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LE TOUR DES MARITIMES FUTURITY

A CLASSIC MADE IN CANADA TEST

By Silvio Mattacchione

silvio@silvio-co.com

www.silvio-co.com

Several years ago I was approached by a young man from British Columbia ,Canada who wanted to purchase some birds from me. At the time I was not really interested in selling any stock to him ( I have never really been very keen to sell any of my stock in Canada) and I told him so. Well the emails from this individual persisted and my patience grew thin. He made proposal after proposal all of which I replied negatively to. Then finally one day an email arrived entitled " Braveheart" and it was this persons final proposal. It's about time, I thought!

I opened it and thought to myself , "there is nothing whatsoever that you can say or offer to have me sell birds to you" and then low and behold , much to my surprise he came up with the only possible thing that would have softened my position. Surprisingly he offered to pay the complete entry fees of birds bred by myself, for an open race in Alberta Canada, " The Alberta Classic" http://albertaclassic.com  where, should there be any winnings, any and all winnings would be donated to the  Children's Hospital in BC. In turn I was to breed the pigeons and send them to the race , free of charge. Well I agreed. In time we became friends and I eventually came to realize where this chaps persistence came from, Ali Stephen, my new friend was a "TAX COLLECTOR" . No wonder he was so persistent.

In time Ali called and told me that his friend in New Brunswick operated a great little one loft race called the "Le Tour" actually "Les Tour Des Maritimes Futurity" http://www.tourdesmaritimes.com.  I had never heard about this race, but agreed to send birds to it the very next year. I was delighted and have sent back birds every year since that time.

WHY  "LE TOUR"

Why have I done so ? More to the point why have others done so? Why is this race full every year? Well here is why I send birds  to "Le Tour" as I once wrote in an article what my goals  are as regards the breeding of racing pigeons.

" It is wonderful to have a superstar but it is more advantageous to have a team of lesser lights that are totally consistent, trustworthy, indefatigable, reliable, and always gives an honest and worthy performance.

The goal of my breeding program was, and has been, the production of a family of pigeons that was honest, hard-working, and indefatigable. A family of birds capable of performing with little or no training under many different types of management regimes. A dependable warrior that would try to do all that his master asked of him, or die trying. In 1998, I put my birds to the first of what will be many tests. I described this test towards the end of my article entitled Myths. Please read it to see how fourteen yearlings flew ten races in ten weeks from 150-550 miles with no training and no rest-every bird, every race, every week! Was my campaign a success? The answer was yes! Superstars? The answer is no, just honest, hard-working, well-bred pigeons able to perform the tasks asked of them.

As others revel in selecting what their best bird may or may not be, I stress only the importance of my weakest link. I work to improve my colony and the superstar will then not thwart my efforts.

There are many ways to continuously test and retest your birds. My birds are released in all weather-fog, rain, winds, and bitter cold. Every day they must learn to deal with the vagaries of weather as well as the predators that are a natural part of their environment. No single bird is important, only the whole. To admit anything different is ultimately to admit the failure of my colony.

As fanciers have bred for their local conditions, I have tried to produce the type of pigeon that will survive in the toughest most demanding style of pigeon racing in the world! I refer to the racing in Taiwan, the home of the richest, most demanding type of pigeon racing in the world. I will have either achieved or failed to achieve my breeding goals based only on the type of racing that takes place in Taiwan"

And since I do not live in Taiwan it is imperative that I have a venue where I can send and watch my birds perform under exactly these conditions, including flying over water, over the ocean. Le Tour gives me, and all of you that opportunity. Le Tour will help you build a performance based family that can compete with the best that Taiwan has to offer..

GREAT TO FINALLY MEET YOU MR SKROBOT.

 

In October of 2003 I did in fact have the privilege of spending some time with the Founder/operator of this incredible Futurity Mr. Andrew Skrobot. Am I going overboard in using a descriptive term as strong as incredible? No I think not. I am usually very careful with my words and very slow to give accolades , that is , unless they are well deserved. Over the past few years I have sent pigeons to the worlds largest futurities in Vegas,  South Africa, New York and smaller ones like the Alberta Classic. All have much to their credit, all are extremely successful, all are closely followed, but having said all of that in my mind the most enjoyable ( not the biggest, not the richest, actually there is virtually no prize money for all intents and purposes when compared with these other  international efforts.

