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The Barcelona International race is the ultimate test in pigeon racing. With more than 25,000 pigeons competing, entered by some of the world's finest fanciers these pigeons have to find their way back to their home lofts spread throughout Continental Europe at distances of up to 860 miles. The British contingent have the added obstacle of the English Channel to contend with in the home stretch - this is much akin to a horse race such as the Derby with the majority of horses racing the whole course on the flat but with a few having to hurdle "Beecher's Brook" in the home straight. Nevertheless the British fanciers continue to compete on the International stage to test themselves and their pigeons against some of the best fanciers in the world. The chart below shows the distribution of pigeons amongst the competing counties and as can be seen Belgium and the Netherlands are well represented with a total of more than 18,000 pigeons in the convoy.
Belgium/Belgique 11 642
Netherlands/Pays-Bas 6393
France/France 2913
Germany /Allemagne 1849
Poland/Pologne 1876
UK/Angleterre 534
Luxemburg /Luxembourg 77
TOTAL 25.284

Weather report
The weather was good this noon in Barcelona and along the Spanish coast. There were moderate to strong southwest winds along the coastal areas. Temperatures reached 25° C, the same as in southern France. In the Languedoc (the region from Perpignan to Narbonne) there is a slight to moderate northwest wind. There are some high cirrus clouds with cloudier skies in the inland regions. To the west of the Central Massif (Carcassonne - Aurillac) we expect variable or heavy clouds and a slight southwest wind. Along the western line of Montauban, Cahors, Montluçon and Bourges it will be partly to mostly cloudy with scattered showers. This line will have a slight to moderate south southwest wind. Further to the west there is an increased chance of rain. The eastern line along the Rhône River: in the Rhône valley there is a slight northwest wind which changes to a slight southwest wind in the afternoon. Expect temperatures to be around 28° C with partly cloudy skies. Lyon and further north (Dijon, Nancy Reims): we expect a slight south southwest wind this afternoon and into the evening. We have partly cloudy skies and temperatures of about 20° C. Overall clear visibility (more than 10km), except when there is rain.

Mark Gilbert with 1st Open BICC winner Southfield Tiger

H & P Archibald 2nd Open Barcelona BICC

Arthur Hadlow Provisionally 3rd Open Bicc Barcelona

David Hales 4th Open BICC Barcelona

Ray Hammond 2nd centre sect 5th Open BICC Barcelona

Sheavills & Hunter 6th & 21st Open BICC Barcelona

Ron Dove with his 7th Open BICC Barcelona

Mr &: Mrs Rhodes &: family 8th &: 13th Open BICC Barcelona

Vince Padfield awaiting his 1st west sect 9th Open BICC Barcelona

Jordan Brothers with their two BICC Barcelona hens 11th & 15th Open

Terry Johnson 8th sect 12th Open BICC Barcelona International

Mrs Mayes 1st bird in north section BICC Barcelona

The pigeons were eventually liberated at 2 pm CEST [1pm GMT] to race the more than 600 miles to their home lofts. As expected there were no day birds but fanciers in the North of France near Calais began to clock pigeons early on the second morning recording velocities of more than 1900 mpm and so hopes were high that some of the British contingent could get across the channel with this leading bunch. This was not to be however as, despite a clear channel and good conditions, the first BICC pigeon was not clocked until 2.54 pm on the Saturday afternoon to the Dover loft of Peter and Heath Archibald. The father and son then had a nervous wait to see if their pigeon could be beaten by another pigeon flying to a loft further up country. This proved to be the case as the world class fancier Mark Gilbert of Winkfield near Windsor clocked his five year old chequer widowhood cock now named "Southfield Tiger" to take 1st Centre section and 1st Open. Mark's timer is bred from all the very best of the old Deweerdts that have stood the test of time both here in the UK and on the continent at the lofts of the originator of the strain Emiel Deweerdt & sons of Kortemark in Belgium. The sire of Mark's Barcelona winner was bred by Emiel Deweerdt and is a son of the Deweerdt's Bordeaux International winner " Emiel". The dam is also a direct Deweerdt being a daughter of "Champion Magnus". Who said blood will tell? It's never been more appropriate than in the breeding of this, the latest champion in the lofts of the "Winkfield Wizzard". The five year old was lightly raced in preparation for his trip from Barcelona receiving just two inland races and two channel races from Messac and Tours before going south of the Pyrenees. He is a previous winner of 10th Open BICC Pau International in 2010, 33rd Open BICC Agen International; 10th Open LSECC Tarbes and 303rd Open NFC Tarbes, so is certainly no stranger to success. In second Open position is the Archibald timer which also wins 1st East section. Here again we see a true Champion as this fine looking seven year old chequer cock finished at 4th Open BICC Barcelona in 2011. He has also won 30th Open BICC Pau and a number of other top prizes in International racing. Bred from the loft's main bloodlines of Jan Aarden obtained from R.O.Jones of Resolven in South Wales he was given just two channel races from Le Mans and Tours before going to Barcelona. These two short races were supplemented by a few 20 mile training spins in the lead up to basketting. Raced on widowhood he was fed Gem Irish mix plus peanuts and sunflower hearts to increase the fat content of the feed. Congratulations Peter and Heath on clocking the first BICC pigeon into the UK in the Barcelona International - and commiserations on being beaten into second spot but if you have to be beaten, then there is some consolation in being beaten by a pigeon raced by one of the best fanciers in Europe.

