conditions and cloudless skies.  The racers made a few circles and immediately disappeared in the direction of home (note the moon behind the pic of the birds).  However by mid-morning the birds encountered brisk headwind conditions.  Throughout New Brunswick the winds generally blew from a northwesterly direction at 20 km/h with frequent gusts to 30 km/h.  At home the wind gusts were quite strong to the point that birds arriving throughout the afternoon had difficulty landing on the loft.  By nightfall over 130 birds had arrived home.  Note that this is a 2 day race.

The first group of 19 birds were on the wing for over 5 and a half hours.  I must say they didn't look tired which really pleased me.  The winner belonging to Bob Percival clocked in 5:32:56 hours.  Congratulations go out to Bob and everyone else who did well.

For complete results go to New Glasgow

1

FCQ-QC 2273

Percival, Bob

5:32:56

11

SC 1476

White, Ed

5:33:09

2

CU 17858

Ball, Kevin

5:32:58

12

MJ 3526

Harris, Bill

5:33:10

3

AU 184

Petzold, K & A

5:32:59

13

HC 1917

Federation Loft

5:33:11

4

MIRPC 307

Mawbey, Jeff

5:33:00

14

HC 1921

Radoman, Zach

5:33:13

5

EC 3513

Schmitt, Lothar

5:33:02

15

SL 1069

Sanders, Harry

5:33:17

6

Regina 999

Gilewicz, Marv

5:33:03

16

WPG 3603

Martens, Cornelius

5:33:19

7

CU 26579

Kulik, Myron

5:33:05

17

CU 26532

Martino, Joe

5:33:20

8

MIRPC 311

Mawbey, Jeff

5:33:06

18

CU 31309

Spelliscy, Pat

5:33:24

9

Regina 808

Strayer, Daryl

5:33:08

19

MJ 3504

Greer, Iain

5:33:39

10

Alg 3103

Daehn, Paul

5:33:08

20

Oak 3958

Larentzakis, Andy

5:40:11

Stage 5: Antigonish (350 km) Aug 21, 2003

After a week fraught with adversity I needed a pleasant surprise.  I got it today.

The birds were released at 8:00 am on the outskirts of Antigonish near Ken Gavel's retirement home that sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful meadow.  It was a beautiful calm morning and the only concern was a haze that limited visibility to about 10 km.  As usual the race team made a half-hearted circle and almost immediately started flying in the direction of home. 

The conditions driving home were quite similar except the cloud cover increased somewhat but the skies were generally an even mixture of sun and thin clouds.  The haze persisted throughout Nova Scotia and only lightened a bit well into New Brunswick.  At home it was comfortably warm and calm.

When I arrived home at 1:20 I quickly glanced at the loft but could see no birds in the windows.  Then I got out of truck with my camera and slowly start walking towards the loft.  All of a sudden out of the northeast 5 birds appeared.  During the excitement and relief to see birds this early, I clumsily tried to capture them in flight and landing.  It all happened so quickly that I only had time for these 2 shots.

When I was climbing the stairs to the loft all I could hear is the beeping noise of birds being clocked.  You can image how surprised I was when I opened the door and saw the loft half full of birds.  A quick glance suggested that the early arrivals might have been there for some time because fatigue was not apparent.   It was a good day for the birds and a very good day for me.

The first bird MIRPC 304 belonging to Jeff Mawbey who was last year's overall winner trapped in 5:13:01 hours.  It was one of a group of 22 birds that arrived together.  By nightfall 119 birds had clocked.  Congratulations go out to Jeff for his win and to all others who did well.  For complete results go to Antigonish.

It's almost hard to believe that after 5 races we have just passed the mid-point of total distance required to complete the Le Tour.  There are still 900 km left for the birds to fly.  The last 2 races will be very challenging for the Le Tour racers.  They must be wondering when these flights are going to stop.  I know it has crossed my mind when I think of the driving.  Congratulations must go out to Pat Spelliscy for still keeping his lead for the Overall Championship. 

Weather permitting, the next race is scheduled for the weekend of August 30th which will give the birds about a 10 days rest.