Andrew was  born of Polish parents in Kassel, Germany and lived in Belgium for a short period of time during  his 4th year.  He advises that, " I can't remember ever seeing any pigeons while in Belgium and I can't remember what triggered my interest in the sport.   I always said that perhaps there was something in the Belgian air that infected me with the bug.  Now that I think about it, I was always interested in sports.  Track and field was the sport that I excelled at.  I was a very good 400 and 800 meter runner and set the provincial indoor record for the 600 meter run at 16.   Knowing that I would never be a world class runner, I decided to turn my interest to what I considered to be the most athletic animal that God created - the racing pigeon.  Keeping racing pigeons seemed to me to be a natural complement to distance running.  However, now I become the coach and it required a lot less energy.  Since then I have kept pigeons for about 45 years." 

THE PRIZES

The prizes amount to an exceptional photo (taken by Andrew Skrobot)

Figure 1 The 1997 Le Tour Overall winner flew 1800 kms . bred by Lothar  Schmitt. Photo by Andrew Skrobot.

of your winner and a great handcrafted basket made of Canadian  birds eye maple.

(made by Paul Bernatchez a former fancier)

Figure 2 Part of the winning prize in the "Le Tour" is a beautiful training basket made of birds eye maple by former fancier Paul Bernatchez.

Yes, yes I can hear you know, shaking your heads and muttering, "old Silvio he really has lost it now! How does the photo and the basket compare with $250,000.00 US in first prize money in all of these huge international races? Well it dose not  and is not intended to, it is another avenue , an alternative to, a tool to be used judiciously in the right hands for the furtherance of lifetime goals. To be used in the persuit of family and to test and retest your birds and your breeding program against the harshest that nature has to offer, Canadian wilderness!

WHY DID YOU START THIS RACE ANDREW?

 As I discussed the reason for Andrew Skrobot starting this race , here is what he had to say:

"Pigeon racing is not a fair sport because the racers start at the same point but often race to different finish lines.  In addition, other conditions often influence the outcome of a race such as wind direction and loft location.  Because of these factors the actual quality of the bird may be a secondary factor in determining the best bird on any given day.  Unfortunately, and to the detriment of the sport, these variables frequently result in many heated debates.  To neutralize some of these factors a better a method of determining the best pigeon is needed"

The one-loft futurity race, even though having many benefits in promoting the sport, often becomes nothing more than a lottery and a frustrating experience for many competitors.  Many pigeon fanciers often enter their birds primarily to win money in these events and the intrinsic goal of breeding the best pigeon often is forgotten.  Too often, in this one-time event, the luck of trapping first becomes the deciding factor.  Frequently, such a pigeon is labeled a champion even though several other racers may have flown equally well that day."

Well Andrew what did you feel that better method was or could be?

"For many pigeon fanciers, where prize money is unimportant, a better method of identifying the true champion is often desired.  With this thought in mind, in 1997 the concept of the Le Tour Des Maritimes Futurity was born.  This futurity would include a series 6 races and 1800 km of racing to one loft and the best bird of the series would be awarded to the racing pigeon completing all the races in the least total flying time"

NEVER INTENDED TO BE A MONEY RACE

So the Le Tour was never intended to be a money race !

"Initially, The Le Tour was never intended to be a money race.  Rather, the intention was to attract those fanciers who fly for the love of the sport and want to test their birds over one of the most challenging courses in Canada for a nominal perch fee.  In addition to bragging rights, the owner of the overall winner would receive a unique training basket built out of birds eye maple and a framed photograph of their bird.  Also, as a memento for their accomplishment, the owners of the first ten birds will also receive a picture of their bird."

How has "Le Tour" developed over the past 6 years?

"Today, the Le Tour Des Maritime Futurity has evolved into an 8 race series and 2150 km of racing with prize money.  It has attracted 200 entries from across Canada and the United States.  However it remains an affordable futurity for all fanciers that are interested in testing their birds over one of the toughest courses in Canada."