Next we have another great pigeon raced by Whitstable fancier Arthur Hadlow. This 5 year old hen would have been placed at 5th Open BICC in the Narbonne International of 2010 but unfortunately the good old Royal Mail lost the envelope containing all the race paperwork and so she was denied her rightful place on the result. This season she has had two EECC channel races from Cannapeville and Pithiviers in preparation for Barcelona and this light work out has been supplemented by regular tossing at 50 miles allied to free flight from an open loft whenever Arthur is around . She was sent sitting overdue and had in fact abandoned her eggs just prior to basketting so obviously had the added fat content of her unused pigeon milk to top up her fuel tank on her long journey from Northern Spain.

David Hales of Hockley in Essex timed a three year old for 3rd East section 4th Open and had the second of his three entries early afternoon on the third day to take 18th Open. David's first in the clock is a three year old Bruggemann x Hagens Brothers widowhood cock whose ½ brother was 6th Open BICC Pau International a couple of weeks back. The cock's final preparation race before Barcelona was the BICC Tours race on 9th June.

Ray Hammond of Albury comes in at 2nd & 4th Centre section 5th & 14th Open. First bird on the clock is a five year old hen which was gifted to him by Malcolm Parker of Reigate. The hen was sent sitting 14 days on her third round of eggs having been mated at the end of February. She has previously flown Bergerac at around 450 miles and this season had three inland races before going to Barcelona. Second bird timed is a 5 year old blue pied cock bred down from Ray's family that he has cultivated for more years than he cares to remember. The sister to this cock won 2nd Open LSECC Tours and the cock himself has flown Tarbes and Bergerac in previous seasons. As with all Ray's pigeons these two Barcelona birds have the minimum of training and are allowed an open loft whenever Ray is around to keep an eye on things.

The Ashford partnership of Trevor Sheavills and Mike hunter come in next at 4th East section 6th Open with a five year old hen of predominantly Wim Muller bloodlines which was having her third trip from the Catalan Capitol. This small dark chequer hen now named "Sole Aim" had previously taken 40th Open BICC Barcelona in 2010 and was sent sitting 12 day old eggs. Her preparation included two inland races and one channel race from LeMans in the build up to basketting. Her breeding shows the strong Wim Muller influence via pigeons obtained from Luc Milissen of Stokkum in Belgium through the partners' good friend Lee Humphreys. The partners also clocked a second pigeon to take 21st Open. Trevor and Mike would like to congratulate all the fanciers who clocked gallant pigeons in this difficult race and in particular Ron and Annette Dove who have been a great help over the years.

A 75 year old Cornishman, none other than Ron Dove of Ashford in Kent comes in next at 5th sect 7th Open with a 6 year old blue cock sent feeding 2 day old young birds. This is the third trip from Catalonia for the old warrior that was bred from a Jan Aarden cock -a gift bird from Duncan Harvey of Cornwall containing all the best Wim Muller bloodlines including Padfield Family birds as well as the Patrick Brothers Jan Aardens. On the dam's side is Ron's old family that he has cultivated for many years based on performance at the distance. This one had been through an extensive cross channel race programme with the EECC including 5 channel races prior to going to Barcelona. All birds are hand fed in their boxes with a mixture that Ron makes up himself from various GEM mixes. The birds are not forced to exercise but are allowed an open loft for free flight whenever Ron can be present to keep an eye out for the local predators. Ron also clocked a second pigeon on the third afternoon to take 19th Open.

