We arrived at the airport of Porto, where Rui Repas was waiting to drive us to the hotel. Rui is an employee of the Portuguese Racing Pigeon Federation and is a great support to coordinate the one loft race. This one loft race was established in 1997 and this year's edition was the 20th. Pigeon fanciers from all over the world - nineteen countries in total - participated this year and hoped to achieve everlasting glory in Mira.
Rui Repas in front of the lofts, which can house 2,000 pigeons
There are two loft managers who take care of the pigeons during their stay. The Federation is proud of its race and sees its transparency as one of its trump cards. All information on participants, training sessions, basketing, rankings, final race criteria, etc is displayed here on the website of the Portuguese Racing Pigeon Federation. In short, they don’t have anything to hide. With regard to security, they have two dogs instead of cameras. So when nobody is at the lofts, the premises are closed and the dogs keep an eye on them. If there's a sick pigeon, a separate cage is foreseen.
The pigeons' guard and hospital
If we take a look at the map of Portugal, Mira is situated more or less vertically in the centre of Portugal and horizontally near the coastline. The city belongs to the district of Coimbra and is well known for its fishing. Especially cod (bacalhau in Portuguese) is a fish you can find in every restaurant there.
Workers sort the fish at the beach of Praia de Mira
Visit to the district of Aveiro
Along the Aveiro canals
The day before the final race, a trip was organised so everyone could get to know each other. A bus picked us up at the Quinta da Lagoa hotel where all the invitees were staying. This year the organisation chose for a trip in and near Aveiro. This is a district in Portugal, the capital city of which is also named Aveiro. It took us 30 minutes to drive from Mira to Aveiro by bus.
Aveiro has about 50,000 inhabitants and is often called the Venice of Portugal because of the gondolas that sail the Aveiro canals. These gondolas are called moliceiros and thank their name to the Portuguese word molico, which means seaweed. We enjoyed a trip on the canals of Aveiro, passing the typical houses with tiled walls to protect them against the salt. In the past, the moliceiros transported the seaweed to the fields to use it as manure.
The moliceros sailed us past the houses with their typical tiles
Secondly, the moliceiros also used to transport sea salt. Salt extraction has been a traditional trade in Aveiro for a long time. That’s why there is also an open-air museum near the saltpans where the salt production takes place. A guide provided us with information about the salt extraction process. However, the salt production nowadays is decreasing because less people are involved in the salt extraction. You can find salt pyramids there and have the possibility of buying some salt.
The guide talking about the saltpans and salt pyramids
After this informative trip, we were hosted to join a pastry workshop (oficina do doce) to taste the delicious ovos molos. This is a typical Portuguese pastry which originated from the nuns in the convent of Aveiro 500 years ago. Today, the ovos molos are still being produced according to the original recipe. The main ingredients are sugar and eggs. No preservatives are added to the ovos molos, meaning they need to be eaten within fifteen days. However, the teacher assured us we won’t need fifteen days to eat them, fifteen minutes would be sufficient. And yes indeed, they did taste really well!
Filling the mould with the eggs and sugar mixture, with the final result
Introduction to Portugal’s porcelain
After having lunch, our next stop was a visit to the Vista Alegre porcelain factory. Portugal produces about eighteen per cent of the world's porcelain. The original factory was rebuilt into a porcelain museum. In the nineteenth century, there was an entire community living in and near the factory.
A chapel called Nossa Senhora da Penha de França belongs to the area as well and is one of Portugal's national monuments. The museum itself exposes many porcelain articles such as classic and modern pieces. The porcelain is still decorated by hand.
The factory and the chapel with a breathtaking interior
Modern and classic pieces of porcelain; even pigeons are exposed in the museum
Basketing of the pigeons
After this sunny day in good company, we were invited to attend the basketing of the pigeons. Eventually 869 pigeons were basketed on Friday evening. Many emloyees of the federation were enthusiastic about putting the birds in the basket. After basketing, a truck brought the pigeons to the liberation site in Dogueno. Initially, 400 km were to be covered but due to the hot weather circumstances in the southern part of Portugal, the organisation decided to shorten the race to 342 km. A dinner with the delegation was a perfect end of the day.
Volunteers of the Portuguese Federation lent a hand during the basketing
A truck brought the pigeons to Dogueno in the Algarve region
On Saturday, we were focused on the final race and curious which fancier or partnership would succeed last year’s winners Team Sylt (Germany). The pigeons were liberated at 6:40. The temperature in Dogueno was 20°C in the early morning with good visibility and wind blowing from the northwest. During the race, the temperatures had increased. According to some experts, the first pigeons were expected to arrive between 12:00 and 12:30. We arrived at the lofts at 10:30 and saw spectators arriving bit by bit. For many people in and near the city, the final race in Mira is a festival. The lofts were surrounded by many cosy bars and places to eat. In the VIP tent an extensive lunch was provided for the invitees. Nevertheless, most of the visitors seemed to be more excited about seeing the first arrival.
Some market vendors selling their fruit while visitors are having a drink
Last year's winners Team Sylt, one of the many people in the VIP tent
At 12:41:01, the first pigeons arrived and dove for the sputnik like rockets. They sat on the landing board for a few moments and in the end the first pigeon to enter was a Portuguese one. For the tenth time in the Mira One Loft Race history, a Portuguese fancier won the final race, followed by a Swiss and Hungarian colleague. The winning pigeon covered the 342 km with an average speed of 947,298 mpm. It was obviously the winner's lucky day as he only entered one pigeon in the race.
Arrival of the first pigeons
The winning fancier in front of the olympic rings and giving an interview some moments later
It must have been a tough race as the pigeons arrived in dribs and drabs. While some reporters were interviewing the winner, more pigeons arrived. The first Belgian pigeon, one from Emiel Denys, was clocked 4th in the race. Below is an overview of the top 10. During the afternoon, the first pigeons were sold publicly.
We finished our trip with a dinner, followed by the prize ceremony in the Quinta da Lagoa hotel. There were winners in several categories:
- FCI Grand Prix
- Ace Pigeon Ranking
- Team Ranking
- European Championship
- Ace Pigeon Ranking
- European Youth Championship
- Ace Pigeon Ranking
- National Champions League
- Ace Pigeon Ranking
After the speech of Mr. José Luis Jacinto, the President of the Portuguese Federation, several awards were given
Dinner at the hotel with the delegations of the different countries
Last but not least, we would like to thank the organisation for their invitation. We were glad to be there and hope for another successful race next year!