PIPA's pre-season questions 2021 (part 4)

In this 4th part Philippe Dobbelaere, Wendela Wiersema, Bart Geerinckx and Rudi De Saer will be sharing their experiences with us.

We posed to them these familiar 8 questions as well:

  1. From whom did you learn the most about the pigeon sport? Who was your mentor?
  2. Which moment or achievement of your pigeon career are you the proudest of?
  3. What are your objectives for 2021, or what would you be satisfied with when the 2021 season is over?
  4. Who will be the big surprise of 2021 according to you?
  5. Imagine, tomorrow you are suddenly in charge of the National Pigeon Union, what would you want to change to the current pigeon sport?
  6. What is the greatest mistake that you have ever made with your own loft?
  7. The slogan goes "Pigeon sport, family sport". What is the attitude of your partner or family towards it?
  8. What is the ultimate tip that you want to give to a starting pigeon fancier?

Philippe Dobbelaere (Olsene, BE)

The pigeon sport has been spoon-fed to Philippe. Both his father and his grandfather were pigeon lovers, after all. Over time, he spread his own wings and with a small colony, he grew into one of the prominent fanciers in the area, and later also on the national level.

Philippe Dobbelaere with 'Robin'.

From whom did you learn the most about the pigeon sport? Who was your mentor?

I learned the most from my father, who I started pigeon racing with at fourteen years old.

Which moment or achievement of your pigeon career are you the proudest of?

That would be 2019, the 3rd place on a national race from Libourne with Robin, which also resulted in the 1st National Ace Pigeon Yearlings Long-Distance and Extremely Long Distance KBDB.

What are your objectives for 2021, or what would you be satisfied with when the 2021 season is over?

To try and get the pigeons into good shape and condition so that they can compete for the national top in the grand middle distance as well the long distance races.

Who will be the big surprise of 2021 according to you?

I really hope that the fanciers with a limited number of pigeons will be able to compete with the mass basketers, especially on the national grand middle distance races.

Imagine, tomorrow you are suddenly in charge of the National Pigeon Union, what would you want to change to the current pigeon sport?

I would release the pigeons for the races on the grand middle distance (Bourges, Chateauroux , Argenton) in zones. For example, westline, centerline and eastline. Nowadays, these races are far too dependent on wind and the great flocks in central Belgium. This would ensure that there are fewer losses (especially young pigeons), and better preparation for the national level, as well as bigger participation from the west side of the country (and likely the east side of the country when the wind comes from the east). Perhaps even different release places per zone. From Gueret and La Souterraine (for me roughly 550 km) this could be done for national races. This would be good for animal welfare. On the other hand, the new zone division as suggested at the national gathering is very good.

What is the greatest mistake that you have ever made with your own loft?

In 1989, the first year I played on my own, I submitted my form for the National Championship Beginners too late, and thus lost my 2nd place. Having said that, I am still making mistakes, which still influence the results. In other words, I am still learning every day.

The slogan goes "Pigeon sport, family sport". What is the attitude of your partner or family towards it?

I do the daily caretaking myself. My wife helps with the big cleaning of the lofts, cleaning the drinking troughs and nest bowls as well as helping to vaccinate against the pox. My children like to watch when the pigeons come home, so we make it a family thing.

What is the ultimate tip that you want to give to a starting pigeon fancier?

Do not make things hard on yourself by listening to everyone. Trust a few well-playing fanciers in your local area. First, learn how to play with young birds, optionally on the nest, this way you will master feeding them easier. After all, a pigeon with young in the nest, which trains properly and partakes in a race every week, is quite difficult to overfeed. After that, you can continue with widowhood.

Wendela Wiersema (Appingedam, NL)

Being only 24, Wendela Wiersema is one of the youngest faces in the pigeon sport, and yet she has been a part of it for longer than most would think. In 2007, she took the torch from her father, initially with her sister Elianne, who had to stop after the 2012 season due to allergy. Since 2013, Wendela has been playing fully under her own name.

Wendela Wiersema

From whom did you learn the most about the pigeon sport? Who was your mentor?

