The second International race of the season, once again generously sponsored by Steve and Lesley Wright of the House of Aarden, took place on Friday 27th June from the French city of Agen situated in the South West of France. The following is a brief outline of the geography and history of the city.
The commune of Agen is the capital of the Lot-et-Garonne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France. It lies on the river Garonne 135 kilometres (84 mi) southeast of Bordeaux.The city of Agen lies in the southern-French département Lot-et-Garonne in the Aquitaine region. The city centre is at the east bank of the Garonne river and close to the Canal de Garonne, approximately halfway between Bordeaux (132 km) and Toulouse (107 km).
The Canal des Deux Mers, which joins the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, crosses the river Garonne at Agen via the town's famous canal bridge.
Agen features an oceanic climate (Cfb), and just falls short to a humid subtropical climate (Cfa). Summers are quite hot with daytime temperatures of almost 28 °C (82 °F), while occasionally, winter nights are frozen. Rainfall is spread equally throughout the year, however, most sunshine hours are from March-September.
Apparently, according to my wife and the Chef Rick Stein, the region is also famous for its prunes which are regarded by many as a delicacy[especially those suffering from stasis of the lower alimentary tract].

Right, lets get on to the race itself. The British entry of 532 pigeons entered by 124 members were liberated at 6.45 am CEST or 5.45 am in £'s sterling, along with more than 20,065 other pigeons from lofts throughout Europe. The British entry was made up as follows:-

ASH 33 / 164
BATH 9 / 41
GWENT 11 / 28
S/OCKENDEN 21 / 73
TOTAL 124 members sent 532 birds

The weather, as can be seen in the accompanying wind and weather maps, was forecast to be good, with plenty of sunshine along the course of the race and a light helping southerly breeze on the pigeons backs.
The winner for the second International race in successive weeks is none other than Mark Gilbert of Winkfield a small village to the south west of Windsor. Mark timed a number of birds on the day and his first three in the clock were all yearlings at 505 miles. He also clocked further pigeons to take 1st, 2nd, 4th, 20th, 30th, 41st, 50th& 54th Open so a fine all round team performance yet again.
My thanks to Chris Sutton for providing me with the following information on Mark's pigeons:-

The first Open winner from the Agen International, is a direct daughter of a pigeon called "Kannibaal Barcelona" which was bred and raced by the top International loft of Etienne Meirlean of St Martens-Latem in Belgium. He was purchased by Mark and coupled with a daughter of Etienne's pigeon called "Golden Vleugel". The Kannibaal Barcelona won 4th International 3rd Belgian National Barcelona 2010 against 25,000 pigeons and in the following year was 20th National 26th International Perpignan against 17,000 pigeons. The mother, as mentioned, is also a pigeon from Ettiene and is a daughter of a pigeon called "Golden Vleugel" who was three times in the top 35 positions of the Belgian National from Barcelona.

The second open position goes to another yearling hen which is from a daughter of "Southfield Supreme" . Supreme won 1st International from Dax for Mark in 2008 and the father of the 2nd Open winner is a double grandchild of Dr Brockamp's "George" which is the father of "Euro Diamond" and "Mistral". George was bred by George Carteus and is a son of the "As 571" which won Ace Pigeon Long Distance two years in succession.

The fourth open position is also of the same bloodlines, being bred from a son of Euro Diamond. The mother is also a daughter of Southfield Supreme when he was paired to a daughter of "George" . All three hens were raced on round about. Mated on 10th February, allowed to rear a pair of youngsters and then parted. They were then allowed in with their mates the night before basketting and given an open loft on the morning of basketting for Agen..

