It’s early October and on the island of Tenerife and at the Derby Arona loft it’s a hive of activity as pigeons are now arriving daily from the many countries around the world, at present there’s in the region of 2500+ pigeons currently housed within the lofts myself and Gaynor along with friends Dylan and Tracey Russell made our annual journey to Tenerife shortly after our final domestic race here in the UK for a holiday and on arrival we were once again met by the warm climate with temperatures remaining within the mid 30`s throughout our fortnight on the island.
The holiday resort of Playa de Las Americas, Tenerife
As always we planned to take time out to visit the Ledesma family and loft and see what’s new and happening within the loft and race in general.. after meeting up with Jose the day after our arrival at our hotel, arrangements were made to travel the short distance from Playa de Las Americas to the Guaza lofts in the coming days.
As we made our way to the lofts, on our approach we could clearly see pigeons flying around the lofts and on arrival we were once again greeted at the gate by Jose and able Ledesma who were busy in and around the lofts
Whilst also trying to manage the administration side of things in the absence of Gladys who was currently away on holiday in Cuba.. on clearly seeing the batch of pigeon on and around the loft which we earlier seen exercising we were informed that these were pigeons that were out freely exercising for the first time after undergoing their settling period under the nets,
as we wandered around the compartments where the other inmates were housed trying to pick out ours and other UK pigeons from shipment one, Jose explained the new procedure they have implemented for this year, starting off with newest of arrivals. Which incidentally consisted of the recent 200 pigeons sent in the Sept shipment from the UK which we could see were settling in nicely.
When each batch of entries arrives at the lofts they in turn are placed in the first two compartments of the loft where a watchful eye could be kept to ensure all was well regarding their health etc prior to being introduced to pigeons already within following a two week period they would then be moved onto the next stage of their rehabilitation which allows the new inmates the first clear sightings of their new surroundings on and above the loft under netted conditions, this allows the pigeons their first opportunity of seeing the early entrants exercising and entering the traps which encourages them to do, but entering a separate compartment.
Following a minimum of two weeks of viewing their new surroundings under the net, a time scale that is altered slightly longer if older youngster are imported within the numbers and once the team are satisfied they are content, they are released with the flock daily, this three stage procedure is carried every time new arrivals come into the loft to try and reduce losses in the early stages of settlement for the early pigeons which have been at the loft now for a few months since the doors opened back in may so they are nearly through the moult now and looking like yearlings and set on a daily exercise and feeding routine, where as in previous years all the pigeons were given an open loft, this year the team have allocated time slots where they can exercise each team freely during the morning, but on the call of the whistle following two hours or so exercise they are called in and fed until the following day.. This then gives the newly released pigeons there opportunity of being out around the loft during the afternoon once the doors close for entry into this year race in the last weeks of October, the team then take on the daunting task of doing a loft itinerary of all the birds within the loft and by such time we are hopeful that there will be in excess of 3,000+ pigeons within the loft to cater and care for, the administration work then takes priority which includes updating all the team records of ring numbers and allocation of ETS rings to the later arrivals followed by each pigeon being photographed which will then allow entrants to see how there pigeons have matured for the first time since entering the loft, a daunting task and period for the team as the daily loft cleaning and exercising is also maintained throughout this ordeal training.
From 31st November on, weather permitting the training will start and like all pigeons in any country this one loft race is like no other the training starts off at short distances at first to give the pigeons experience of being confined to baskets and released in large numbers away from the loft to return activation.
After weeks and months of orientating and a minimum of five training flights it’s then time to assess your team for activation, this is done as always with the owner having first opportunity of activating their reserve pigeons at a cost of 220 euro per pigeon, the time period allotted for this is between December 11th to 21st where after such dates pigeons not activated are offered openly to interested third party owners which then gives up all rights and any prizes won to the initial entrant.. So our advise would be prepared to go on the day to save any disappointment later on, following third party activation on Jan 7th only pigeons paid for will then go forward to future training and races.