A bit of Down East trivia:

Ken Gavel and I have been the best of friends for over 20 years.  During this time he lived in Bathurst and was employed by the Noranda Group at Brunswick Mines as a Maintenance Superintendent.  Last year he retired and with his wife Donna moved back home to Antigonish where they bought their beautiful retirement home which was a shared life long dream.  If you closely look at the photo you will see the red roof of his home in the background directly behind Ken.  This was Ken's first experience at a release.  Here he is seen encouraging or threatening his entries to do better.  If I know Ken he is probably doing the latter.

I gave Ken a quick lesson on how to use a digital camera and asked him to shoot away.  I must admit these are quite good for an engineer and a "Herring Choker" besides.

              

 

Stage 6: Canso Causeway (400 km) August 29, 2003

Stage 6 was flown on Friday August 29, 2003.  Ken Gavel and I released the birds at 8:00 am under a temporary cloud cover.  At the release a strong wind was blowing off the Northumberland Strait but while driving home through Nova Scotia it didn't seem that the wind would be a factor in the race.  It was a beautiful late summer day to the New Brunswick border.  However, when I reached the border a high light cloud cover persisted the rest of the way home.  And when I approached the Miramichi river the flags where horizontal from a brisk south westerly wind.

When I reached home at 2:00 pm I was pleasantly surprised to see a long time friend and competitor Dr. Henri Giasson in the yard.  He had just arrived from Fredricton to observe the race.  Today, the wait was a little longer then the normal for this year but shortly after 3:30 it was a relief to see the first arrivals, a group of 13 birds.  The Federation Loft entry, HC 1924 trapped immediately upon landing at 3:33:26.  By nightfall 96 racers had trapped and 12 more clocked the second day.  For complete results go to Canso.

The birds worked hard today.  It was a good race because it did some sorting but not that tough to hurt the birds. Early next morning Henri and I looked over some of the team and were pleased to see how quickly they recovered after a good nights rest.  The pic is of Henri proudly looking over one of his entries  CU 20870.

Congratulations go out to Federation loft for their first place finish and to all that did well.

A little more of Down East trivia:

The Trans Canada highway is twinned most of the way from the Nova Scotia border to Cape Breton Island.  I have traveled this route many times and often wish that I was a racing pigeon so I could fly the length of this beautiful province to fully appreciate its pastoral beauty.  Here are some photos that I have taken on one of my trips.  The 5th photo is a view of a meadow from a bedroom in Ken Gavel's home and the last photo is a view of his house from the meadow below.

                    

 

Stage 7: Sydney (500 km) Sept. 11, 2003

Well "the Le Tour ain't over until it's over". 

The birds were released in Glace Bay just east of Sydney in clear blue skies but into a strong north wind.  Bill Madore said, "the flags were really flapping and I was concerned.  When the birds came out of the baskets the north wind grabbed them and blew them south.  The birds made a half circle and put their noses into the wind and off they went".  But what can you do, the winds are always stronger on Cape Breton Island.

I expected at least a 10 hour flight.  At the loft, it was quite calm all afternoon .  But along the coastline I suspect the winds may have been a problem.  As it approached 6:00 pm I began to worry because the thought of winds at the time of the release stayed with me all day.  Then all of a sudden two birds appeared out of nowhere a couple of minutes before 6:00, landed immediately and trapped with little hesitation.  I immediately shouted to Margie, "we have a race". 

Radoman/VJagt's ORI 555/03 was the first to trap and the "Mighty" McVicars' CU 26558/03 trapped a couple seconds later.  Both birds were tired and they had lost a lot of weight.  No doubt the winds were more of a factor then the forecast indicated.  Over the next 2 hours 6 more birds clock before the race was closed for the day.  It was reasonable to expect more birds the following day but only 3 arrived the second day and 2 made it by the 3rd day and 1 the 5th day.  The weather during the 4 days after race day was beautiful.  The temperatures reached 30 C (85 F), the skies were cloudless and it was calm.