In third Open position and topping the West section is one to the ultra successful loft of Geoff and Catherine Cooper of Peasedown St John just outside the city of Bath.
Geoff and Catherine clocked a two year old dark chequer cock flying 512 miles to win 1st West Section by 1 ½ hours! Called Farm Stellar because of his "stellar" performance from Agen against the strong side winds coupled with rain and thunder, we know it must be Glastonbury festival and Wimbledon time again!!
He has been amongst the first to the loft every race so far this season, including winning 2nd BICC National from Falaise 194 miles, earlier this year. His last race in preparation for this was Tours National with the BICC. The two year old cocks were all destined for Agen at the start of the season and all races gradually built them up for this race.
The Cooper's second bird in this race was Farm Star winner of 1st National Tours the previous BICC race. As a yearling he flew through to 400 miles returning badly injured from Saints. Like all the birds, he was raced widowhood, having three short inland races, then Falaise, Alencon and Tours then three weekends off with no basket training, just loft exercise and into Agen.
His sire is a pigeon called "Brother to Farm Boy" who won many prizes including 1st west sect. Tours and is a full brother to Farm Boy who won 12th International Dax, 3rd Nat Dax and 7th Nat Dax and 3rd Euro Diamond Dax and 7th Ace pigeon Euro Diamond. Farm Boy is the sire of Farmer George 1st International Bordeaux.
The Dam is a daughter of the nest sister to Mark Gilbert's Darkie, winner of two 1st Nationals. So bred in the purple!! In fifth Open also taking 4th Centre section vel 1179 mpm is one right down on the south coast at Bracklesham Bay to club President John Tyerman. Incidentally, John clocked four more birds[ his entire 5 bird team in the clock] for 65th,108th,126th & 130th Open. This is what John had to say about his early timer:-
"Blue pied hen GB 12P 23813, was reared in August 2012 so had no racing as a young bird. As a yearling she flew with the Southampton NR Fed from Stratford on Avon and Newark. Then this year she flew BICC Falaise and then NFC Cholet (255 miles) where she was 12 hours on the wing. Her cock went down from BICC Poitiers but she continued to sit tight and rear a single young bird on her own. She would not leave the young bird and was very protective, quickly expelling any intruding cocks. I gave her a toss from Southampton a few days before the Agen marking and other than coming down for food she seldom left the baby alone in the box. She looked so well I sent her to Agen International along with four other entries. I was on the telephone to John McGee in France, discussing the early Agen race arrivals there, when I saw my hen come off the sea at Bracklesham Bay and drop straight into the loft corridor, to be timed at 16.12 hrs after covering the 460 miles in ten and a half hours. This 2yo hen is from my old Carmichael/Kirkpatrick family and she is a great-grand daughter of my good hen "Decimal Lady" who won many prizes including 2nd open LSECC Bordeaux Classic. On the sire's side she is a grand daughter of my old 'Barcelona cock' who won 4th and 7th BICC Barcelona International. She is also closely related to the hen that won the 2013 Barcelona Challenge one loft race. My birds are mainly raced natural and feeding is by means of a hopper of beans along with Gem Royale, Gem 'Blobby mix' and split peas which I obtain from Brian Wall at Gem. The birds are allowed an open loft for all of the daylight hours and are given a 30 mile training toss midweek with my son occasionally taking them to his home 15 miles away. I sent 5 birds to the race, had two home on the day and 3 next morning. My thanks to Albi Deacon who regularly takes my birds to the Ash marking. Also congratulations to Mark Gilbert on his outstanding team performance and also to Geoff and Catherine Cooper whose bird had to finish into a fairly stiff west wind." A loft report on the Tyerman set up will appear shortly.

R & N Steptoe of Oxted come in at 1st East section 6th Open with a pigeon doing 1172 mpm. The Steptoes' timer is a yearling blue pied hen. Sire bred by W. Steptoe being a Cooper Deweerdt x Dennis Blackey Soontjen . Dam A Parker Southwell of Millennium Boy lines x Steptoe daughter of Oliver gg sire of 1st NFC Carentan. The Steptoes have now named the section winning hen "Crackerjack" as she was clocked Friday at 5 to 5. In the early part of the season she has been raced on widowhood after sitting 10 days on her first nest of eggs, then separated. In preparation for Agen she had four midweek Lyndhurst races at 75 mls and one Yelverton race at 186 mls with the Fed. She was then re - paired and sent to Agen sitting 14 day eggs. with 3 tosses of Coast while sitting.

Dorin Melinte of Stanmore in Middlesex clocked for 7th Open vel 1165 mpm. Dorin timed a yearling hen of Van Lint x Deklak bloodlines bred from pigeons obtained from Fred Riley of Enfield at Fred's fathers bereavement sale. These were the first birds that Dorin has raced. The system used is roundabout with morning and evening exercises around the loft. The birds were then allowed to run together for the two weeks prior to the first International race from Pau. Dorin feeds Versele Laga Champion Mix to which he adds lots of fats in the final two days before basketting. The hen was sitting 10 day eggs and the day before basketing Dorin's son Denis placed a chicken's egg underneath her and this certainly seems to have done the job!!!