Date

Release Point

Distance

July 17

Kouchibouguac

100 km

July 19

Kouchibouguac

100 km

July 21

Moncton

200 km

July 25

Moncton

200 km

July 31

New Glasgow

300 km

August 7

Antigonish

350 km

August 21

Canso Causeway

400 km

September 4

Glace Bay

500 km

I asked Andrew  why he had used the model of a multi race event as apposed to the single race futurity that was so prevalent across the USA?

"The multi-race concept was always in the back of my mind.  However, finding a formula for determining the overall winner was the challenge.  To my knowledge everybody to this time was using some kind of point system that made absolutely no sense to me and unfortunately is still used by some multi-race futurities.  One day while driving home from work and listening to the sports there was something on the Tour de France and how the overall winner was determine by the sum of all the times of the different stages.  What seemed such a complex problem suddenly had such a simple solution.  And I had a name for my futurity - Le Tour Des Maritimes.  To my knowledge I am one of the first to use the total-time system. I think I was influential in convincing Dr. Karl Frank to use the same system at the AC." 

New Brunswick has some incredibly inhospitable areas for the birds to navigate , how did you decide on the  East course?

"Flying the east course seemed the only logical way to go because of the higher concentration of flyers in Nova Scotia.  At first we met in Moncton and exchanged birds.  That is the East Coast and Blue Nose Clubs would pick up the Le Tour birds and I theirs to be released.  This saved a lot of time, traveling and expense.  This cooperation is what really got the Le Tour off the ground.  Some of this cooperation still exists today.  For example Bill Madore and I meet at Lothar Schmitt's outside of New Glasgow and exchange birds.  He releases the Le Tour birds in Glace Bay and I release  the East Coast and Blue Nose Clubs' in Bathurst.  Lothar Schmitt in the past has done more than his share.  He has taken them to Canso every year but the past one.  And has released all the New Glasgow ones."

HEAD WIND COURSE

It is my understanding that the East Course is an incredible "head wind course"? Is this in fact correct?

"The other reasons for going east was  that  it was a headwind course and getting birds home on the day from Cape Breton Island was the challenge.  I wanted a series that would stretch young birds to the maximum and have a final race that would be in excess of 10 hours.  But before incorporating this release point into the Le Tour schedule I had to do it with my own birds.  Nobody thought it could be done and thought I was a little crazy to think so.  Well they were right twice.  The first 2 releases from Glace Bay were disasters.  I think I might have got a bird or two the following spring.

What finally turned the tide? Did you make any changes?

"I made one fundamental change when I trained my own birds.  They had to fly from the Canso Causeway first, if I was to be successful from Cape Breton.  The plan worked.  In September of 1996 I had 9 birds in a drop flying just over 11 hours on the wing and 30 minutes before sunset.  The rest is history.  Ironically, Canso has been a problem twice.  No day birds.  Once because of the tailwinds of a Florida Hurricane and the other just one of those anomalies."

WHY IS GLACE BAY THE ULTIMATE TEST?

Well Andrew what exactly is it that makes that final release point "Glace Bay" so very difficult?

Most fanciers don't realize how difficult of a release point Glace Bay is.  During the winter 100+ km winds are common throughout the Cape Breton Highlands.  Fortunately they are not as strong during the summer months but they still can be problematic. At the release point unfavorable winds exceeding 20 km/h can always be expected.  If the birds fly home as the "crow flies" they would fly over 400 km of open water.  This is quite unlikely so by flying along the mainland of Nova Scotia the actual distance the birds fly exceeds 600 km.  Just getting off the Island is challenge.  The first 6 races of the Le Tour schedule are used to condition and build the birds confidence for this task.  Getting day birds from this point is always the main goal of the Le Tour series.

Figure 4 This map shows the release point Sydney ( Glace Bay) a former coal mining community .The mines ran out under the ocean at least 5 miles. You can image the water problems and gas problems in these under ocean coal mines made it a great problem. The winds are constantly blowing off the ocean during the winter at up to 100 kms. per hour the winds are always  un perdicatable all summer long.Flying over the ocean is the ultimate test as the fanciers of Taiwan know very well.

Andrew went on to again stress why the "Glace Bay 500 " is so important a test.

"Just flying all 7 races  series totaling over 2000 kms and arriving home is an accomplishment.  Flying all races in race time can only be described as remarkable and flying 500 km on the day from Glace Bay, one of the most difficult releases points in Canada, is unbelievable."

