The build-up and anticipation for the first NRCC race of the season did not disappoint. With the marking stations filling up from the moment the doors opened the stage was certainly set and the buzz of conversations between those waiting patiently in line focused mainly on what the thoughts were on the impending race. The following brief from the NRCC’s treasurer and race secretary, Ian Bellamy, will give you an idea of the communication, dedication and commitment that goes on behind the scenes of the NRCC that makes it such a pleasure to be a part of: NRCC convoyeur Darren Shepherd rang me at 10.45pm on Friday night to say that they had arrived at Dunbar and that the water was on for the birds to drink. Saturday morning there was low cloud and mist down the line of flight so Darren and Merv decided to wait until the weather improved. Darren rang me later to tell me that they had liberated the birds at 9.45am into a light North East wind. Darren informs me that the 1771 birds left the site straight away and were on their way home. Saturday was always going to be a difficult day for me as I have recently lost my wife (she always looked for the birds for me) so today I was a one-man band trying to juggle the online verifications, looking for the birds and making sure I kept my fluid levels up. The first verification received was from section B but fourth to verify was the eventual winner being the NRCC chairman Paul Crooks who timed at 14.22 with a two-year-old pigeon closely followed by a second arrival which looks likely to take second open. There was a steady flow of verifications throughout the afternoon and by 18.30 some 144 members had verified their first pigeons out of an entry of 162 members. Outstanding performances of the day obviously goes to Paul Crooks who will be provisionally 1st Open and 1st section A, congratulations to you Paul. Provisional winner of section H is John Lamprell whose gallant bird appears at 6th on the provisional list and this bird flew nearly 100 miles further than the winning bird. Also 7th on the provisional list is the consistent loft of D Wilton and son whose bird flew 115 miles further than the winning bird and will win section I. I am sure you will agree two excellent performances. The coming week will see the results from the many clock stations dropping through my letterbox and it won’t be long before the next race is upon us being Perth on June 3rd. An update on those section winners and accompanying reports will follow this article in the near future however, the real focus on this piece must be given to Paul Crooks for his outstanding performance. As the times and sections were appearing on the NRCC website, it was clear to see the birds had followed the flow of the wind inland with the ‘section A’ flyers from in and around the Nottingham area dominating the top five positions but with Paul Crooks holding on fast to the top spot. I managed to catch up with Paul the day after the race on a video chat on a phone that was probably a bit hot like the bat phone by the time I spoke with him, with well-wishers calling him to congratulate him on his win. Nothing was more obvious than the sheer delight on Pauls face as I took the details of his winning bird, and quite frankly, who wouldn’t be delighted. With an interest in racing pigeons that spans back some 59 years after being introduced into it by a school mate, patience has definitely been a virtue and has paid off with Pauls aim to take the number one position in an NRCC race, coming to fruition. Having won his section from all of the other NRCC race points, except Dunbar, this win is the icing that tops a well-deserved cake. Pauls winning bird is a two-year-old chequer hen who topped the Notts fed and won the gold medal when entered into the young bird championship race in 2021 and also previously won a club race from Darlington. A Herman Ceuster bred from a dam, direct from the exceptional Belgian lofts of Johan Van Herck with its line of breeding going back to Olympiad 003 and the sire bred by one of Johan Van Dercks mates, this little hen has certainly proved herself to be a winner. In addition to her success, this same pairing has also bred Paul a section winner. Ironically, Paul thought he was behind on the day of the race, judging his pigeon’s performance by the times of his returning birds from the other fed races he’d sent to earlier in the day. He told me that there was nothing special or additional in his preparation for this race but puts her eagerness to get home, down to being jealous of another hen in the loft which ironically, he didn’t pick up on until after she’d made it home from the race. Another thing that must not be ignored here is Pauls second pigeon, also a Herman Ceuster hen an original ancestor from John Wheatcroft’s 25 cock that was raced by Trevor Taylor of Great Ayton, that has provisionally taken second open in the Dunbar race. Her jealousy and dominance of her place in the loft was so aggressive it meant her being taken to the Calverton marking station in a box on her own to stop her fighting! The system Paul is racing on is the chaos system with both hens and cocks being trained together, albeit they are released at separate times, by the time Pauls returns to the loft, both sexes are there together. Before finishing up, Paul would like to say a thank you to Kevin Lawson and Ray Knight for their support and advice with feeding and management and also to Kev Spiers who made Paul aware of these pigeons at the sale in Bevel. A thank you must also go to everyone who pitched in at the marking stations to make it a smooth and professional operation and to Merv and Darren for their continued transparency when reporting back to the NRCC members on their journey to race points and updates of information on the bird’s welfare and expectations regarding the liberation. Well done to all members who sent to this race and who topped their sections.