A true icon of British long distance racing – Dave Delea (Rainham, UK) wins 1st BICC Barcelona 2015

As a young fancier growing up in the pigeon sport, I would look forward to the long summer months when the long distance races would take place. There, the experts of this discipline would do battle from race-points such as Pau, Dax, Lourdes and Barcelona.

Dave Delea (photograph courtesy of Chris Sutton)

Dave Delea was one such expert who demonstrated his skill once again in the Barcelona race in 2015 by winning 1st British International Championship Club, 95th open international. Dave, an experienced fancier of some 60 years has dedicated his spare time to the marathon element of our great sport. The Delea family have a strong connection with competitive sport as Dave’s father and brother were semi-professional footballers whilst his son is an international triathlete. The training and nutrition involved with competition has impacted Dave’s management and has helped him remain as one of the true masters of racing in the UK.

An old English family

Born in 1941, Dave began pigeon racing as a teenager along with his brother, and fellow ace long distance fancier, Paul. Following this initial education playing with the pigeons, the long distance bug bit and so Dave began to acquire birds capable of achieving his ambitions. He acquired birds from local ace fanciers Gerald McAllister and Ray Wilson who were regularly clocking pigeons from the Scottish race-points that Dave dreamed of winning. They were of no specific breed; Dave simply calls them old English pigeons! Whilst not being ‘fashionable’, Dave quickly learned that these birds had excellent racing and homing ability and thus very few introductions have been made since these early days.

1st combine Lerwick for Dave Delea

Armed with a team of tried and tested racers and having the ability to condition and prepare a pigeon to win at the distance, success soon came with the highlight being 1st combine Lerwick after a near 17 hour fly. A change of route was made in 1977 when the Delea brothers became two of the early members of the BICC. Once again, Dave put complete trust in his established ‘English’ family and once again they soon repaid his faith. Flying with the National Flying Club and the BICC, Dave’s team of pathfinders have recorded the following positions:

Barcelona        open    1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 15, 17, 19.

Marseilles       open    2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 14, 17.

Pau              section 1, 1, 2, 3, 4

                 open    1, 7, 9, 10, 34.

Narbonne         open    1.

Lourdes          open    1, 3, 4, 9, 11, 15.

Dax              open    1

In addition to the above prizes and a plethora of minor positions, Dave has also won trophies for the best two bird averages from Barcelona and Perpignan, Dax and Pau and Barcelona and Pau. His team has also won the famous Langstone Gold Cup; awarded to the fancier with the best 1st bird average in races over the National Flying Club programme each season.

Back to basics

The team are housed in a very natural environment. All birds, old and young, are exercised together each morning and will fly for up to ninety minutes. They are then given an open loft to come and go as they please and spend part of their day picking in the local fields that surround the Delea loft. The birds are housed in the original Kidby loft that Dave has raced to for longer than he cares to remember. Dave even remarks that there are roses growing in part of the structure! However this natural environment is obviously a contented environment for the Delea team as time and time again, they have managed to break away from the convey and score a prize high up on the national or international prize list.

The original Kidby racing loft of Dave Delea

The feeding system employed by Dave is, like his racing system, kept simple yet efficient. Like many long distance enthusiasts, farm beans form the staple diet along with maize and barley straight from local farms. To this he adds branded mixes at different times of the year to add variety to the birds’ diet. Dave places great emphasis on the use of fats in the build up to his pigeons’ target races and he therefore adds small seeds to his mix at this time. Here we can see how Dave has been able to adapt his methods in light of modern scientific research to maintain pace with, and often get ahead of, his competitors.

A family effort

As well as the initials D. A. Delea, long distance enthusiasts will also recognise the initials P. C. Delea in race results. Dave attributes much of his success to his close relationship with his brother. In fact, the brothers see each other’s lofts as merely an extension of their own! As Dave does not race in a club, the brothers train their pigeons together in preparation for the national races. They also exchange and swap pigeons to give their respective lines vigour and speed. They also of course exchange ideas and information with each other however most importantly they spur each other on to win each race-day.

Paul Delea (right) after his own Barcelona win

Only the fittest survive

In pigeon racing terms, Dave Delea is a national British treasure. His methods are simple yet organised and effective and he has shown that he has the ability to keep on evolving his methods. He has shown great trust and faith in his old English family and likewise they have rewarded him with some truly special performances during his time in the sport. Readers may refer to his selection methods as Darwinism or survival of the fittest. His yearlings for example are expected to fly 500 miles and many achieve good positions. This policy of sending yearlings to close on 600 miles was to bring about the King’s Cup winning performance from Pau at 565 miles in 1988 with a yearling blue hen, Greenacres Florence. Congratulation Dave on another magical performance; you are a true icon of British long distance pigeon racing.

1st NFC Pau for Dave Delea (photograph courtesy of Keith Mott)