What is the connection you ask? Well, I hope to show one, as linking of these two subjects, I think, defines the major struggle our sport faces from within.
The winning bird in the 2004 Barcelona International race, flew 683.805 miles at a speed of 1485.78 ypm, winning the race by more than an hour against 24,970 birds. The winner is a four year old cock named "Barcelona Rambo" NL 00-2427013. He was lightly flown for his first four years and was allowed to develop fully before being sent to the Barcelona race. I do not know what this bird will sell for, but the price has ranged from $125,000 - $200,000+ in recent years.
The owners of "Barcelona Rambo" are Hub Vrosch and Mia Meijers from Heerlen, the Netherlands. This was not an accidental result for them. They sent four birds to this race and all four won early prizes. They also, had other good positions in earlier long distance competitions, including: 1st Nat. Marseille ‘00 5,739 p., 2nd Nat. Dax 8,243 p., 3rd Nat. Dax 16,046 p., 3rd Nat. Dax 12,186 p., 4th Nat. Barcelona 5,229 p., 6th Nat. Bordeaux 5,172 p., 10th Nat. Dax 13,308 p., 12th Nat. Bergerac 22,510 p., 13th Nat. Bergerac 22,510 p., 15th Internat. Barcelona 20,129 p., 15th Nat. Bordeaux, 4,878 p., 18th Nat. Marseille 4,601 p., 21st Nat. Barcelona 8,140 p., 26th Nat. Soustons 12,579 p., 27th Nat. Barcelona 8,582 p., and the 1st International Barcelona ’04, 24,970 p. All these races are between 525 - 680 miles!
For the average USA flyer, there is an axiom: to excel at youngbirds is to fail at old birds. I know that is a sweeping generalization, but the requirements to be a youngbirds specialist, mostly precludes one from establishing a competitive long distance race team. There certainly are exceptions and usually the exception is ~ to maintain a separate type of race bird for 'old birds' and long distance racing. Most USA flyers, have not been successful at mastering one let alone two distinctly different types of race bird.
Take a look at the race sheet. How many 'old birds' on the sheet are older than yearlings. Not many! Now, count the number of four year old birds on the race sheet. Probably, one in one hundred. Now, read below about what is considered one of the greatest race results of all time for the racing pigeon sport.
The Barcelona International race of 1987, is considered one of the hardest ever flown. After 13 days, the race was closed even though many prizes had not yet been awarded. Many famous fanciers were unable to place even one bird on the race sheet. However, Andre Vanbruaene performed a miracle; of the eight birds he sent, all eight placed at the top.
From 8 pigeons sent Vanbruaene won against 21,545 entries:
"WILLIAM" 3394597/82 ~ 101st
"EMPERADOR" 3371326/81 ~ 157th
"ODIN" 3366665/82 ~ 163rd
"DIPLOMAT" 3366423/82 ~ 217th
"MISTRAL" 3366382/82 ~ 260th
"MAJOOR" 3460460/81 ~ 273rd
"FAROEK" 3366493/82 ~ 313th
"JONGE KLAREN" 3366401/82 ~ 1847th
Take another look at these results, because I do not want you to miss something very important. These birds were all five and six years old! Do you understand this?
Andre Vanbruaene, is considered the greatest Barcelona International flyer of all time. Not only did he win the International Barcelona race twice, but on three other occasions the International winner was 50% Andre Vanbruaene. Yet, his greatest accomplishment is not the two wins, but the total outclassing of the best of Europe in the 1987 Barcelona race.
The 1987 results, showed without a doubt that the bloodline of Vanbruaene birds was deep. There was not one or two good birds on the race team, but the team of eight entries was without a doubt, far superior to that of the competition. Not one weak link was to be found on the team. Every bird performed exceptionally under the most severe circumstances. This one result more that all his other accomplishments proved what everyone already knew. The best colony of long distance racing pigeons in the world was to be found at the lofts of Andre Vanbruaene.