This is not to belittle Bill Madore's  performance but this is just to give you an indication what effect the wind can have.  I released birds for him at 8:00 am and they flew between the same two points but in the opposite direction.  Bill had birds in 6:40 hours and one of these birds flew a 500 km race from Fredericton on the previous Sunday in 6:00 hours.

Even though the winds were strong at the release, 2 birds still arrived home on the day in a very good time of 11:00 hours and 6 followed shortly.   The fastest time for this distance was flown is 8:57 hours.  Last year the first bird home flew the distance in 11:42 hours and there were 15 day birds out of 77 shipped.  Furthermore, 21 birds arrived the second day.  Why did so few second day birds arrive this year will remain a mystery and an interesting topic for discussion.  But that's pigeon racing,  "always expect the unexpected".

Congratulations go out to Pat Spelliscy for his overall win with CU 31309/03.  This is a superb racer that deserved to win the Overall Championship.  It was always up front and began the Le Tour series by winning the Sprint Championship and then concluded the series by scoring 2nd Long Championship and losing it by only 3:37 minutes.   From Sydney it arrived in the third group but because of exhaustion took over 3 minutes to trap .  

But like a true champion, after a good night's rest it looked like it was ready to go again.   It is interesting to note that Pat Spelliscy's bird arrived at the same time as Adolfo Bianchi's SC 1523/03 and Hardeep Sahota's 329.  Adolfo's bird became 1st Long Distance Champion by trapping immediately but CU 31309/03 trapped 3:35 minutes later.   When they landed on the roof they were almost dead even.  Now that's close.

It would be remiss for me not to mention some of the other day birds that also preformed very well.  Bob Percival's FCQ-QC 2269 arrived alone for 3rd place.   And finally the last two birds to arrive on the day flew for almost 13 hours.  Cornelius Martens' WPG 3603 and Forster & Phelan's EDM 1193 arrived a few minutes after sunset.

Congratulations go out to all that did well and I thank all participants for their support.

For complete results of Stage 7 goto: Sydney 

The final episode of Down East trivia:

Bill Madore began releasing birds for me in 1994.  Most fanciers thought I was crazy even thinking about getting day birds flying west from Sydney.  Many still haven't changed their minds about my sanity.  In September 1994 and 1995 they were right.  Not being crazy but getting day birds from Sydney.  Both releases were disasters.  No birds ever made it home.  They were reported on PEI and Iles de la Madeleine, an island 100 km off the NW coast of Cape Breton Island.  It seemed like the birds had the right idea but either the challenge was too great or the conditioning of the birds was inadequate.  

Well, being a foolish optimist and somewhat stubborn, I thought I would try it one more year.  Besides, I hate to be proven wrong.  In 1996 I decided to give the birds a training toss from the Canso Causeway (400km) in addition to the 2 tosses from New Glasgow (300km) that they normally received.  In mid-September the birds were released at 7:00 am.  As 6:00 pm approached I thought, "here we go again".  Then out of nowhere and almost at the stroke of six, 9 birds landed after 11 hours on the wing. 

The rest is history.  The following year the Le Tour had its modest beginnings.  Since then Bill has supervised 7 Le Tour releases and 2 for my late breds.  All his releases have resulted in day birds.  One of the most remarkable performances was Frank Schmidt's EC 1279/99.  This hen arrived at 9:15, 2 hours after sunset on a cloudy dark night.

I would like to mention one other remarkable performance that of my late bred hen "Perfect Storm". 

Goto: Perfect Storm for the details.

The first photograph below is of Frank Schmidt (black cap) and Bill Madore (white cap) at Lothar Schmitt's farm during the exchange of birds for the Sydney race.  The second is of Bill behind a 600 lb pumpkin he grew in Glace Bay which is also near the release point.  You can see the Atlantic Ocean behind him.  Growing these is Bill's other hobby.  The third picture is of the Bras D'Or Lakes which is probably the first large body of water that the birds encountered on there way home.  The next one is of Rita MacNeil's Tea House and the last one is a photo of one of Bill's outstanding racers.