Cape Breton Highlands National Park has some of the most breathtaking views in Canada. It runs from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Atlantic ocean and it's draped in a verdant forest.

Figure 5 Typical view of the terrain and ocean that confronts the Le Tour birds on their final race from Glace Bay.

 I thought that  I would treat all of our readers to a blow by blow account of the final race from Glace Bay as it appeared on the Le Tour website on  September 11, 2003.

THE "LE TOUR" AIN'T OVER TILL ITS OVER.

September 11, 2003

Well "the Le Tour ain't over until it's over". 

The birds were released in Glace Bay just east of Sydney in clear blue skies but into a strong north wind.  Bill Madore said, "the flags were really flapping and I was concerned.  When the birds came out of the baskets the north wind grabbed them and blew them south.  The birds made a half circle and put their noses into the wind and off they went".  But what can you do, the winds are always stronger on Cape Breton Island.

I expected at least a 10 hour flight.  At the loft, it was quite calm all afternoon .  But along the coastline I suspect the winds may have been a problem.  As it approached 6:00 pm I began to worry because the thought of winds at the time of the release stayed with me all day.  Then all of a sudden two birds appeared out of nowhere a couple of minutes before 6:00, landed immediately and trapped with little hesitation.  I immediately shouted to Margie, "we have a race". 

Radoman/VJagt's ORI 555/03 was the first to trap and the "Mighty" McVicars' CU 26558/03 trapped a couple seconds later.  Both birds were tired and they had lost a lot of weight.  No doubt the winds were more of a factor than the forecast indicated.  Over the next 2 hours 6 more birds clock before the race was closed for the day.  It was reasonable to expect more birds the following day but only 3 arrived the second day and 2 made it by the 3rd day and 1 the 5th day.  The weather during the 4 days after race day was beautiful.  The temperatures reached 30 C (85 F), the skies were cloudless and it was calm.

Figure 6 Superb performance by Radoman/JJagt's ORI 555/03 at the 2003 Le Tour.

This is not to belittle Bill Madore's  performance but this is just to give you an indication what effect the wind can have.  I released birds for him at 8:00 am and they flew between the same two points but in the opposite direction.  Bill had birds in 6:40 hours and one of these birds flew a 500 km race from Fredericton on the previous Sunday in 6:00 hours.

Even though the winds were strong at the release, 2 birds still arrived home on the day in a very good time of 11:00 hours and 6 followed shortly.   The fastest time for this distance was flown is 8:57 hours.  Last year the first bird home flew the distance in 11:42 hours and there were 15 day birds out of 77 shipped.  Furthermore, 21 birds arrived the second day.  Why did so few second day birds arrive this year will remain a mystery and an interesting topic for discussion.  But that's pigeon racing,  "always expect the unexpected".

Congratulations go out to Pat Spelliscy for his overall win with CU 31309/03.  This is a superb racer that deserved to win the Overall Championship.  It was always up front and began the Le Tour series by winning the Sprint Championship and then concluded the series by scoring 2nd Long Championship and losing it by only 3:37 minutes.   From Sydney it arrived in the third group but because of exhaustion took over 3 minutes to trap .  

But like a true champion, after a good night's rest it looked like it was ready to go again.   It is interesting to note that Pat Spelliscy's bird arrived at the same time as Adolfo Bianchi's SC 1523/03 and Hardeep Sahota's 329.  Adolfo's bird became 1st Long Distance Champion by trapping immediately but CU 31309/03 trapped 3:35 minutes later.   When they landed on the roof they were almost dead even.  Now that's close.

It would be remiss for me not to mention some of the other day birds that also preformed very well.  Bob Percival's FCQ-QC 2269 arrived alone for 3rd place.   And finally the last two birds to arrive on the day flew for almost 13 hours.  Cornelius Martens' WPG 3603 and Forster & Phelan's EDM 1193 arrived a few minutes after sunset.

Figure 7"Braveheart" was my entry together with Ali Stephen in the Le Tour of 2002. He was 1st Sprint Champion, 10th at the 500 and 26th overall. He was sold upon his return to my lofts to a fancier in Taiwan. An inbred Spanjaards Janssen proven over 2050 kms in 7 races.

Here is a list of all of the birds that returned in race time in that final race of Le Tour.

