The 79 birds of the BICC were liberated at Marseille after a one day delay, along with 11,314 pigeons from lofts spread throughout Continental Europe. Marseille is the most easterly of all the International race points and the convoy invariably has a tendency to work its way up and along the Rhone Valley in a north easterly direction. Their course takes them to the east of the mountains that make up the Massif Central and up into south west Germany and north east France at which stage the British contingent will, in all probability given a predominantly westerly wind, take a course almost due west to reach the channel between Boulogne and Calais.

BICC Marseille Mark and Karen Gilbert 1st Open BICC Marseille

The Rhodes family with their winner of 2nd Open BICC Marseille

David Hales 4th Open BICC Barcelona and 3rd & 10th Open Marseille

Simon Knowles and daughter Lucy and son Ryan The team finished 4th, 5th, 8th, 21st & 22nd Open BICC Marseille

Mike Mitchell 6th Open BICC Marseille

Michael Dunn with daughters Jade & Charley 7th Open BICC Marseille

Geoff & Clayton Preece 3rd& 10th Open BICC Pau and 12th Open Marseille

Peter & Heath Archibald of Dover 2nd Open Barcelona and 16th Open Marseille

The winner of this year's Marseille Marathon is none other than Mark Gilbert of Winkfield. This is Mark's second BICC success this year as readers will no doubt be aware that he also clocked one of his ever reliable Deweerdts to win the Barcelona race. What is even more remarkable about this latest triumph is the fact that the winning pigeon was Mark's sole entry. We have all heard about "super form" when a fancier seems able to send the nest pans in the loft and get them to win. In Mark Gilbert's case it seems that he has the ability to put his race team into "hyperdrive" when the National races come around as he also clocked the winner of the NFC Saintes race on the same weekend. In the Marseille race he clocked a Deweerdt x Rutz cock that had been 10th Open NFC Tarbes just a couple of weeks earlier. The Deweerdts are world renowned as top class performers at all levels of competition up to International level. However the Rutz family of long distance pigeons are as yet relatively unknown outside Germany where they have developed a formidable reputation as hard day long distance pigeons. They are based to a large extent on the Van Wanroys of Ben Hendricks and are very small pigeons and usually dark chequer in colouring. I'll let Mark give exact details of the breeding of this terrific pigeon.

"As mentioned he has been a good bird being 10th Open NFC Tarbes this year, he was also 40th Open Saintes NFC last year and as a youngster was in the top 100 Open with the NFC twice in both young bird Nationals. I rate him as one of the best birds I have ever raced and only a two year old now. He was sent on widowhood and shown his hen for two minutes before sending He's bred from a Rutz & Son Cock from Germany. Rutz won the 2008 German National from Barcelona and the father of my bird is a direct son of this Barcelona National winner, The mother is a grand daughter of Deweerdt's Ted and Magnus."

In the runner up position is yet another partnership that is enjoying another excellent season of International racing - Mr & Mrs Rhodes of Aylsham in Kent. The partners clocked two good ones in the Barcelona International to finish at 8th & 13th Open BICC and here at Marseille they clocked another two well up on the result for 1st & 12th East section 2nd & 13th Open. Steve Rhodes writes:-
"First of all our congratulations go to Mark Gilbert - superb pigeon flying. We were delighted to time our Three year old, Blue Chequer, Roundabout hen, She was also our first bird from AGEN, taking 23rd Sect 48th Open BICC, She returned in superb condition, testament to how well these birds are looked after, thanks again to all concerned you do a great job. She is the grand daughter of Eric Limburgs " The Joost" and also "Crack Perpignan" these birds are really doing well for us as an older cock birds the same way bred was 8th sect E 12th open TARBES NFC three weeks ago."

Next at third Open is another familiar name, that of David Hales of Hockley in Essex. David clocked the same widowhood cock that was 6th Open BICC in the Pau International race earlier this season and he in turn is a half brother to David's 1st Open Perpignan cock containing all the best of Alan Parker's channel winning family. David's second in the clock taking10th Open is another widowhood cock containing Brian Long and Louella Smaraagd bloodlines.

The triple Europa Cup winning partnership of F. Knowles & son of Wingham in Kent come in next with five good birds at 4th,5th,8th,21st & 22nd Open. Simon was the winner of the Marseille race last year and has an outstanding record of success in BICC International races. Simon's first timer was one containing Cyril Wells bloodlines that was 43rd Open BICC Perpignan in 2011,followed by Foxy Lady a previous winner of 4th & 9th Open Marseille and 4th Open Perpignan. Last year's Marseille winner Little Pea came in next and all three were clocked by Simon's good friend Alan Annis as Simon was busy in the Malibu Stud Shop. All five birds clocked were raced natural. A loft report on the Knowles set up can be found on the BICC web site.

