51_PR The Incredible success story of Mannor Lofts

1st Open BICC Barcelona 2013.
1st Open BBC Barcelona 2013.
57th Open International against more than 25,000 birds.

The Barcelona International race is probably the most difficult race in the pigeon racing calendar . The 2013 race was difficult even by these exacting standards, and yet one British pigeon, a single entry in fact, excelled. This was a grizzle cock named Olympic Ric, racing to the Southampton lofts of Martin, Clare and Jack Norman. This outstanding long distance racer not only won 1st Open BICC/BBC by a more than four and a half hours he also outpaced  more than 25,000 pigeons from all over Continental Europe to win 57th Open. This performance is regarded by many as one of the most outstanding performances in the history of long distance pigeon racing into these Islands.
What follows is a report on the Norman's beginnings in the sport and the story of how they bred and prepared  their incredible long distance racer "Olympic Ric" to attain such an incredible feat of long distance RACING over a distance of 680 miles.


Martin Norman started racing in 1978 with his brother Bill as Norman Brothers, winning the Fed in their very first year in the sport at 15 years of age.
Early influences in the sport were  the brother's friends Jack Beggs, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, and  another very good friend Tony Jurd who has also unfortunately passed away.
The main team of pigeons at that time was made up of the Cattrysse strain obtained from Brian Harris & Sons of Kidderminster who was to prove to be very kind and generous to the brothers after they reported one of his birds.
As young lads, the Norman brothers spent a weekend with Brian  who took Martin and Bill to some good local fanciers including Phil Cooper now of Cooper Brothers. The Cattrysse were a very good family of reliable pigeons and they won well for Martin and Bill at all distances.

So to the present, Clare and Martin have been racing at their present address since 1998 and had Jack soon after  they settled  and started racing .

The partners have always flown widowhood in some form or another, and the  first racing loft was 24ft x 6ft with a 12ft x 6ft young bird loft and a 16ft x 6ft stock loft. In the intervening years since becoming established at their present address, the loft dimensions haven’t altered much with the present racing loft being 24ft x 8ft with a 10ft x 4ft cocks section to the rear.  There are four identical small sections with 8 boxes in each. All lofts are cleaned  at least once a day during the race season. It used to be twice a day but now with grilled floors installed in the boxes it’s not really necessary. During the Winter months the lofts are only cleaned at weekends due to work commitments. The race team usually amounts to 40 old birds, with a further 12 pairs at stock from which the partners breed around 60 young birds annually.


 Both  cocks and hens  are raced on the widowhood system which is slightly different to most systems practiced, as the racing cocks spend their week in box perches housed in the section to the rear of the main racing loft. The hens stay in their breeding box, which allows the Normans the opportunity to motivate the cocks  in a different manner.
 For example, “Olympic Ric” the Barcelona winner, was placed in his section on his own 2 weeks prior to Barcelona basketting. All boxes were closed up and his box had cardboard placed over it so he couldn’t even look at his box. The evening before basketting he was let out with his hen to work the skies and just play around with her. On return to the loft his box was open with a bowl filled with straw. They stayed all night together and were let out again next morning spending most of the time just mating up together on the loft. When they went back in he stayed another couple of hours with her and was then basketted for Barcelona. And - voila what resulted from this motivational trick was a truly outstanding performance !!
As he was the partner's only entry it gave  them a little more time to manipulate the motivation.
The same motivational system worked well for the partners the previous year. In 2012 Martin ,Clare and Jack reasoned that there were only two long distance races  where there was a chance of timing on the day and this they duly achieved in  both races. Firstly, from Tarbes CSCFC [only 36 on the day], when they timed one of their team for 21st Open and secondly from the  Agen International with the  BICC with only 20 birds on the day when they timed  at 20.40 pm to take 20th Open.
All  birds are mated on the same day in January, normally about the 22nd. This works out just right for the darkness young birds. The birds are put on widowhood when their young ones are 17 days old. At this time the hens come away and are placed in the rear section of the loft.
 This is the time when you can see the birds starting to get fit ready for the racing season to begin. The birds then have roughly a month before the first race and they have just three training tosses before racing, 15 miles, 20 miles and 30 miles and have no more for the rest of the season.  From that point on they fly one hour in the morning and evening around home being flagged if necessary.
 Martin believes that training  old birds after the initial preseason tosses takes away the motivation. The race team race Classic and National races every week during the old bird season and  different motivational tricks are tried throughout the season. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't.
Young bird racing is very limited but the babies are placed on the darkness system so that they are always in good feather should the partners want to try them out in the race basket.

As the old birds usually  have a big race every week the feed tends not to change much with just a slight tweak as the longer races approach.  The  racers are fed Verse Laga Superstar Plus with the addition of peanuts and hemp. In the last few feeds before basketting for the longer races a little more maize is added to the daily feed.