All of these birds flew 8 races total and 2050 KMS.

Sydney September 11, 2003

GLACE BAY RESULTS

* BAND OWNER SYDNEY
* * * 500 km
* * * *
* * BEST TIME 8:57:00
* * WINNING TIME 10:59:55
1 ORI 555 Radoman/VJagt 10:59:55
2 CU 26558 "Mighty" McVicars 10:59:57
3 FCQ-QC 2269 Percival, Bob 11:41:10
4 Sahota 329 Sahota, Hardeep 11:45:33
5 SC 1523 Bianchi, Adolfo 11:45:34
6 CU 31309 Spelliscy, Pat 11:49:09
7 WPG 3603 Martens, Cornelius 12:49:52
8 EDM 1193 Forster & Phelan 12:49:54
9 SL 0901 Plews, Gordon 17:41:34
10 ORI 557 Radoman/VJagt 17:49:34
11 Alg 3103 Daehn, Paul 18:31:54
12 HC 1921 Radoman, Zach 23:07:28
13 Silvio 96 Mattacchione, S & T 24:48:56
14 Cal 208 Schmaltz, Doug Day 3
15 CU 17858 Ball, Kevin Day 4

What is the real value of this unique Futurity called " Le Tour" 

Well here are the words written by a friend Roger Liu of New York who knows the racing in Taiwan very  well. 

"The real races start when the birds are approximately 100 days old (Mar. 13, 1998). Flyers who have birds competing in the real races are the lucky ones. Only a few are confident that their birds will be able to finish five races. Most flyers are nervous. Huge prize money is at stake. The distances for the real races are longer than the qualification races. In addition to maintaining 800 ypm in the real race, the club imposes a minimum speed of 700 ypm for Wednesday's club training. It is just like a one-two punch. The total mileage for a bird to fly from start to finish is 2,569 miles. Any bird that can finish the five races at the age of 120 days old is undoubtedly a great, tough pigeon. The financial rewards for these pigeons are quite satisfying. The winners can usually receive prize money in five or six figure range.

In summary, pigeon clubs in Taiwan fly young bird races only. The age of these young birds range from 100-120 days old. A single station winner (for example, 250 miles) does not present much value to other flyers. Often, many single station winners get disqualified before the end of the contests. It is the average speed winner of the Five-Race Championship that would draw a lot of attention. To win the Champion bird crown, this young bird has to maintain 700-800 ypm at least 15 consecutive times and fly approximately 2,500 miles within a period of three months. Speed is desired, but endurance is more important. They prefer marathon birds rather than short distance sprinters.

Flyers in Taiwan call this Five-Race Championship the toughest race in the world. Do you believe that your birds could compete in this type of race and have a chance to win? Many flyers in Taiwan want to know where they can find these kinds of birds."

OVER THE OCEAN

Well Roger let me say that the bird that was 13th overall at Le Tour in 2003 was bred by my son Thomas, it was never intended to be raced but having paid our entry fee the year before and not personally having raised any youngsters from my flock we decided to send 3 of Thomas,s birds. We sent them to the  "Le Tour" in the 1st week of June and they were 30 days old and just weaned at that time. By September our entry was  120 days old, had flown 7 races totaling 2050 kms including flying over the open Atlantic! So can our Canadian birds do it, fly with the toughest in the world over a 8 race series? You bet your bottom dollar they can and "Le Tour " proves it every year.

If the fanciers in Taiwan want tough, hard working pigeons who can and do fly Championship series races then they should be watching with great interest each years races at the " Le Tour de Maritimes" New Brunswick http://www.tourdesmaritimes.com.  and visiting Canada for some of the finest racing pigeons in the world, proven over the ocean and some of the fiercest headwind conditions in the world. East Coast Canada more specifically New Brunswick home to Andrew Skrobot ,educator, fancier of 45 years, flower breeder and founder and operator of the toughest young bird futurity series in North America, the "Le Tour De Maritimes Futurity."


Racing Pigeons Section Contents

Ashdon Farms

Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.

Articles

A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.

Pigeon Books

Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.

Pigeons For Sale

Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.

Pigeon Consulting

Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.

Charity Events

Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.

Emoticons

Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.

Pigeon Links

Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!

Contact Us

Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.


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