It has been described as the Grand National of pigeon racing.
Winning the Up North Combine once is a difficult-enough task.
So just imagine tasting victory for the third time.
That’s exactly what a north Northumberland fancier has done.
And Ian Jamieson, from Radcliffe, admitted that completing the hat-trick was the highlight of his long-standing stint in racing. The 71-year-old was victorious in the recent Lillers National event, following up on Combine victories in 1993 and 1994.
Ian, a member of Amble Homing Society, tasted glory this time round thanks to his two-year-old blue cock, Shadow Boxer.
He said: “I am delighted to win it. It is a very rare thing and your birds have to be in perfect condition.
“I am glad that I have managed to win it for a third time before I finish racing. It is definitely the highlight.”
The Up North Combine covers an area from the Borders to North Yorkshire and Shadow Boxer came out on top from thousands of birds.
Flying into a head wind from the north, the speedy racer completed the 370-miles from France to the loft in Radcliffe in just over eight hours and 42 minutes.
Its winning velocity was 1,245 yards per minute.
The second-placed bird clocked up 1,229 yards per minute.
“It was a big gap for a race of this many birds,” admits Ian.
Shadow Boxer has fared well this season, although Ian admits an overall victory wasn’t necessarily on the cards.
“I expected it to do well in the Coquet Federation, but you never know about the whole organisation.
“It did really well to win that race from where we live,” said Ian, whose partner Yvonne cares for the stock birds.
Father-of-two Ian has been interested in pigeons since he was a boy. He took time away when he was in his teens but returned to the sport in 1987, when he was in his 40s.
Ian thinks he will race for another three years.