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Young Bird Berwick

For the third successive year, Ray Knight delivered a masterclass in young bird racing in the North Road Championship Club’s Osmonds-sponsored classic from Berwick.

. For the third successive year, Ray Knight delivered a masterclass in young bird racing in the North Road Championship Club’s Osmonds-sponsored classic from Berwick.

Provisional results show him at the top on a velocity of 1265 yards per minute, but hide the fact that he is also likely to take the next two positions, plus other handy placings. Last year he was second behind Darren Perry, of Alford, but dominated the rest of the result, and the year before he won in an annihilation of the opposition.

Fifty-two-year-old Ray, of Old Leake, near Boston, and who is the current secretary of the NRCC, says that, mentally, this was the hardest of the three. First of all, expectations were high because many said that he was the pre-race favourite although, on social media, he tried hard to deflect this description by emphasising the quality of the competing members, and the excellent form some of them had been showing.

Time was more restricted because he was working away from home in his old trade of decorating. Then there was the holdover. The weather was simply not good enough for a liberation on Saturday and, when the birds were let go on Sunday, they faced a strong wind, south-west at Berwick, sometimes south, and even south-east, en route.

There were also showers around, particularly possibly facing the longer flyers.

Race adviser Brian Garnham and convoyer Darren Chambers were well aware of this, but got the liberation right and were relieved to see timings into London and other far reaches of NRCC territory.

Ray had three of his 58-strong entry arrive together, but only one trapped straight away.

“First Pigeon is one of my Lucien Geert pigeons,” said Ray, “a blue cock that owned three different nesting areas on the floor of the loft. In fact, when Brian Garnham came to verify, he was still busy making sure he owned all three areas. “The second pigeon again is self bred, this time being half of my Lucien pigeons and half from my Leo Heremans.

“The third pigeon was one of 12 from Peter Fox this year, and, from the 12 he sent, 11 went to the race, the other had bumped himself, and I clocked eight of the 11. “The Syndicate cock that should be third open also had a box but, as I had been at work and initially thought he was a hen, he was marked with a yellow name and address ring, so, while Julie had been leaving him with the hens, he had taken over a cardboard box in their section. “It was that bad on the Thursday when I allowed the sexes back together, the original young cock and him were close to damaging one another so I put the blue cock in the basket for the night time on Thursday and let the red cock have the box until 4am on the Friday morning. Was that why they came? I don’t know, but it most certainly must have helped.

“When they came, there were three together, but the clock shows different as one literally crashed through the traps and I had to check he had recorded, and the other two hit the tiles. They had given everything and just stood there, and I had to coax them in with a cane, but, hey, they should still be 1,2,3. We have a fourth pigeon which may be 7th and a few others, but time will tell.

“It was only the birds’ third race and the way they have flown has been unbelievable. I must thank my Julie and, of course, the kids because they are a great help when I am not around. They have been brilliant, and there are plenty of smiles in the knight household this week. With work, it has been hard getting up at 5:30am, driving to train and then to work, and the same in the evening, but if you want it, you do it!”

There is no secret about how Ray races his young birds because he has told the whole pigeon racing world via a DVD he released last year.

Did he follow the system as depicted on the DVD? “Yes, to the letter,” he said. “The thing is, people will not put themselves out, it needs commitment.

“At one point I was driving to Louth, releasing the pigeons, basket by basket, then on to Lincoln where I was working, home from Lincoln in the evening, a 50 mile drive, which isn’t a nice drive in Lincolnshire, basketing my pigeons and then driving to Louth again in the evening.

“I took them to Scarborough one Sunday and libbed them on their own. This is about 100 miles, but the feed and everything is as it is in my DVD, but you have to get up and do it!”

One fear that Ray had was that his birds were not quite so old as the successful teams had been in other seasons, and he wondered if they were sexually mature enough to be motivated. The result proves that they were?

Is this the end of the Ray Knight Young Bird Story? Could well be, as he is eyeing up another challenge. His plan now is to try to climb the Everest of NRCC racing from Lerwick. He hopes to obtain young birds from two of the club’s top fanciers with outstanding results from the Shetland Isles, and develop them into a team ready for the big test by 2018. Could be another DVD in the making!

Well-known in the sport all around the country, Ray has received congratulatory messages from many people, but the one he appreciated most was from long-time friend, Glyn Murdoch, from Long Eaton, who was so helpful when Ray was an 11-year-old would-be fancier, and always went out of his way to be supportive.

Race secretary Ian Bellamy, like chairman Brian Garnham, thought the season ended on a good note, and said: “The YB race in my opinion was a very fair and even one. With not much wind in the middle part of their journey home, the birds must have found the going very tough. “It was always going to be advantageous to the shortest flyers as the weather was forecast to deteriorate the further the birds had to go.”

In the young bird race there was an entry of 1176 birds sent by 128 members, and provisional section winners are:

Section A - Mr & Mrs P Shaw. Section B - Mr & Mrs R Rout. Section C - R Knight & Sons. Section E - L Berry & Sons. Section F - Moore & Ransome. Section H - M Connolly & Son. Section I - Mr & Mrs Christensen.