It is not difficult to typify Raoul & Xavier… they are real ‘pigeon racers’. Breeding out ‘good’ x ‘good’, preferably out ‘super’ x ‘super’… and all descendants, without exception – whatever their lineage is- is tested to the full in the races… beginning as a youngster in the ‘provincials’ and ‘nationals’ for youngsters. A candidate topper amongst the cocks may be allowed to stay home from Raoul after his 3rd national (read: La Souterraine), but the majority of the young cocks race the 4 nationals for youngsters, as well as then hens. But with this difference… the cocks usually remain home during the weekend between the nationals, whilst the hens race a provincial grand middle distance race… but ‘sparing’ pigeons, that word is clearly not in their dictionary there in Oostakker! The old cocks which race the long distance are often given 5 national long distance races… no, there is no room by Raoul & Xavier for ‘scroungers’! A few years ago Raoul told us… why should I spare the pigeons, I’m (then) 75? A reasoning we understand perfectly and which was the basis to a very long chain of top successes achieved there at the foot of O-L-Vrouw from Oostakker-Lourdes! In the meantime Raoul had to blow out 81 candles in December, but his temperament and ambition are still the same… and now son Xavier (57) belongs to the lucky few and was able to take ‘early retirement’ in November, so there are reinforcements for taking care of the pigeons… so that here they can also dot the proverbial i’s!
Nearly a half century at the top!!
In the seventies our old colleague and fellow member, the late Clement Van Keymeulen, named the Verstraete colony the ‘Loft of Miracles’… feel free to call it a saga of the heroic deeds performed there under the towers of Onze-Lieve Vrouw Church in Oostakker-Lourdes –the ancient well-known place of pilgrimage in the Flanders. At the time it was impossible to race against the Verstraete pigeons in the middle distance, the opponents were wiped out week after week by the phenomenal ‘pointers’ out the rich Verstraete racing- and breeding lofts , with the figurehead of the loft being the wondrous ‘Gouden Bol’ which was ‘Olympiad pigeon Sport class’ in 1973… the first crack which raced the Verstraete colony into the international spotlights after their start in 1968. You have to give it to the Verstraete family, for the basis for their colony they always used real ‘winners’ or at least ‘top racers’! The famous ‘Zilveren’ and the ‘Mirage’ directly followed in the slipstream of the ‘Gouden Bol’. The reinforcements they bought were also very good, and certainly not the ‘cheapest’… the pigeons which made their mark on the further expansion and development of the loft were the ‘Rapido’ and the ‘Panter’ bought in the total auction of Theo Gilbert from Zulte, and the ‘Elvis’ which was 1° National Ace bird of Germany, and the ‘Bolide’. For the long distance they mainly relied on the Robert Venus pigeons (a.o. line ‘Super crack Gruson’).Out a crossing of the ‘Elvis’ x ‘Bol’ x ‘Bolide’ came the super crack ‘Miljonair’, which flew his honours list together in the lofts of fellow villager Tom Van Damme, where he was then bought back again by Raoul & Xavier… to grow in the Verstraete breeding lofts to a ‘stock bear’ on which part of the current loft occupation is still based. Together with the formidable ‘Uno’ and his son ‘Solo’ (winner 1° Nat La Souterraine) the ‘Miljonair’ formed the basis to the team of pigeons with which they did well in the ‘90’s’ in the provincial and national ‘grand middle distance’. It was also the period in which Raoul started with old and yearling hens in widowhood… let them race according to the known strategy of ‘not sparing’, until some of them began to ‘snap’… however the very best ‘ladies’ which survived the strict ‘selection via the basket’ nearly all grew into powerful breeding mothers, and so partly formed the basis to the current successes! (Source: www.pipa.be)