Since 2007  the partners have concentrated more on long distance racing  and so have introduced birds from Dax International winner and "all round good guy" Brian Sheppard. Some Delbars have also been brought in from Graham Matthews and a few from each of the following fanciers:- Guy Reed, Les Kidd, John and David Staddon and most recently Andy Parsons of Salisbury. All have produced some good birds and Martin et al are presently trying to blend their own distance family. The intention is to breed around  the best breeders cross out and then pair back to the base family. Martin would like to make Andy Parson's family  the main starting base as their record from Tarbes over a number of years is fantastic.
The partners have, over the years been helped by a number of very good fanciers and have always found them very eager to help. Fanciers of the caliber of Geoff and Catherine Cooper, Brian Sheppard and the late Tony Jurd  have all  given help and advice freely.
Although the main concentration is on long distance racing the Normans do have a small sprint team with pigeons bought from Mel and Sue King, Roger Lowe and Sheldon Leonard.

Martin's ideal handling pigeon has to have a strong back, silky feathering and be nicely balanced. However, none of this is of any importance if the bird is not a winner because winners tend to come in all shapes and sizes.
 Martin has immense respect and admiration for  Geoff Cooper  because he has developed a fantastic top International family that must be admired worldwide.


 “Lady Vic” 1st SE Section 1st Open CSCFC Bergerac 430miles beating the whole convoy of 2,500 birds by 20 yards, her other performances include 2nd Solent Federation Picauville 6th Solent Federation Lessay, 50th Open BBC Messac etc.
“Jack the Lad”, 191st Open NFC Tarbes timed on the day, 14 days later he was one of only 38 birds on the day from BBC Bordeaux 418 miles in a very hard race.
There are also many good positions from Bergerac and Bordeaux and many top 50 positions in Classic and National races.
Perhaps now would be a good time to give a little more information on the great pigeon Olympic Ric and I'll let Clare give the details:-
" He is our best pigeon and his past performances are:
6th Section 73rd Open BICC Carentan 2012;
 481st Open NFC Cholet 2012;
 27th Section 223rd Open NFC Tarbes 2012 winning just over £1,000;
 6th Section 16th Open BICC Perpignan 2012;
 20th Section 91st Open NFC Cholet 2011 8,745 birds.
 57th Open BICC Agen 2011 648 birds.
He  was Christened Olympic Ric last year after his performances during the Olympics and Ric is our nephew's name who always seems to be visiting when we have a good result.
You have to send your best to win in these top events and he was made our candidate for Barcelona 2013 the day we timed him from Perpignan last year. The Perpignan race was flown in a very strong west wind and won in Dover. We timed Ric 118 miles west of the winner just 1 hour 53 minutes later and we knew after that he could do it.
His breeding comes through all top fanciers. The sire was bred by John and David Staddon  from Jos Thone X Mark Gilbert’s "Night Flight"1st Open NFC Saintes/Pau bloodlines. The dam is bred by our good friend Brian Sheppard. "
This years highlights for the partners are:-
 25th Open and 39th Open NFC Carentan 8,319 birds;
 27th Open BICC Alencon;
 86th Open NFC Cholet 6,462 birds;
 59th Open BICC Tours;
 51st Open BBC Messac;
 1st Open Solent Federation Carentan.
 1st Open BICC/BBC Barcelona 57th International 25,382 birds.


The partners believe it is important to treat for canker regularly but if loft conditions are good, with no dampness or vermin etc, other treatments are only necessary if there is a problem.
The birds usually have something in the water but it is always a natural product such as cider vinegar, honey, vitamins and electrolytes, Mycoform T and Naturaline.
I'll let Martin give you his thoughts on the future of the sport and where he gets his biggest thrills:-
"We love racing with the BICC in the International races, it gives a real buzz when you time from these events. International pigeons are special birds, UK international winners even more so. We believe International racing in the UK is going to get stronger and stronger with so many fanciers making their mark.
“Olympic Ric” went to three International races and was timed on all three occasions:-
 Agen: 57th Open UK.
 Perpignan: 16th Open UK.
 Barcelona: 1st BICC/BBC Barcelona 57th Open International."
There is an unfortunately tragic ending to this fairytale win. Olympic Ric was found dead in his box on August 6th 2013 - exactly a month to the day after his brilliant performance.
Congratulations Martin, Clare and Jack on breeding, conditioning and racing a truly outstanding long distance racer. Ric may be gone, but he will never be forgotten so long as fanciers in these Islands strive for greatness in long distance pigeon racing.
Good luck for the future.

Gareth Watkins

Martin and Jack

Olympic Ric 1st Open UK Barcelona 2013

Mannor Lofts

Cocks section at Mannor Lofts

One of the identical racing sections at Mannor Lofts

Old bird corridor Mannor Lofts

39th OPen NFC Carentan, 1st Solent Fed Carenntan
51st Open BBC Messac

Olympic Ric's sire and daughter