Team Leyen-Segers-Paloma Racing (Belgium) win the 2017 Derby Arona

The 2017 final of the Derby Arona, one of Europe's biggest one loft races, was held on Friday 24 March. This year's race was won by Team Leyen-Segers-Paloma Racing from Belgium, making it their second victory in three years' time after having taken the first prize in 2015.

Warm welcome

Just as in the previous years, Mr José Ledesma and his team had worked hard on making all fanciers attending the final race week feel welcome on the Canary island of Tenerife. The official programme started on Wednesday morning at 9am under a clear and sunny sky with the basketing of all final race entrants. About five hours later all 179 birds, which were in excellent health, were handed over to the security firm that was to stay with the birds in the next 48 hours, till the liberation in the south of Fuerteventura, an other Canary island located east of Tenerife. The birds arrived on site on Thursday noon where they were given food and water in preparation of next day's race. Thursday was concluded with a welcoming party in an excellent Canarian restaurant. The organisation and about 65 fanciers from all over the world enjoyed a traditional Canarian eight-course menu before being dropped off at their hotels late in the evening.

Perfect race weather, Belgian winners

The main event that every single fancier came to Tenerife for was scheduled on Friday morning. At 8.30am and after having checked the baskets and weather one last time, Abel Ledesma, José's brother, gave the sign to liberate all birds for their final race home. Under a blue and sunny sky and with a light north to northeasterly wind the pigeons crossed the Atlantic Ocean, heading for the racing lofts on Tenerife. In the meantime, all fanciers were on their way to the same lofts for breakfast and to await the return of their birds while having a drink and something to eat. A Spanish TV station was present as well to capture every single moment and broadcast the arrivals live.

As time progressed, the weather seemed to change for the worse. Dark clouds appeared but luckily it didn't rain. At 11.47am, the first flock of birds was spotted, immediately followed by a second group circling way up in the air. The first group consisted of twenty birds, two of which simultaneously touched the landing board first, quickly followed by the rest. After a few seconds, the first bird entered the loft and the 2017 winner's name popped up on the screen: Team Leyen-Segers-Paloma Racing. The pigeon called Martha 3 won the Belgian racing team their second victory in three years' time and the first prize of 120,000 euros. The top three was completed by Team Gregg (Slovakia), finishing second with less than a second behind the first, and Günter Schneemann (Germany). They won 25,000 and 15,000 euros respectively. With also a 7th, 11th and 18th place for Team Batenburg - PIPA Elite Center, Team Breese Pigeon Friends and Team Creemers & Son, Belgium was well represented in the top twenty. This year's race had a perfect progress with 67 pigeons being clocked within three minutes of the winner and 143 out of 179 birds having arrived home before nightfall on the first race day. Check out some movies of the final race here:

Red roses and carnival

The gala evening took place in the prestigious Mare Nostrum Hotel in the centre of Playa de Las Américas on Saturday evening. Hospitable as they are, the Ledesma family gave each and every woman a red rose when entering the hotel. After welcoming all guests, the three-course buffet was served and all winners were called to the stage to accept their trophies and other prizes while a carnival band was entertaining the crowd with some flawless dancing.

We would like to thank the entire Ledesma family for yet another splendid race and final race week programme. It has been an honour to be present and we look forward to going again next year.