In 2nd east section 8th Open is one to the Leigh on Sea partnership of Gladwin, Jarvis & family recording 1141 mpm. This is what John Gladwin had to tell me about his timer:-
"Firstly I would like to say a big well done to Mark Gilbert on another great performance.
Our first pigeon is a Formula 1 Lofts bred Frans Zwol, she was a 2012 late bred being hatched in June she had the last inland race as a Y/B following only a handful of training spins. As a yearling she had the first few inland races where she won 4th club 7th open Thames, before she was sent across the channel where she took a low position in the NFC, before she was prepared for the Agen International despite only being 12 months old. She came early the next morning to win 6th section 18th open BICC National Agen 514 Miles, vel 905 YPM. In 2014 she had a few inland races coming twice to win but beaten by loft mates on the trap but did win 3rd club and open positions in the Thames. She was then sent to Alencon, Tours and Poitiers in the BICC all of which have been very hard races into Essex with the east winds but she has made it on the day each time, having two 10+ hours fly's. From Poitiers she was 23rd sec 159th open vel 896 YPM. before being rested for Agen. where she has again had a 12 hour fly to win 2nd sec 8th open vel 1248. In addition to her racing record she has also bred 1st open Essex Amal on the North road from 183 miles against 5,000+ birds this year for our good friends John & Gaynor Ashenden.

We have only just started to try and compete in the International races and aim to build a team going forward to fly out to Barcelona. This year we sent 6 to Pau and got 4 home and from this race we sent 3 and had 2 home by 8 am on Saturday. Our aim is to have a go at one more International race this year."

Robert .A. Loft comes in at 3rd East section 9th Open with a bird doing 1136 ypm. Bob clocked a three year old widowhood cock bred down from selected strains paired together to produce a family of pigeons to fly the channel. with the BICC and NFC.

Next we have one of the sport's great names that of Mr & Mrs Ken Hine . As most will know Ken Hine passed away a couple of years back but the loft is still in competition managed by Ken's grandson Mark ably assisted by the ever reliable Jeff Byles. At Agen the Hines clocked their first bird to record 1135mpm to take 5th centre section 10th Open. The Hine loft also clocked a second bird 33 minutes later for 17th Open vel 1085 mpm. Here's the background of the two birds as related to me by Mark:-
"The two birds we clocked on the day from Agen are full sisters but not nest mates. Both flown as young birds in races up to 150 miles and as yearlings both were flown inland and had two channel races up to Poitiers 340 miles and were always consistent.
This year our 1st bird "96" a blue hen was flown as a widowhood hen, paired in February and reared a pair of youngsters and then parted and flown on widowhood only seeing her mate on return from races. Our second arrival also a blue hen "44" was flown on the roundabout system, also paired in February but did not rear any youngsters, allowed to sit pot eggs till she discarded the, then flown round about and only saw her mate on return. However, on short channel races she saw her mate for a while before she went. These two hens contain the finest long distance blood available, being from blue cock bred from a blue cheq cock bred by W.Lawrence of Scotland one of 4 exchanged with the late Ken Hine containing the best of the Engage bloodlines from Jim Biss when he was paired to a blue hen, bred from 2 direct Fear Bros pigeons from their very best bloodlines. Indeed, the dam of this hen was direct daughter of the Fear Bros last classic winner 1st CSCFC Pau on the day.
The dam of the two hens we clocked again contains fantastic long distance blood.
The sire bred by Alwyn Hill direct from "Wingdown" when paired to the champion Pau hen then 4th open BICC Pau 676 miles she is from Bonte bred by Nico Volkens.
The dam was bred from a direct son of Verreweg de Beste when paired to a direct inbred daughter off Invincible Spirit, when paired to an inbred double granddaughter of Invincible Spirit
The birds are fed on versele laga corn, light breakfast feed in the morning and in the evening they are fed champion plus as much as they can eat. They have fresh water every day and grit every other day. Training is done as and when required with early morning being preferred. exercise round the loft is done at day break and evenings till late. In closing we would like to offer our congratulations on another fantastic performance by MarkGilbert, very well done mark and long may it continue."