Training is planned to recommence depending on the weather on Jan 9th and will go northwards over 6/7 training flights from various distances to the top of the island to Santa Cruz a distance of approx 60 klm with additional training from various distances also taking place this year in between the scheduled flights to keep the birds motivated and improve their geographical knowledge of the island.
It’s from the final land training flight the birds head out over open waters towards Gran Canaria when it’s from such distances they are released from the rear of the local ferry at various stages between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, over a two week period until they reach the island of Gran Canaria where the first of two hotspot races (car races) from Gran Canaria will take place.
It’s from such races that the pigeons now have to come into their own as all the previous training and education that they have endured is needed for the pigeons now have to overcome their ultimate fear of breaking for home from land below out over the open waters of the mighty Atlantic Ocean towards TENERIFE and onwards to the lofts,
This is something that the pigeons must fear the most as a small number have been reluctant in the past years to go for home straight away and often take their own time to get it into their minds to go for home.
Following the first two hotspot races and any additional training in between we move further east to the next canary island of Fuerteventura for the semi final race which implements an additional Atlantic crossing which makes this race so unique, yes!!! two stretches of open Atlantic Ocean from the island of Fuerteventura -out across Atlantic Ocean – through Gran Canaria – and again out across the Atlantic Ocean – to Tenerife, a daunting task for everyone to adjust to as it’s these pigeons which succeed that apart for any mishaps during the additional training will go forward to the final and compete for the ultimate estimated European record payout of 1st prize of 120,000 euro to the winner of the final on Friday 23rd march.
So hopefully with everything explained as to what the Arona teams plans are for the forthcoming series. We as participants now lay our trust in their knowledge and experience to get the pigeons through to the final race.
As for the final race as always the Arona team would like to welcome you all to the island of Tenerife and lofts on finals week and experience the ultimate racing experience in the world.
Everyone is welcome at the loft to meet fellow participants and hopefully handle their pigeons prior to basketing for the final race, following on from their there the welcome dinner at a top canarian restaurant, the night before release, for the formal welcome to the race hosted by the Ledesma family.
Final race day
with everything set and hopefully an early liberation announced the Arona team as always provide a free bus to the loft from Playa de Las Americas picking up at various points to arrive at the loft in ample time to witness the first arrivals and enjoy the hospitality of free food and drink laid on throughout the day and congratulate the eventual winners once the leading birds are recorded
Also present on the day are the live TV crew (Spanish) who capture every moment from the excitement and arrival of the winning pigeons and lucky winning entrant, as we know there’s only one winner on the day but the excitement and enthusiasm to see pigeons return remains as fanciers sit and wait the return of their pigeons during the remainder of the day and congratulate each fancier on their achievement as every pigeon that returns from the final race has now competed and completed in one of the hardest one loft races in the world.
Following the final race there’s the gala evening when each winner and major prizewinners of the hotspot races and the final are presented with their prizes, this is held at the Mare Nostrum hotel in Zentral Playa de Las Americas, a night and experienced unmatched by any other, with live entertainment, a canarian carnival band and of course a buffet meal to suit all nationalities and tastes.
As for team UK/Ireland this year we have experienced an even greater number of entries than in past years as over 400+ pigeons from the four nations and southern Ireland representing the UK, so were really looking forward to the competition and hopefully we can improve on previous years performances where we’ve gracefully held our own against the rest of the world, once again there’s some new faces along with the regular competitors who have entered in shipment two as we welcome Mr & Mrs Andy Gregson from Preston and the RPRA OLR loft manager Jeremy Davies from Gloucester along with Kenny Darlington from South Wales who has made a come back into the race this year to name a few so good luck to all ..
There’s one more opportunity of entering this year race and that is by getting your entries to the Kassel show in Germany later in Oct, either through fanciers attending the show or via walkers transport, where the Arona team will be present and will accept your pigeons for shipment to Tenerife for all the latest news and up to date information and 2017 race plan visit www.derbyatlantic.com
“THE HARDEST ONE LOFT RACE IN THE WORLD”