I learned the most from my father, who I joined in the loft from a young age. When we moved in 2007, I started keeping pigeons together with my sister. Our father guided us well when we did this.

Which moment or achievement of your pigeon career are you the proudest of?

In 2017, I became the 1st National Loft Champion Young Birds, something I am very proud of. In that same year, I became 2nd National Champion nominated Young Birds, 2nd, 3rd and 4th National Pigeon Champion Young Birds, and 5th National Champion middle distance.

What are your objectives for 2021, or what would you be satisfied with when the 2021 season is over?

Firstly, I hope that we can have a relatively normal season despite Covid so that all the races on the program can happen. Besides that, I am hoping for one or multiple province- or NPO victories. In addition, I hope to rank among the national champions once again.

Who will be the big surprise of 2021 according to you?

I hope it will be my buddy Michel Puister from Appingedam. About 2 years ago, he started with an almost completely new crew of pigeons, after which things have been going better and better. After having made some adjustments last year, I suspect that he will do even better this year, and I hope he will surprise many that way!

Imagine, tomorrow you are suddenly in charge of the National Pigeon Union, what would you want to change to the current pigeon sport?

The pigeon sport has been ageing pretty badly, and there are fewer and fewer members. Young people do not view the pigeon sport as attractive, outsiders see it as old fashioned and something for seniors to take part in. Also, many people do not know the pigeon sport exists. If I was in charge tomorrow within the National Pigeon Bond, I would like to think about how we could make the sport more attractive to young people so that the sport can keep existing within the Netherlands for a long time. For this to work, we would need to, amongst other things, have to make positive advertisements so that the pigeon sport becomes wider known. 

What is the greatest mistake that you have ever made with your own loft?

In my first years in the pigeon sport, my father was also still racing with pigeons, and because my father himself had to work that Friday afternoon, I also had to basket his pigeons. My dad told me that a certain young cock did not have to be basketed since he had only just come home from an earlier race. By accident, I left his brother home and did basket the pigeon that had to be loft on the loft. Luckily, this cock did (a little later) come back home.

The slogan goes "Pigeon sport, family sport". What is the attitude of your partner or family towards it?

My family has a rather positive outlook towards the pigeon sport. My father has had pigeons from a young age so he still enjoys the pigeon sport. Besides him, there are various other family members who keep pigeons. When I need help taking care of the pigeons, my parents and sister are always ready to help.

What is the ultimate tip that you want to give to a starting pigeon fancier?

Do not make things too difficult for yourself, and find a system that works well for you. Also, try to stay away from medicines as much as possible. When you have to cure your pigeons often, this likely has an underlying cause, and this is what you need to take care of.

Bart Geerinckx (Wommelgem, BE)

The Geerinckx loft has been firmly at the top of the Belgian pigeon sport for ages. The descendants of, among others, Gladiator or Little Star, have had endless achievements, but  Bart remains down to earth and focused on the facts when we posted him our 8 pre-season questions.

Bart Geerinckx

From whom did you learn the most about the pigeon sport? Who was your mentor?

All the way back at the start, I naturally learned the most from my father, who taught me all the basics of our sport, and as I grew older, I read a lot about the pigeon sport and kept my ears open among other good fanciers. There is always something to learn; he who thinks he knows everything is guaranteed to slip up. In the last few years, I learned so much from my good friend, Eddy Noël, of the Aidi pigeon feeders, with whom I am very satisfied.

Which moment or achievement of your pigeon career are you the proudest of?

Winning the title of National Age Pigeon with Little Star, as well as all of the Olympic Pigeons I have been able to win. Honestly, I am always proud and filled with amazement for a pigeon that is able to shake a top achievement from her wings, that is what we do it for after all.

But what also makes me proud is that other people can achieve top results with my family of pigeons, which brings me almost as much joy as when I win myself.

What are your objectives for 2021, or what would you be satisfied with when the 2021 season is over?

I am gonna try to do my very best for the entire season, and have as much fun as possible while doing it, and the rest will follow automatically.

Who will be the big surprise of 2021 according to you?