The partnership of Mr & Mrs Steve Rhodes assisted by Steve's brother Paul hail from Aylsham in Kent and they clocked two pigeons to take 6th & 9th East section 8th & 13th Open. The first in the clock is a 4 year old dark velvet hen of Jan Aarden bloodlines via a Roger Senecourt Jan Aarden Cock x a Fear Brothers hen loaned to the partners by Len Jeavons. This hen is closely related to some of the best birds in the loft of Mr & Mrs George Bates of Gravesend. The Barcelona timer was used as a widowhood hen until the 2011 season and had never been inside a basket either training or racing before that time. In 2011 she was sent first race to Cannappeville where she returned hawked and then straight into Tarbes for only the second race of her life!!!! The second in the clock is a 4 year old dark chequer hen bred from a pair of birds purchased direct from Jac Van deWegen. The partners raced round about early in the season and the birds seemed to lack motivation. A few adjustments were then made to the system with the result that they clocked from last week's NFC Tarbes race to take 13th Open and now this double performance from Barcelona. The racers were mated on 14th February, allowed to rear a round of young birds before going onto the roundabout system. Their race preparation is via the local Wingham club and the EECC and then it's all points south with the NFC and BICC. The partners feed various mixes to which they add oils in the build up to the longer races.

Next we come to the bird flying to the most westerly location in the result and yet another terrific performance achieved by a pigeon to the Cwmtillery loft of the Padfield Family. This four year old dark chequer hen was timed a little after 5 am on the third morning and although credited with flying 754 miles from Barcelona, given the wind, weather and drag of the vast majority of the convoy, in reality probably covered close on 1,000 miles to regain her home loft. The hen wins the west section and finishes at 9th Open after her marathon fly. She is predominantly of Wim Muller bloodlines obtained by the Padfields in the early 1990's direct from the man himself. Sent sitting 14 days she had 2 channel races this year her last race was Tours with BICC a month before going to Barcelona when she had 12 hours on the wing.
Her previous results in National racing are as follows:-

Sire NL.04.0449795 Direct Wim Muller cock He is a Grandson of the Golden Breeder when paired to a mother of Lady Sarina and Porche lines.
Dam is GB.2006.T.65016 a marvellous stock hen
Her Sire "Old 89" Out of the original Wim Mullers 1995 63rd NFC PAU 5482 BIRDS TIMED 9-25PM ON WINNING DAY. 1998 NFC PAU 569th 1999 CSCFC PAU 17th NATIONAL. 4 TIMES PAU ALSO G SIRE TO 37th NFC PAU AND 54th NFCPAU. THIS COCK IS PROVING A FANTASTIC STOCK COCK AS HE IS ALSO G SIRE TO THE "DON" 2nd BBC PALAMOS. Her Dam "9th OPEN WSRN SAINTES 1998. 83rd OPEN NFC PAU 1999 96th OPEN NFC PAU 2000 twice in first 100 NFC Pau. This hen is also the Grand mother of Padfield Invincible 2nd Open BICC Barcelona. The Padfield birds are raced on round about at the beginning of the season and remain on round about for approximately 6 weeks before being re mated for the marathon events. All races up to 500 miles are considered preparation for the Internationals at 600 miles and over. I have included a photograph of Vince Padfield with this report and this should become a collector's item as photos of Vince are rarer than photos of the Yeti!!

