The evening of Friday 14th June was extra special still, for it was the date that the United Kingdom claimed yet another international pigeon race victory! The victors and recording their second international race win were Geoff and Catherine Cooper of Peasedown St John. To make this performance extra special, the Coopers timed two more pigeons within one hour to place 8th and 16th in the provisional international result. They recorded another three birds the next day making it six birds home from an entry of eight; marathon racing at its best!
Racing loft of Geoff and Catherine Cooper
On hearing that their team of eight entrants had been liberated at Pau at 05:45 (GMT), Geoff and Catherine predicted that to be amongst the leaders of the race, they would need to time at 17:15 (GMT). How correct they were, proved when at 17:12 (GMT) they clocked their chequer white flight hen Wollongong to claim the international win and join an elite group of ace fanciers who can call themselves double international race winners. Allowing for overfly Wollongong was 30 minutes ahead of the next bird in the international result and Farmer George was over an hour ahead of the next bird when he won the international race from Bordeaux in 2011. These birds don't just win the race; they win it by a huge margin! Click here for the pedigree of Wollongong.
Wollongong, 1st International Pau 2013
This win is just the latest in a long list of victories that the Coopers have claimed in national and international pigeon racing. Geoff and Catherine’s infatuation with such events was created way back in 1976 when they recorded 1st section, 2nd open British Barcelona Club from Palamos in northern Spain, a race of 701 miles to their loft. Since this time they have achieved the following in UK national races:
National Flying Club
9th Open Guernsey 5th, 6th, 6th, 8th, 15th Open Nantes 7th Open Bordeaux 3rd, 7th 9th, 11th, 12th Open Pau 3rd, 5th, 7th, 12th, 16th, 20th, 48th, 58th, 104th Open Dax 3rd, 7th, 9th, 13th, 15th, 26th, 65th, 103rd Open Saintes 1st Open Tarbes 12th International Dax
British Barcelona Club
2nd Open Sennen Cove 2nd Open Rennes 6th Open Lamballe 2nd, 2nd, 10th Open Nantes 2nd, 6th Open Palamos
British International Championship Club
1st National Falaise (2005) 1st National Falaise (2008) 1st, 2nd, 3rd Guernsey National 2nd Pau National, 350th International 2nd, 2nd Perpignan National 86th International Perpignan (at seven years old) 1st International Agen 1st International Pau
Central Southern Classic
19th Open Ramsgate 4th, 6th Open Bergerac 5th, 6th Open Guernsey 6th, 9th Open Rennes 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 10th Open Nantes 2nd, 5th, 7th Open Saintes 4th Open Bergerac 6th, 10th Open Pau
Please note this is only a brief summary of the Open results achieved by the Coopers and does not include provincial victories of which there were six in 2012 alone.
Farmer George, winner of the 1st International Bordeaux 2011
A Family of Individuals
The Cooper family of birds can be traced back to the original R. and M. Venner family who was responsible for the Palamos performance in 1976. In 1980, Geoff and Catherine then began to introduce selected birds from the Deweerdt family of Kortemark, Belgium. Selected birds direct from the Deweerdt champions such as Emile, 1st International Bordeaux, Magnus, Sylvester and Iban were brought to Somerset with outstanding success. The blood of Emile can be found in nearly all of their champion racers. More recent introductions to make their mark are those obtained from Dax international winner Brian Sheppard (a son of Legend, the international winner) and fellow double international winner Mark Gilbert (a daughter of Southfield Supreme, the international winner). As can be seen in the pedigree of Wollongong, pigeons from Hans and Peter Brockamp have also been used as a cross into the original Cooper family to great effect. These birds have since been carefully blended together to create the Cooper strain that is responsible for these fantastic cross-Channel performances.
Quite often, when the birds fly across the Channel, they have to cope with bad weather and strong cross winds. This is what makes the British pigeons different to those racing to their lofts in mainland Europe. As their performances clearly justify, the Cooper pigeons have an inbred ability to break away from the drag which is so important in international racing where the main drag of birds fly up through France and then into Belgium, Germany and Holland. To win an international race in the UK, the pigeons have to head for home almost immediately from the liberation point; hugging the French coast before heading out into the sea for a fly often in excess of two hundred kilometres. This ability is what makes the Cooper thoroughbreds rare and precious!
Farm Boy, amazing racer winning 12th International Dax plus many top
national prizes and sire to Farmer George 1st International Bordeaux
George, a winner of 1st NFC Tarbes. Sire, grand sire and great grand sire to many outstanding pigeons
for the Coopers and those fortunate enough to obtain his descendants.
Like all of the old bird race team at Peasedown St John, Wollongong was raced on total widowhood. Along with her loftmates, she received three inland races before being entered into the cross-Channel events. With Geoff and Catherine’s passion now being international racing, these races are predominantly with the BICC. The birds are kept fit with twice daily exercise periods around their home. They are fed the Versele Laga range of corn in communal hoppers but are fed some hemp and fatty seeds individually in their nest boxes. The methods and management is kept as simple as is necessary; it is the birds that are special according to Geoff and Catherine!
Sharing the Success
For many, the true test of a family of birds is how they perform when raced by others. The Cooper birds have again excelled themselves in this regard as the following results justify:
1st International Dax, 2nd International Yearlings Bordeaux for Mark Gilbert 1st Grand National Pau for Harding Bros “Morning Glory” 2 x 2nd National Pau for Paul Kendal 1st National Saintes for Stan Dangerfield 1st Classic Pau for Witney and Reed 2 x 2nd National for Richard boylin 1st National Tarbes for Paul Kendal 7th National Tarbes for Paul Kendal 1st National Carentan for J & D Staddon 1st Classic Messac for A & S Thompson
Catherine & Geoff toasting to the international Pau victory
At the present time, Geoff and Catherine Cooper stand tall amongst the elite of international pigeon racers. Their loft location, positioned in the west of the UK, is far from ideal to achieve success in domestic competition let alone on the international stage. Yet despite this, armed with a team of truly magnificent, single-minded birds, they have become double international pigeon race winners. Geoff & Catherine Cooper’s latest international win places them in a unique position in European international pigeon racing as they can pair two international winners together - bred and raced by them; what a world-class pairing! However, the Coopers are not finished yet; they hope many more international winners will be spotted heading for home across the hills of Somerset in the not too distant future.