IT IS not commonly known, but pigeon racing became one of the first domestic competitive sports to return after the lockdown restrictions were eased in England, with Isle of Wight fanciers enjoying success.

Pigeon fanciers from across Britain sent 7,362 birds to Falaise in France yesterday (Saturday).

After they were released at 6am, in a light south-east breeze, Roderick Rann and his family, of Shalfleet — members of the British International Championship Club (BICC) — learned they had excelled in the open and Central Southern sections, winning both classes.

Isle of Wight County Press: Roderick and Linda Rann, with their winning bird, Straaljager.Roderick and Linda Rann, with their winning bird, Straaljager.

Their bird, a two-year-old cockbird named Straaljager (which means 'jet plane'), achieved an outstanding velocity of 2,236ypm (yards per minute).

Niton pigeon fancier, Trevor Willis, also did well.

His pigeon was exceptional, gaining eighth place in the open category and a second in the Central Southern section, with a velocity of 2,086ypm.

Delighted Roderick said: "I would like to thank all of the BICC officers for getting us over the channel to race this year. It must have taken a great deal of effort.

"I would also like to congratulate everyone who won their sections, in what turned out to be a great race.

Isle of Wight County Press: Roderick Rann's winning bird, Straaljager.Roderick Rann's winning bird, Straaljager.

"I was pleased to see my clubmate, Trevor Willis, take second in the Central section on the Isle of Wight.

"Straaljager is a full brother to my 2019 Solent-fed winner from Fougeres, who unfortunately was taken this spring by a Peregrine on a ten-mile trainer on the Isle of Wight.

"After losing 17 pigeons to the hawks, I had a complete re-think with my system, going from 'widowhood' to a completely natural system (inspired by Guy Reed and Fred Hayles), where the birds have complete freedom around the loft and seem to become streetwise, as I have not lost one since.

"As little 'basket' training was done, Straaljager was entered into his first race of the year at Honiton with the Solent-fed on overdue eggs and was the first bird to the loft.

"No training was done in the week and he was basket-driven to nest at 8am.

"We then had a ferry crossing and an hour's drive to Brighton to the BICC marking, where an excellent job was done by the marking team as we had 11 Island fanciers' birds."

Members of the Medina New Road Flying Club took part in meetings at Kettering yesterday and in Buckinghamshire on June 6.

In Kettering, where six members took part and 131 bird were released, Wayne Seager took the first three places, with his fastest bird clocking 1,521ypm, while in Buckinghamshire, Rupert Barrett, won with the same speed, beating Christine Broom’s birds into second and third places from the 209 birds released.

Pigeon racing beat horse racing and snooker to be the first competitive sport to resume since the Covid-19 lockdown.

The government approved the return of domestic competitive sport, behind closed doors, for the first time since mid-March.

Guidance states it is up to individual sports to assess the risk and consult athletes, coaches and support staff.