But experience has taught us that sometimes a wait and see attitude is better; however the Grootbosch guest house near the liberation point was booked for the whole weekend just in case the race had to be postponed or moved.
One thing all pigeons fanciers across the globe have in common is they are all amateur meteorologists; able to read satellite images, radar images, synoptic charts, wind and temperature maps and know the web address of every possible weather forecasting site.
As the week progressed the forecast changed to a slight chance of rain in the early morning and moderate head winds during the day and as such the decision was made on Thursday evening to basket on Friday for the Hot Spot Car Race on Saturday. Basketing of the pigeons went well, with the pigeons now used to the routine of entering the baskets. The time taken is now a third of what it was just a few short weeks ago.
The journey down was uneventful. Comment was made how good the rains have been this year with the countryside and farm fields a shade of green rarely seen in South Africa. On arrival at Grootbosch Guest House the pigeons were given food and water and settled in the for night.
Bright and early the next morning the pigeons were given water and the truck left for the liberation point.
In clear skies and a slight head wind the 4092 pigeons were liberated at 05:45. Dave reported they left the transporter well, circled a few times and made a bee line for home some 224km away. And so the wait started with reports coming in of very strong head winds in places but generally light over most of the flight route with lots of cloud cover.
Back at the lofts the braai fires were started while fanciers gathered to watch the returning pigeons. As always there was much speculation at the time of arrival of the pigeons ranging from an optimistic 08:30 to a pessimistic 10:00. Corrie and Andre guessed the time at 09:15 and to everyone’s surprize the first pack appear just after 09:00, straight in line with the liberation point. They circled the lofts and landed, shook their feathers, almost as if saying hello to those watching, and walked into the lofts.
The first three pigeons in, less than two seconds apart, were from Slovakia, Kuwait and the USA; unfortunately Lenka Machara’s pigeon Matus was not entered into the race and Al-Abraq Loft’s Al Mansouri Three takes the motor vehicle clocking in at 09:02:33.69. Once again the true international aspect of the race was shown with the top 10 representing seven different countries.
The first three pigeons
The rest of the morning saw small packs of pigeons arriving constantly and by 10:00 2086 pigeons were safely home enjoying food and water in the comfort of their lofts. By nightfall 3856 pigeons had returned safely to the lofts leaving 236 pigeons to sleep out and make their way home in the morning. Even this small number of pigeons was enough to give Andre a sleepless night and at 04:50 he decided it was time to start the timing system again. Sunday saw another 84 pigeons returning.
The week ahead looks to prove challenging, with rain set in for a few days, however the training of the pigeons will be amended as needed to ensure each and every pigeon has the best opportunity to success in the main race, which is now only a short 7 weeks away.