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Mark Gilbert (Windsor, UK) 6 times 1st National in 2018!

What can i write of the man who has won twenty seven 1st National events to date, clocking up six 1st Nationals and two 2nd National in 2018 alone. An achievement that very few fanciers, if any, can say they have done in a lifetime, let alone in one year!

If you have no idea who i am speaking of, then you are probably not racing pigeons or have sent yourself to a deserted island some where and removed yourself from the comings and goings of the world. Enlightenment could possibly be obtained by such long remote days of contemplation in paradise, but, you would of course have missed out on the extraordinary achievements of Mark Gilbert of Windsor. UK, and his Internationally acclaimed Racing Pigeons. I don't intend to fill this column with reams of results as they should be common knowledge to any discerning fancier. Instead, I hope to reveal a little more of the man and his birds.

This gentle man has in recent years, produced results in National and International events that many would have not believed possible. However in the world of sports there are always men and women that are driven to improve on past performances. Some by their sheer determination and desire, and some by the grace of the supreme consciousness, and have no defining reason for their passion.

Whilst in Mark’s company however, I may conclude that he is somewhere between the two, a bit of an enigma one might say. Clearly he is driven, and being first across the line is the goal, but when asked what really drives him? it seems his motivation is “to achieve what has not yet been done”

To tell him he can’t do something, would spur him on, to see if it really could be done.

Global weather conditions have changed dramatically in my lifetime and in the last decade, pigeon racing and the changing weather, has meant that many of the National and International events, have become even more difficult. This of course requires the fancier to produce super birds with new degrees of fitness, combining speed and stamina to compete in testing conditions.

Of course some of yesteryears methods, still work well today, but, improvement is inevitable in the world of sport, and fanciers like Mark, have sought out guidance from other forward thinking men in the sport, listened to their views, and then with his own natural aptitude, stepped out on his own, and boldly went where very few have gone before.

One can speak so highly of men like Mark because we are speaking of racing against the cream in National and International events. These events are primarily associated with the British International Championship Club and The National Flying Club.

The BICC has offered Mark the best platform for him, and others like him, to test the birds Internationally. International events are no ‘walk in the park’. Here though, is where Mark’s birds have raised the bar significantly. To give an indication as to how high it has been raised, let’s take a quick look at just two performance  birds in 2018.

Iron Man

Iron Man GB16E 26322 Sent with the British Barcelona Club he flew the  Palamos (Spain) National on June the 22nd. A distance of 685 miles and achieved 2nd section D. 7th National.

On the 20th of July he went to Marseille International, a distance of 653 miles where he scored 1st Sect: 2nd National BICC. For most fanciers, that would be more than enough! However, Mark said he was so fresh when he dropped from Marseille. The next day, Iron Man put in two 45-minute exercise periods around the loft.

Mark had no intention of racing him again at this point, but, after three days at home he was still flying longer than his loft mates. Mark then knew he was supremely fit and was blossoming despite the miles he had already flown. Then, just nine days after returning from Marseilles he was entered into the Perpignan International, a distance of 634 miles. With near record temperatures in central France, and yet another north east wind, on the second day this tenacious Blue super racer, wins 1st  British International Championship Club in one of the most difficult races for years. Many top lofts in Europe recognized the degree of difficulty for all, especially UK flyers. Southfield Iron Man truly earned his name with these unprecedented performances.

Southfield Hugo

This wonderful Blue Cheque Cock scored 49th national Poitiers on the 9th June in the most difficult race to date from this race point.

On the 7th July Hugo triumphed from Marks biggest challenge race point, the most prestigious Barcelona International at 703 miles, and won 1st National and 104th International against 15,707 birds. That’s, fifteen thousand seven hundred and seven birds, competing in what is possibly the most difficult and most prestigious race in the European calendar.

This was the icing on the cake for Hugo as the year before he won 1st National Perpignan 634 miles.

New challenges

For Mark though, there is always another challenge around the corner.

I have made several visits to the lofts of Mark Gilbert and his ability to recall each bird and its performances is quite remarkable. His energy and enthusiasm is hard to keep up with.

In this sport, Life moves through him with a passion, and he can speak about the pigeons for many hours. There are no fancy tricks or pills and potions and no secrets. He will impart an answer to any question, willingly and with modesty. In fact Mark welcomes the idea that others would be willing to challenge him in the races. The more the merrier he says. Improving the chances of the UK birds in International events.

Its a fact that the UK fanciers have been willing to have a go for many years inspired by people like George Stubbs who was 3rd International Barcelona “back in the day”. More recently though, Mark Gilbert has shown you need not to fear the challenge. It can be done, and has been done. This kind of positive thinking is the way of this inspiring and iconic fancier.

Mark has the birds to do the job, through his prudent selection of breeders and natural ability to produce the required fitness for them to perform with amazing regularity.

On a personal note I have little time for critical comments about his wealth, and the amount of birds sent. There are many others of a similar nature in the sport, and I prefer to look upon such men as pioneers, and men of substance. If you apply yourself you can “up your own game” to compete along side them. It is not only about being first, one can gain great enjoyment simply by competing at the highest level and improving on what you have personally achieved before. If you don't send you cant win anyway!

My feeling is, Mark has his sights set on winning outright, the Barcelona International. Can it be done in the UK? If any one can Mark can! So watch this space in Windsor! With only 103 birds in front of him this year, it does seem the odds have improved. Congratulations Mark on a fabulous year of National &  International racing.