S R & W H Knox enjoyed a good race here clocking eight pigeons on the result and the first of these is doing 1133 mpm for 4th East section 11th Open. This is what Bill has to say about his latest performer:-
She is a 2012 latebred hen whose sire was lost at St Vincent but I managed to underlay the eggs he was sitting at time of basketting..
In 2012 she was trained to 60 miles.
2013 Lilliers & Cannappeville with the EECC.
2014 Lillers, Pithivers and then into Agen.
Her Sire was 50% Jim Biss 50% Kirkpatrick.
Dam 50% Paul Woolliss 50% Kirkpatrick.

Multiple National winners D Heywood & son from Laindon in Essex take 5th East section 12th Open vel 1132 mpm.

Lee and Dad Kevin Buddle enjoyed another good race at Agen to follow up their excellent team performances from Pau International the previous week. At Agen their first in the clock taking 13th Open vel 1120.7 mpm was their good widowhood cock "Mike" and this is what Lee had to tell me about Mike's preparation:-
Our first bird on the clock is a Six year old cock we call "Mike", He was sent to Agen International purely as a preparation training race as a stepping stone to fitness for Marseille international in 3 weeks time. He has been a very consistent race bird for us over the past few years and this position in Agen is his 7th BICC International race prize.
He has previously won:-
4th Open BICC Marseille International 2011 594 miles
9th Open BICC Marseille International 2013 594 miles
24th Open BICC Perpignan International 2012 579 miles
37th Open BICC Pau International 2011 544 miles
60th Open BICC Pau International 2013 545 miles
64th Open BICC Pau International 2012 545miles
{Some pigeon that Lee}
He was bred by our good mate and top pigeon fancier Mike Mitchell and is bred from direct Herman Van Helmond stock obtained by Mike from Belgium.
As with all our birds he is fed with Verselle Laga superstar plus with a bit of Verselle Laga best all round added to give it a bit more strength and flown on 100% widowhood. In the lead up to Agen "Mike" had 3 channel races with the EECC from Canappevile 136m, Saran 220m & Pithivers 209m. We would also like to congratulate Mark Gilbert on his second BICC International race win in as many races".
I should point out that Lee and Kevin clocked further pigeons to take 22nd, 72nd & 115th Open.
Mr & Mrs Connolley of Marden then come in at 7th East section 14th Open vel 1105 mpm and they also clocked a second bird 28 minutes later to take 18th Open vel 1048 mpm.
Dave Watson and son of Ashford in Middlesex clocked the same pigeon that was 5th Open BICC Agen in 2013 to take 15th Open vel 1091 mpm. A really good performance by an exceptional pigeon.

In 16th Open position vel 1088 mpm is one to the West Country wizard Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge. Brian, as most people will know, was the first British fancier to win an International race when, in 2003 he clocked "The Legend", to win 1st International Dax against a field of more than 17,000 pigeons. In this year's Agen International Brian, now well into his eighth decade, clocked three good birds for 2nd ,3rd & 8th west section, 16th,23rd & 66th Open. Well done Brian!!!
Viorel Mazureac comes in with a yearling to take 18th Open vel 1079 mpm followed by one to the Ramsgate loft of Robert Harris on 1068 mpm for 19th Open. Robert also had a good one to finish 6th Open in the Pau International a week earlier.
The top twenty in the Open result is rounded off by Mark Gilbert's fourth bird clocked.
The first three positions in the Centre ,East and West sections have been covered in the above report.
As I complete this report there is only one pigeon home in both the North Central and North East sections.

