INFC Gold Medal –
Members of the Irish National Flying Club can claim to fly the hardest route in Europe from France into Ireland, the coveted Gold Medal is awarded to any pigeon that has been four times an Open prize-winner from the Kings Cup, known as the OB Grand National with an Open prize list of 250 prizes, the Gold Medal winner needs to be in the first 10% of the total entry 2,500 to 3,000 pigeons.
Let me give you the history of this great award. 1982 was the first year that the Gold Medal was won and in fact we had two winners. Gordon Kirkpatrick of Ballymacbrennan and John McCartan of Annalong and both winners were cocks. By the year 2011 the total number of Gold Medals won was nine, the others being Ron Williamson of Bondhill with a hen, Frank Scott of Dromore with a hen, John Catherwood of Ballynahinch with a cock, Paddy Burns of Dundonald with a hen, Jackie Waring of Lisburn with a cock, Michael Conlon of Banbridge with a cock, Gordon Kirkpatrick of Ballymacbrennan with a cock the first fancier to win a second Gold Medal, cocks 6 and hens three.
The 2012 Kings Cup from Vannes was a very difficult Kings Cup with only 71 birds recorded over three days yet we had two Gold Medal winners bringing the total won after 30 years to 11. N Black & Son of Dromara former Kings Cup winner, four times the Harkness Rose Bowl, and INFC Nat Champion for the last two years. Winning the Gold Medal has long been on the Blacks most wanted list and one they have been keen to add to their CV. They had previously come close to winning a Gold Medal in 1996 when they had two pigeons, Hall of Fame winners in the Kings Cup but they did not make the Open result.
Their Gold Medal winner was hatched in 2007 and is a Blue cock called Big Darren after Darren Clarke the 2011 Open Golf Champion. His sire is from the Blacks 1st & 2nd Kings Cup paired together while the dam is from the 23 Cock sire of Annie Mary when paired to a half-sister of Mothers Pride 2nd Open Kings Cup Redon 2000. A half-brother was 8th Open Vannes 2011 and 5th Open Vannes 2012 winning an INFC Merit Award Diploma. Big Darren raced natural as a young bird and had two races from 122 miles and 155 miles, as a yearling he again had two inland races plus Talbenny. As a 2yo he was sent to Fermoy 190 miles, then Talbenny 187 miles, and then to Vannes Kings Cup winning 294th Open INFC 770 members sent 2,619 birds. When he was a 3yo the Blacks followed much the same programme Clonmel and Fermoy then Talbenny before going to the Kings Cup to win 151st Open INFC 741/2,512. In 2011 a similar programme was followed by the Blacks three inland races this time followed by Talbenny before going to Vannes for the Kings Cup winning 201st Open INFC 820/2,792 and the Hall of Fame Diploma.
In 2009 and 2010 he was paired to the same hen that won 6th Open INFC Kings Cup, they were sent sitting 12 days on eggs. This year when going to the Kings Cup he was sent after four inland races and Talbenny going to the Kings Cup sitting a one day old YB. The race was to turn out the hardest for five years and only 71 were recorded in race time of three days. Big Darren was again clocked to win 51st Open INFC 794/2,783 and the coveted Gold Medal was added to the Blacks CV. He was flown one hour night and morning plus as many 45 mile tosses as possible on good days. In 2011 his Hall of Fame year he returned with the right hand side of his back torn by a BOP and this year he again returned with his other side torn out. The feeding is supplied by Frazers mainly Continental Widow-hood plus high energy just before basketing. He would have a few peanuts at dusk each night, Cider Vinegar is used in the drinkers regulary plus Multi Vitamins twice a week. All the birds have Flax Oil on the corn plus Pink Minerals to dry it off, two or three times a week.
Big Darren has bred 17th Open INFC Friendship Nat 2011 and 30th Open INFC Kings Cup Vannes 2012. Could be a big future in this line.
The second Gold Medal winner in 2012 was bred and raced by Wesley Sawyers of Banbridge with a Red Cheq hen hatched in 2003 and the winning of this coveted award is in itself a remarkable story. Now known as Mourneview Helen she first went to the Kings Cup in 2005 as a 2yo, the race was flown from Messac. It turned out a very hard race won by Maurice Wilkinson of Wilton Cross (Lurgan) with Champion Mowo. Only 108 birds were recorded in race time (three days) and Helen won 107th Open INFC 703/2,048 recording velocity 309ypm. Vannes was the race-point for the 2006 Kings Cup race and this was a much quicker race as the winner was clocked on the day with a winning velocity of 1234ypm. Helen was clocked in race time but missed out in the Open prize list.
The National Club and its membership suffered a major set-back when they were unable to fly the Kings Cup in 2007 & 2008 for various reasons. Wesley prepared the Red hen for another attempt at the Kings Cup to be flown from Vannes in 2010 741/2,513. The hen was back on form and went on to win 134th Open INFC as a 7yo. The training followed much the same pattern as Blacks Gold Medal winner. Two or three inland races, Talbenny and then on to the Kings Cup. She also flew one hour morning and night at the home loft. When Wesley was training her it was always against the wind in Donaghadee, Skerries and Portrush.
In 2011 the Kings Cup flown again from Vannes was another good race and Helen as she got older produced her best result to date winning 58th Open INFC 820/2,792 on a velocity of 1052ypm. This performance earned her the INFC Hall of Fame Diploma and now it was on the 2012 in search of a Gold Medal. 2012 and the race was again flown from Vannes974/2,783 , it was not a good one and just 71 birds made home lofts in the race time of three days. Mourneview Helen was to record her best position after five times flying the Kings Cup winning 41st Open INFC and the coveted INFC Gold Medal. A half-brother won 73rd Open INFC Quimper OB Nat 2012 on a velocity of 560ypm to complete a great year for the Sawyer loft.
With the Gold Medal being introduced in 1082 it was to come too late for one of the great pigeons in the history of the INFC, Leading Lady bred and raced by Smyth Bros of Ballymena. This brilliant Kenyon hen won in her career 4th, 6th, 9th and 25th Open INFC in Kings Cup races. 1954: 21st Open Redon, 1955: 4th Open Redon, 1956: 6th Open Rennes, 1957: 9th Open Redon. This great pigeon also won 1st Sect & 2nd Open Bude. Its always difficult to judge the present day Champions against the Champions of the past years. In the cocks Section I go for Hermes two Hall of Fame Diplomas and for the hen Section Leading Lady.
The Irish pigeons fly the hardest route from France to Ireland having to negotiate two Channels, who says so! Brian Newson the renouned columnist in a recent article confirmed that the Irish pigeons are faced with the hardest route. Let me finish with the final word on the Gold Medal, 11 have now been won and cocks still hold the upper hand with 7 wins to the hens four. Irish Rover.
Part of RP Column 18/10/13
INFC Gold Medal – One of the most coveted awards within the INFC is the Gold Medal awarded to any pigeon four times an Open Prize-winner from the Kings Cup Grand National. Over a period of some 30 years only 13 have been won and in 2013 another one can be added to the total. John Greenaway of Bondhill is the fancier that wins a Gold Medal in 2013 with the 5yo Blue cock “Iron Man”. His record: 2010 – 145th Open INFC Plaudren-Vannes 741/2512, 2011 – 241st Open INFC Plaudren-Vannes 820/2792, 2012 – 34th Open INFC Plaudren-Vannes 793/2782, 2013 – 159th Open INFC Saint Allouestre 656/2332. The Kings Cup has an Open Prize-list of 250 positions. John won the Hall of Fame with this bird last year and previously with his good Blue hen “Champion Iron Lady”.