Mike Mitchell, ably assisted by his wife Cynthia timed yet again to take 5th East section 6th Open. This is a 3 year old chequer cock of Van Helmond bloodlines raced celibate. He is a previous winner of 58th Open Agen and 14th Open Perpignan in 2011 and earlier this season he was clocked once again in the Agen International to take 44th Open. The EECC channel race programme is used extensively by Mike early in the season to condition his International race candidates. These EECC races are only 120 - 200 milers but they give the pigeons confidence in crossing the channel without fear or hesitation.

At 6th east section 7th Open is a bird racing to the Whitstable loft of Mike Dunn who is more than ably assisted by his 13 year old daughter Jade. Mike and Jade only joined the BICC this season and began the old bird campaign with just FIVE pigeons. Thus far they have sent one to to Argen International and got it to finish 35th Open. Their entry for Pau International was also just one pigeon and this one also got on the result at 77th Open. Mike and Jade's single entry for Marseille now finishes at 6th section 7th Open and they still have the five old birds they started with - brilliant flying to a 10 ft x 6ft two compartment loft. The Dunn's young bird team only amounts to 12 babies and the birds are kept as natural as possible ,enjoying an open loft when Mike or Jade are around to scare off the local sparrow hawks. The Marseille timer is a 2 year old grizzle cock sent sitting 9 day old eggs. He was sent to Poitiers two weeks before Marseille in final preparation and showed his form finishing at 2nd club. His breeding shows that his sire was a gift from local fancier "Dinky" Doors whilst his dam was bred from a pair of pigeons gifted to Mike and Jade by local long distance legend John Lane and contains the bloodlines of John's Old family of Barcelona pigeons crossed with some Louella Jan Aardens. Good luck at Perpignan Mike and Jade - lets hope you can maintain your 100% record of returns and hopefully another Open prize.

Dave Delea of Rainham in Essex has won just about all there is to win in pigeon racing having won 2x 1sts & 2 x 2nd BICC Barcelona; 2x 2nds, 3 x 3rds, 4th, 5th 7th etc etc at Marseille plus 1st Open NFC Pau to highlight just a few of his long distance successes over the past 40 or so years. In this year's Marseille International Dave clocked a 3 year old hen raced natural and sent sitting 16 day old eggs to win 8th section 9th Open. As with all the Delea team she has the liberty of an open loft whenever Dave is around to keep an eye out for the local predators and the Marseille race was only her third outing of the season, the other two being Messac and Tours.

Yet another of the Delea family comes in next at 11th Open - Paul Delea, Dave's brother. Both Paul and Dave have developed their own families over the past 40 years or so and the base bloodlines used by both brothers, is the old reliable Kenyon family. Paul and Dave also regularly exchange pigeons and put one loft's champion long distance racer with one from the other's loft to their mutual advantage. When I spoke to Paul he had three from three sent and his first in the clock is a black hen bred from Paul's 1st Open Barcelona cock when paired to one of the loft's great long distance racing hens - a winner of 29th NFC Pau [first yearling on the result],6th Open Dax,9th Open Biarritz, 32nd Hens International Pau and 330th Open NFC Bordeaux. The birds are raced on the natural system and enjoy an open loft whenever Paul is at hand. This voluntary home exercise is supplemented with regular tosses at around 50 miles.

That wraps up the first eleven in the result but I cannot finish this report without highlighting another excellent team performance from the Wickford, Essex partnership of Richard and Steve Pearmain who followed up their terrific team performance at St Vincent International when they had SEVEN pigeons on the result, with an equally impressive team performance at Marseille with 5 pigeons at 14th,15th,17th,18th & 23rd Open.

Past BICC winners, Geoff and Clayton Preece appear near the top of the result at 12th Open and Heath and Peter Archibald come in with one at 16th Open. Long distance ace Alan Turner of Elvington near Dover completes the top twenty in the result.

So Mark Gilbert wins yet another National and also the House of Aarden sponsored young bird for the second time this season. Many congratulations Mark on yet another superb display of pigeon racing.

I have included with this report a photograph of Dennis Abbott the winner of the St Vincent International race which did not arrive in time for inclusion with my report on the St Vincent race.

Next race Le Mans followed by the final Old Bird International race from Perpignan on August 3rd. Don't forget the two Guernsey Young Bird/ Old Hens races on 25th August and 8th September it's not too late to join as many have taken up the challenge of International racing with the BICC since the start of the season with new members joining every week. All are welcome and here's wishing good racing for all.

Gareth Watkins