The winning pigeon in the North Central section, recording 554mpm and taking 1st section 138th Open is one to long distance pathfinder John Rumney all the way up there in Houghton le Spring at 747 miles. John clocked early on Sunday morning after his pigeon had to battle through torrential rain and thunderstorms on the Saturday. This is what John had to tell me about his latest long distance pathfinder:-

"I clocked at 09-15am this morning[ Sunday 29th June] flying 747 mls . I sent 2, both prepared especially for this race, the Dark Check Hen I clocked has previously been clocked in the last two years flying 631 mls from Saintes with the NFC, She was 25th Sect 'k' in 2012 and 31st Sect. 'k' in 2013 (the only bird that made it up into the N.E.) This year she had training races with the Yorkshire lads at 150, 178 and 226 mls prior to going to Alencon (450 mls) with the BICC, she was my 3rd pigeon around 380th open, three weeks ago she went to Newbury(240 mls) again as a trainer with the Yorkshire pigeons and then rested until going to Agen. She is bred from a pigeon Brian Denny gifted me, it was a cross Thro' "Mr Gallant" of Eddie Wrights and Brian's own Family, this was paired to a hen bought at Wasey and Lloyds final sale (thro' Keith Mott) and was an inbred Eric Cannon pigeon again crossed with a son off Brian Denny's Tuff Nut".

That excellent fancier Peter Mallett of Bury St Edmunds, clocked one in the North East section to win 1st NE section and 130th Open. Peter's timer is the same William Geerts x Robert Venus widowhood cock that was 2nd section from the 2013 Pau International race. Now 5 years old, he was mated in the first week of March and allowed to sit his first round eggs out before going on to widowhood. Preparatory races before Agen were Falaise, Alencon and Tours. Peter feeds the widowers beans ad lib plus a combination of his own traditional mix and widowhood mixture. In the week before Agen he was however fed 100% widowhood mix. Well done Peter!

There were a number of excellent team performances put up in this race with at least eight fanciers clocking three or more pigeons on the result. Amongst these was Mark Gilbert ,already highlighted, the Coopers with 3rd, 33rd & 71st Open. The Buddles as mentioned earlier along with Dickie and Steve Pearmain who look to have their team purring along nicely with four birds on the result at 51st,59th, 67th & 70 th Open. Bill Knox also enjoyed a good race with eight pigeons on the result at :- 11th,29th,62nd, 77th, 80th, 81st, 90th & 100th Open. My old mate down there in Whitstable and former Barcelona winner, none other than Terry Johnson, had five on the result at 91st,92nd, 99th, 110th & 122nd Open. The first two in the clock recording the same velocity.

Well that's another International race consigned to history. The weekend of 5th & 6th July sees the blue ribband event - Barcelona International. Good luck to all who have sent.
I would appreciate it if those fanciers who clock pigeons to appear in the first twenty Open or in the first three in each section, would take the time to contact me with details of their pigeons. I will of course do my best to get in touch with the various fanciers myself, but in the event that the fanciers concerned are unavailable at the time, it would make my job as Press Officer a great deal easier if those fanciers take the initiative and make an effort to contact me. I have a very tight schedule if I am to get these race reports ready for the next weekend's pigeon papers and fanciers help would, as I say, be greatly appreciated. DON'T BE SHY. My thanks to those who have supplied the information contained in this report.
Finally, a request from Carol our secretary.
"Can you mention in your report that the race code for Agen was changed on Wednesday , two days before liberation, by the International people and the measurements on the website are the new distances for everyone. Also, members are reminded that they must add any wing marks to their clock sheets as the verification on line doesn't have this facility".
There you go- you have been told.

Mark-Gilbert 1st Open BICCArgen

1st Open BICCAgen for Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert's 58-2nd-OpenBICC Agen

Geoff & Catherine Cooper 3rd Open BICC Agen

The Cooper's winner of 1st sect 3rd Open Agen International and previous winner of 2ndNatFalaise

John Tyerman 5th Open BICC Agen

R & N Steptoe 8th east section 9th Open BICC Perpignan in 2013 & 1st east section 6th Open Agen International 2014

Dorin Melinte & son Denis 7th Open BICC Agen

The Gladwins 8th Open Agen

Blue hen 8th Open Agen International for Gladwin, Jarvis & family

Bob Loft 9th Open Agen

Mark Currivan Ken Hine's grand son with some other grand children.The Hine loft was5th centre section 10th Open BICC Agen International

Bill Knox's 11th Open Agen

Dave Watson and son Daniel 5th sect 5th Open BICC Agen International 2013 & 15th Open Agen 2014 with the same pigeon

Brian Sheppard & Champion Jingles. Brian clocked three good birds in the Agen International to win 16th,23rd & 66th Open.