I think that there are many candidates, however, it is very difficult to just decide on a name for something like that.

Imagine, tomorrow you are suddenly in charge of the National Pigeon Union, what would you want to change to the current pigeon sport?

First and foremost, I would like to say that the pigeon union is doing good work at the moment, for which I thank them. Ultimately, we can still practice our beloved hobby because of their effort during this serious crisis, and despite that, there is still a new racing season just around the corner.

The thing I would strive for as much as I could, would be for a pigeon sport that is as honest as possible in all aspects, and having checks where it is possible.

I also think the transport of our pigeons is extremely important, especially now that we are noticing that the climate is changing and that more races take place at higher temperatures, and for this reason, good transport should be a top priority.

What is the greatest mistake that you have ever made with your own loft?

I have made many blunders and mistakes, but the art is making them only once and learning from them. It is impossible to practice the pigeon sport without mistakes but the goal remains to make as few as possible. However, without mistakes, there would be no limits to push. If you said 15 years ago that there would be people who play the same pigeon weekly on the 600-800km, they would declare you a fool, but then you see how many do it nowadays. In the grand middle distance, everyone does it and it is simply common practice to basket them every week. The long-distance races are also heading in that direction, because a pigeon is able to handle a lot more than we think.

The slogan goes "Pigeon sport, family sport". What is the attitude of your partner or family towards it?   

The pigeon sport has become a top sport, and every sport at a high level requires you to do a great deal for it, and to let go of even more. So, during the season (April - September), your life is all about the sport. I am, of course, glad that I have been able to turn my hobby into my job, and that I am able to organise my own time. I realise all too well what an extreme luxury that is. Outside the season, you have much more free time and you are able to do other things as well. I also have the great luxury of being able to call on Jurgen when I, for example, go to a foreign country. He always takes excellent care of the pigeons. During the season he is also always ready when I require help.

What is the ultimate tip that you want to give to a starting pigeon fancier?

Always start with good intentions in our sport, the love for the animals, and the joy that you feel when you take care of them and prep them for the races. The pigeon sport is, above all, a passion and a hobby. Too often I see people who start from another point of view, and that never lasts long. Starting from a commercial point of view is definitely not a good idea. Also, bring the needed patience, because the pigeon sport is a track with much falling and getting up, learning from mistakes made, and constantly trying to improve. Rome was not built in a day. Besides that, try to get into contact with a well-playing fancier in your local area whom you can count on to answer questions and give advice, I am certain that many fanciers are willing to help young starters. If everyone is willing to contribute we can ensure that our beautiful hobby will still exist in the future.

Rudi De Saer (Ruiselede, BE)

For many years, Rudi has been dominating the national results and championships. On the long-distance, he is a “regular” so to speak. He was brought into our beloved sport via his father Antoine.

Rudi De Saer

From whom did you learn the most about the pigeon sport? Who was your mentor?

My father, for practical training and Gaby Vandenabeele by learning from the many conversations.

Which moment or achievement of your pigeon career are you the proudest of?

The first time I achieved the title National Champion Long Distance.

What are your objectives for 2021, or what would you be satisfied with when the 2021 season is over?

Regularly ranking in the top of the national races.

Who will be the big surprise of 2021 according to you?

I do not have a big surprise in mind, but undoubtedly there will once again be. 

Imagine, tomorrow you are suddenly in charge of the National Pigeon Union, what would you want to change to the current pigeon sport?

The lacklustre drug policy! 

What is the greatest mistake that you have ever made with your own loft?

Going to the club with my electronic clock to check off a flight and then realising when I got home that my 1st nominated pigeon from Limoges was already in the loft, and thus hadn’t been registered, causing us to miss the 1st national…

The slogan goes "Pigeon sport, family sport". What is the attitude of your partner or family towards it?

My partner supports me 200%, especially during setbacks, which is when you need support the most.

What is the ultimate tip that you want to give to a starting pigeon fancier?

Do not start for financial reasons but for a love of the sport, otherwise, you will not be able to keep going for very long.

Try learning step by step, and do not skip the sprint, that is the basis of the pigeon sport.