JOHN & KEVIN ZEFARA - 1st National Flying Club Jarnac/Fougeres

Liefhebber: 

With the Jarnac race being held over due to poor weather at the website the weekend slipped away into Monday when the call came through that the pigeons were being moved to Fougeres. The weather at the racepoint turned over the Friday night, which spoiled the prospect of a liberation at a new racepoint on that day.

Kevin and John hugging.The local fanciers in France had introduced themselves to the convoyers with food and a very warm welcome. The site is large, clear of wires and will make a very good alternative to Saintes if ever it is needed again but due to the continued bad weather a decision was taken to move the pigeons to Fougeres with better prospects for a race on Tuesday.

This duly occurred and I had advised the NFC Secretary that I would be working in Southampton that day so at around 6:30pm, being very near at the time, I was asked to verify the provisional winner at the loft of Kevin and John Zerafa in Portsmouth. 

When I arrived I was met by senior partner John at the front door who’s opening words were “my legs are like jelly, please come in”. We went through to the lofts and a very happy Kevin shook my hand saying that they had been in tears just after I called. It had been a life long dream to win the National and although they had been 2nd on two previous occasions in Classic channel races, nothing could compare to the emotions they were feeling at that moment.

John Zerafa was born in Malta and came to the UK as a very young man in 1963 and he soon joined the Merchant Navy in Southampton having served on the Queen Mary. Later he joined the RAF and toured the world three times before settling in Glasgow and in 1976 he moved to Portsmouth where he met his wife and had two children. His passion was Goldfinches and Canaries but his son Kevin showed his interest in racing pigeons as a small boy, which John encouraged and later joined him in partnership. 

John Zefara with his grandchildren.The lofts are a very tidy set up on land to the rear of the property and Kevin is a very dedicated fancier who, due to work commitments begins with the day to day care of the pigeons very early in the morning and resumes again in the evening. Being an L shaped loft the youngbird and stock sections face due east which allows for early morning sun, but the old bird section faces north and due to it being cooler than the youngbird section, the partners were discussing making off season alterations albeit now they have won the NFC, they will be put on hold. Perspex had been fitted to the south facing slope of the roof and radiation heaters fitted to the ceiling so it has proved to solve the problem for them. The pigeons were in excellent condition on my visit and very content sitting their nests.

They race on the roundabout system and once the pairs have reared a round in January the hens are separated. Planning for the Jarnac race began over a month ago when they decided to recouple the race birds and the winning hen was sent to the race just as her eggs were hatching. Her cock stayed home to look after the babies and when she arrived she went straight to the nest to take over. This was not planned at the beginning of the season but the partners were having difficulties preventing the hens pairing together, so they made the decision to put them back with the cocks with the Jarnac race next on the program. She has been raced most weeks in the lead up to Jarnac (fougeres), mostly with the BBC & CSCFC, being given 4 weeks rest prior to this race.

Kevin ZefaraNow called Eastern Angel, a name she has acquired because of her approach to the loft from the east every time she arrives home from a race. The partners think she has taken a landmark between Hayling Island and the Isle of Wight, that she aims for whatever the wind direction, which she held true to form on her return from Fougeres. Friends had visited the loft on race day to wait for the birds with Kevin and his father, where the usual guess the time competition had resulted in the pigeon swooping in from the east, right on time to be clocked and verified as a “good one”.

She is very tame hen, Kevin’s favourite actually, and he had a photo on his phone with her sitting on his shoulder. She is bred out of Mark Gilberts bloodlines as his friend, Asa Williams of Southampton had acquired them after visiting Marks Loft. Kevin was given the opportunity of loaning them for a season or two and Eastern Angel is related to Southfield Champ on the dams side. Her performances this season are 39th Open CSCFC Coutances and 56th Open BBC Coutances and now of course, 1st National Flying Club Fougeres. Their second bird to arrive is a yearling cock which is also via the same stock, having Southfield Melissa, Starlight, Southfield Supreme and Harry in his pedigree. Again raced mostly on roundabout, but for this race he was not re-paired as the others. Instead they decided to lock a hen in the nest box next door to his for three days in the lead up to basketing, which seemed to make him very keen to his nest box and also begin dominating the floor space in front of both boxes! 

Hen and her youngster.The partners would like to convey their thanks to all involved with the transportation and welfare of the pigeons, they had 8 of their 12 entries in just over an hour, which arrived in fantastic condition and looked like they could go again within an hour of being home! After such a long holdover this is testament to all involved, well done NFC! They would also like to congratulate all of the Section winners, and everyone else who timed in birds up and down the UK, in what appears to have been a very good race under the circumstances and they would like to thank everyone who sent them well wishes since they were announced as provisional winners, it really is a dream come true!

Finally could I remind members that my email address in the handbook was closed down at the end of May, like many others who used Freeserve, but was after the handbook went to print. I can be contacted by phone or by emailing to racing.pigeon.media@gmail.com. I welcome your news and photographs to include in my articles but I do have deadlines to meet. So I aim to cover the winner firstly and follow up a week later with the section winners to us give more time to collate the news from seventeen sections and keep it more coherent to the races. 
Lots of differing views surround each and every race, but I like to keep things relevant to the actual performances of individual lofts and pigeons as much as possible in my reports, leaving the politics to the off season meetings when discussing the correspondence to the secretary with the NFC committee. 

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