Robert Harris of Ramsgate with his son Alfie (photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)
Making steady progress
Followers of the long distance racing scene in the UK will have noticed the Harris name with impressive regularity during recent seasons. Racing with the BICC, he has recorded 1st open Perpignan, 2nd open Pau (79th open international), 6th open Pau, 6th open Marseille, 8th open Pau and 19th open Agen. These results have been achieved by a small team with Robbie often sending only a single entry to these international races. In addition to these national results, Robbie has achieved several 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes with the local Kent combine and thus year on year, Robbie has consistently achieved success against fanciers with far bigger teams of pigeons. His mantra is therefore very much quality over quantity.
A long distance breeding base
The origins of the pigeons raced by Robbie contain mainly the bloodlines of Piet Lazeroms and Bruggeman brothers. The Bruggeman genes can also be found in the BICC’s Marseille winner, David Hales and are thus making some impact on the long distance racing scene in the UK. The Lazeroms pigeons came via Robbie’s close friend Ernst Verheijen of Putten (Netherlands) when Ernst came to Robbie’s house collect one of his pigeons that had gone astray. As a token of appreciation, Ernst gifted Robbie a pair of yearlings and three youngsters. His words were “These will breed you very good pigeons for the long races” and how correct these words have been.
A modest team for international racing
The Harris race team normally consists of between 35 and 45 old birds. Yearlings receive three inland races up to 136 miles and are then put across the channel two to three times up to 275 miles. Following this education, they are put away until they are two year olds. Two year olds and over are pushed on to compete in the international races as Robbie is of the opinion that the birds need that extra bit of experience to pull away from the drag and cross the channel into England. Likewise, a team of between 35 and 45 young birds are reared annually. Robbie gives them 3 x 25 miles training flights before moving them on to 48 miles where they receive another five training flights. They are then considered ready for maybe two or three young bird races however Robbie is not too concerned with the results that his young team achieve; he is more concerned with what they have learned for their future racing careers.
Having a young family to attend to, time for the pigeons is at a premium and thus the Harris team are raced in a simple yet efficient manner. Robbie races his team on roundabout during the early part of the season and they are then normally repaired after the BICC Tours race at the end of May. However Robbie continued racing his team separated until later in the season in 2015 and it was only on the advice of his close friend and past BICC Pau winner John Chipperfield that he decided to repair the team. Sound advice indeed!
(photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)
A truly unique racing pigeon
The hen that won the BICC for Robbie has an interesting story. This is it in Robbie’s own words: “The winning pigeon for me is a four year old hen raced on the natural. She was unraced as a baby because she was lost off the loft one Saturday morning when I let the youngsters out forgetting that the Scottish National was liberated from Ypres the same morning. I was eventually two birds missing; one of which was reported in Ayrshire and the other reported the very same day in Edinburgh. She had travelled over 300 miles and had not even seen the inside of a training basket! The gentleman that had her in wanted to keep her so I said ok. He then gave her 2 x 10 mile training tosses after which she returned to him. However the next time he let her out, she broke away from his loft. I was on holiday in Ibiza when my friend who was looking after my birds phoned me and said he had let a pigeon in and when checking the ring number with me it was this hen that had flown singled up from Edinburgh as an untrained youngster!” At this point Robbie knew that he had something special on his hands and she has since gone on to become an ace racer winning, amongst other prizes, 6th open BICC Pau in 2014.
David defeats Goliath!
Reading a story such as this gives pigeon fanciers up and down the country hope and belief that we all have the potential to be a champion and compete with the best. Robbie Harris has proved that with a good breeding base and sound management this is possible. The virtue for any long distance racer is of course patience and belief in your pigeons and Robbie Harris has this in abundance. Congratulations Robbie; Ramsgate’s very own giant slayer!