The partnership of Crowley & Green was the winners of the 2011 BICC Barcelona race and here they clock "Meteor" for 3rd section 10th Open. Meteor has previously won 5th Open BBC Barcelona, 6th Open BICC Marseille and 9th Open BICC Perpignan. He is a full brother to "Minx" who won 1st Open BICC Barcelona last year.The long distance team are prepared as considered best and after being repaired were hopper fed on Willsbridge No 1 mix which was supplemented (morning and evening) for the last seven days before basketing with a made up mix consisting of (5 parts VL Superstar Plus, 3 parts VL Energy Plus, 1 part Maize, 1 part Jersey Gold and 1 part peanuts) they are fed as much as they want and then birds for certain races are hand fed extra peanuts on the last few days before basketing.
The sire of "Meteor" is our top stock cock "Young Boris" a breeder of many winner's including 2nd Open National BBC Lamballe , 3rd and 5th Open National BBC Barcelona and 1st Open BICC Barcelona. This cock was purchased from Joe Raeburn who originally acquired it from the lofts of Martha van Geel (lines of BORIS, SAMPRAS and DE STEFAN).

Jordan Brothers of Sandwich in Kent are past winners of the BICC Barcelona race and in this year's event they clocked both their entries to take 7th & 10th section 11th & 15th Open. First bird home was a 7 year old chequer hen on her third trip from Barcelona. In 2011 she finished at 34th Open BICC. Her previous wins include 12th Open BICC Pau and 14th Open Perpignan and has always been a reliable pigeon at the distance. She is a daughter of the brothers' Champion Taffy winner of 4th,4th,5th & 7th Open BICC Barcelona. Her dam was bred by Graham Moss and is of VanBruaene bloodlines. The second bird clocked is a 4 year old chequer hen that has previously flown Tarbes and Pau and contains the bloodlines of another of the brothers' champion long distance racers "Little Wonder" a previous winner of 3rd Open Perpignan and 1st & 3rd Open BICC Barcelona. Both hens were sent sitting 8 day old eggs and had just one inland race and two short channel races in preparation for Barcelona. Feeding here is farm beans supplemented with Buckton's Irish mix and all food is hopper fed.

Terry Johnson is another fancier who can be relied upon to clock if the race is hard and the distance long. Here he clocks a 3 year old celibate hen a full sister to his timer in the recent Pau International race to win 8th section 12th Open. Both hens are bred from a son of Frank Perry's Llanover Lady 1st & 4th BBC Palamos when mated to a daughter of Terry's Sparta winner of 1st BICC Barcelona. Fed for the most part on farm beans she was topped up with Garvo Marathon in the run up to basketting for Barcelona.

Mr & Mrs Cooper of Canterbury come in next with a bird to take 11th sect 16th Open . Unfortunately the phone number I had for them was incorrect.

Alan "Wally" Turner of Elvington near Dover timed a real old battler an 8 year old for 12th sect 17th Open. This one has a mountain of "previous" Including 2nd Open BICC Perpignan 2011; 40th Open BICC Barcelona 2011;13th Open Narbonne;56th Open Perpignan and 57th Open Perpignan. He is bred from one of the loft's top long distance performers and is of Van De Wegen bloodlines and was sent to Barcelona feeding two youngsters and sitting 5 day eggs. His preparation was two races from Tours at 265 miles supplemented by four or five 50 mile training spins.

In 20th Open is a bird to the Dover long distance ace Mike Mitchell ably assisted by his wife Cynthia. Mike clocked a 7 year old raced on the celibacy system that was 25th Open BICC Barcelona in 2011 She is Fear Brothers x Dick Baldwin bloodlines going back to Mike's original stock obtained when he started off in the sport .

Other timers were to Geoff & Catherine Cooper whose 6 year old takes 2nd west sect 22nd Open followed at 23rd Open by Crowley & Green's second timer with the Delea brothers, Dave and Paul of Rainham in Essex, coming in for 24th & 25th Open respectively.

At the time of compiling this report on Sunday evening there are no birds reported in the North section and a total of 27 big hearted pigeons have been clocked over the past three days of the race. I have just been informed that Mr & Mrs Rhodes have clocked a third pigeon and that Mark Gilbert has got a second. Mr & Mrs Ron Elliott of Chadwell Heath, past winners of the BICC Barcelona race, also got one. Congratulations to all who clocked and I should also thankall those who have helped me with this report by sending the photos of the winning fanciers and their pigeons.
Well that's another Barcelona race done and dusted and as was to be expected it turned out to be a very difficult affair for the British contingent. Our thanks once again to Steve and Lesley Wright of the House of Aarden for their very generous sponsorship of a top bred young bird from one of their principle stock cocks. I'm sure Barcelona race winner Mark Gilbert will give it a good home at Southfield.

Gareth Watkins