Not only that, but I again mention the age of these birds: five and six years old! This is another stellar trait of a good long distance family of birds, longevity. And, don't mistake thinking this was a quirk as all these birds had won top prizes time and time again. For example lets look at the record for Diplomat:
8th TOURS ~ 1,856 pigeons
149th LIMOGES National ~ 9,568 pigeons
1st Asduif fond "Belgische Pigeonsport"
1st Asduif fond "De Reisduif"
1st Asduif fond "KBDB" 5.42%
17th BRIVE National ~ 8,578 pigeons
161st CAHORS National ~ 4,582 pigeons
109th MONTAUBAN National ~ 3,458 pigeons
76th NARBONNE National ~ 3,368 pigeons
National Marathon Winner including:
116th BARCELONA International ~ 18,076 pigeons
217th BARCELONA International ~ 21,545 pigeons
The above brings to light a good point, the fancier that has the patience to develop a long distance family of birds will be rewarded year after year after year with consistent birds able to perform when others fall by the wayside.
Here is more information on "Barcelona Rambo". He was lightly trained his first four years, up until this year when he flew a 350+ mile race scoring 112th Provincial Bourges against 6,989 birds, and flew nearly 550 miles scoring 142nd Provincial Bordeaux against 6,012 birds. And, lest you think this was just the luck of the draw, lets take a look at his pedigree.
The grandsire of "Barcelona Rambo" is called "Rambo Barcelona" NL 94-2719115;
Rambo Barcelona NL 94-2719115
1997 : 173rd Nat ~ 7,047 p / 387th Intnat. 24,908 p.
1998 : 394th Nat ~ 6,292 p / 934th Intnat. 24,139 p.
1999 : 550th Nat ~ 8,140 p / 968th Intnat. 28,095 p.
2001 : 97th Nat ~ 7,567 p / 239th Intnat. 25,760 p.
2002 : 159th Nat ~ 8,713 p / 249th Intnat. 26,928 p.
Think about that: for five years this bird flew the 680 mile Barcelona race and over those five years his average placement was in the top 2.14% against an average of 26,000 birds per race. Again, take a look, his last race was as an eight year old and he finished in the top 1% against 27,000 birds. Truly, a fantastic race bird!
It gets more interesting: the "Rambo Barcelona" NL 94-2719115 was mated to his half-sister to produce the father of the 2004 Barcelona International winner. The mother of the International winner is off top Barcelona blood including "Barcelona 1" of Kuypers brothers. So, here we see that "like begets like".
Having flown in the Pacific Northwest, where our youngbirds season starts in mid-July, I have never given much value to the results of my youngbirds. I breed late and fly early. 'Youngbirds' is just a training ground for future race seasons. I know that for others who breed early and fly later in the season, that youngbirds can be a little more telling about the future worth of a bird. But for the most part, I consider youngbirds more of a necessary evil than a blessing. It allows a certain group in our sport to have their day, however, I think the emphasis placed on youngbirds has greatly increased losses and has diminished the physical quality and racing ability of old bird flyers.
Though this is not a hard and fast rule, I do hear from flyers that their old bird performances have no correlation to how the birds did in youngbirds. I know that is not universal for some of you, but many I talk to find that if they breed based on youngbirds performance, they are not breeding for qualities needed to compete successfully in old birds.
If there was one thing we could do for the sport that would help it immensely, it would be to cut back on the importance we place on youngbird racing. Because of the higher importance being placed on young bird racing, our losses have been greater than in the past years, as most losses occur in youngbirds. Also, by holding back we are better able to build up our old bird teams so that we are not always competing in old bird races with a majority of yearlings on the team.
Our sport would be better off, if we spent less time promoting youngbirds racing and more time reducing youngbirds losses. Our work loads would be greatly reduced if we raise less birds every year. Some would say that it is a numbers game, but I believe it is a breeding and handling game for those that have the insight and a numbers game for those that don't!
I had one of America's top seller of birds tell me that if he could, he would ship 200 birds to a yb race as the shear numbers would increase his odds of having a good one in the race and drag would help. I think that is the way some fly, they just grind out the numbers and hope that the numbers cash in for them. I am personally beginning to believe that a small team flyer may well have a better opportunity in youngbirds if they are not to far off the bowling alley. I don't think that numbers can overcome observation and preparedness.
Do you want to help the sport? Increase the number of two, three and four year old birds on your race team. In order to accomplish this goal, you will need to implement certain management techniques, that will in the end, not only increase your enjoyment of the sport, but will also serve to elevate the stature of our sport; in the eyes of the general public and in the eyes of prospective new members. Just one man's opinion!
P.S. You may be wondering if a second day race like this is fair to all flyers. Well, the national winners for Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France, all placed in the first five birds Internationally. That's right, all four national winners are in the Top Five Internationally. Now that is a fair race!