Race Directors Review

The 2019 SAMDPR was an interesting and challenging year.

Long before fanciers even thought about what pigeons to pair up and which youngsters to send, the SAMDPR team was hard at work behind the scenes to make sure that the main race would go ahead without a hitch.

From the outside, the theory seems simple, accept pigeons, train them, race them. However, each of these aspects takes a huge amount of time and planning to get right; and even then curve balls are the normal.

This season also saw a major change to the SAMDPR in that we changed our electronic timing system to the Benzing One Loft Race clocking system. This was a huge undertaking integrating the Benzing system into our web site results system, a system which has taken many years to perfect. From the outside changing the timing system sounds easy, but the reality is that the web site results system had to be rewritten and changed to interpret the data the new timing system provides. Thanks to amazing support and dedicated IT team this was done in time for us to thoroughly test the system before the first official training flights.

The timing system change also meant that the entrances to the loft had to be changed. The new entrances, all 96 of them, now have more light which encourages the pigeons to enter the lofts faster and the general consensus amongst those visiting the lofts agreed it is an improvement.

During this run up period the SAMDPR also had to contend with a local outbreak of Avian Influenza, which although should not have affected the issuing of import permits, meant that the Department of Agriculture (DAFF) was swamped and took longer to issue the import permits than in the past, in the end the permits were issued however they were later than planned.

In August 2018 the SAMDPR, together with a committee of Vets and SANPO met with DAFF to explain the problems we have been having and at this meeting it was resolved that DAFF would do their utmost to assist with the timely issuing of permits in future.

A knock on effect of the late import permits was that intake had to be extended and quarantine was only lifted at the lofts in September. Only then could the Loft Staff and trainers start the process of first orientating and homing the pigeons and then getting them on the road and race fit and ready for the main race. Effectively this had to be done in a relatively short period of only four months and I am very proud of what they achieved in this short time.

Many entrants have approached us and compared this past seasons training schedule to previous years, however as we have stated previously each and every year at the SAMDPR poses its own challenges and comparisons to previous years is a little unfair, especially taking into account the amount of training time lost due to the permit issues. Rest assured however that each of these challenges is faced head on and we do what we need to ensure the fairest and best race we can each year.

We are hopeful that all the effort and meetings with DAFF and various other government departments will pay off with our permits being issued timeously this year allowing us to return to a training schedule that allows for more and longer training flights as well as longer Hot Spot races as in previous years.

For most of the training season and run up, the South African weather gods smiled on us and most training flights went off without a hitch with us only losing five or six days of training when South Africa received much needed widespread rain.

There has been a lot of coverage about the race weekend itself so I am not going to elaborate too much on it; but as always it was a joy to welcome what has become our extended international family to Emerald Casino and Resort. This past season was also a sad year in that many of our long-time entrants and friends passed away and although their physical presence was missed, we remember each of them fondly.

Days before the main race, the buzz was all about the weather for the main race, as always many hours were spent on phones and computers looking at every possible weather model available to us. Once again meteorologists were consulted and an all clear was given hours before liberation. Thankfully the forecasters got it right and the weather on race day was near perfect for racing pigeons.

The great weather meant that the pigeons completed the 521km main race in just over eight hours with four pigeons narrowly beating the next pigeons to take the top honours. Congratulations go to Germany, Denmark, United States and Belgium! Over the next few hours a steady stream of pigeons returned and by the end of the day more than 320 pigeons had made their way safely home. A testament to the quality of the top pigeons is that both the Knock Out Winner and the Grand Average winner were placed in the top 30 positions.

By now most of our entrants will have received an email indicating the changes for the 2019/20 season. A first prize of $300000 plus increases overall in the prizemoney as well as increases for the Grand average and Hot Spot Ace prizes promise for an exciting racing season.

We would like to thank all our entrants who supported us this past season. We look forward to welcoming them back this coming season along with some new fanciers for the 2020 edition of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race

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