Michael Schmell, Hückelhoven
Narbonne 1st and 2nd national and 1st and 3rd international yearlings

We’re not used to it anymore but on Narbonne it is obviously happening. And now we’re talking about the increasing number of pigeons in the race. This year no less than 28,876 pigeons internationally came at the start where of 8,189 out of the Kingdom Holland. International it was 21,394 pigeons in 2020 and 18,094 pigeons in 2019. From 2017 it was in Holland 4,566, 3,082, 3,829 and 6,725 pigeons. And noting down that in 2020 Narbonne was the closing international race and the race was flown on the 15th of August which is two weeks later than this year. And Narbonne and Agen will be raced in Belgium and internationally with separate concours for the old and yearling pigeons. Via coordinates we can have a view on Google Maps on the releasing point and we see that the pigeons are being released a bit Southern from Narbonne and next to a lagune or coast lake that is being called an ‘etang’. A beautiful place to be able to release this close to the Mediterranean Sea. About 40 kilometers more South you find Perpignan and another 25 km South from there you have the border with Spain at the uttermost Eastern side.                                                                                                                                                            

On Friday the 30th of July the pigeons were released in Narbonne at 08h00 and this was one hour later than scheduled due to the bad weather at the site. The pigeons got quickly Western wind which turned a few hundred kilometers further in South-Western direction. At the beginning of the race the pigeons had to go through a light rain zone. With average temperatures and mostly South-Western wind which took on strength closer to Holland Narbonne wasn’t going to be a very hard one. But the number of kilometers that must be flown are very high and 11 or 13 hours isn’t a sinecure. The first announcements came understandable from the closest distances in France. At 17h58 the first French announcement came on 721km and had an average speed of 1,205 m.p.m. but was quickly overwinged by pigeons in the North-East of France and the fastest was clocked at 18h10 in Restchwiller at 747 km.  And 1,224 m. seemed the top in France and the Western side didn’t play along at all. In the German area Saarland, the fastest pigeon had a speed of 1,232 mpm. But this all wasn’t fast enough to be at the international top. Faster pigeons could be expected on the Eastern side. But who and where? At a certain moment the 4 fastest international pigeons were all around Liège and this in Ouffet, Francorchamps, Nadrin and Ans. And this on distances from 832 to 857 km these four pigeons got speeds of 1,284 to 1,307 m.p.m.  Would these be the top speeds? And now it was the turn for the Holland pigeons, South-Limburg to be more exact. And the first one was clocked in Eys at Helmut-Geert Schmitz and this at 19h09 at 882 km. Good for an average speed of 1,317 m.p.m.  And this pigeon was quickly overwinged by a yearling from Michael Schmell from the German village Huckelhoven who was clocked at 19h13 on 915 km and reached a speed of 1,320 m.p.m.  John Kalkwarf in Heerlen clocked in between the former mentioned pigeons at 19h20 at 894 km and his pigeon had an average speed of 1,314 m.p.m. Could we expect even faster pigeons in the back? It seemed possible on the Eastern side or in Germany seen the line of the pigeons? But it wasn’t possible anymore. Michael Schmell wins the 1st and 2nd national Narbonne and a double victory like this is extra ordinary. Two ‘real’ German pigeons knew to nestle between the two pigeons from Michael Schmell. The first one at 19h10 by Nina Tellschow in Eschweiler at 886 km and at 1,321 m.p.m. The fastest old pigeons of the entire pack were clocked by Detlef Devers in Wesel at 20h17 and is at 987 km and with an average speed of 1,338 m.p.m. he wins national and international old. Behind the yearling of Nina and Wilfried Tellschow is an interesting story. Wilfried and Michael have been friends for years and switch pigeons on a regular base and went for loft visits with each other to other fanciers. This is how the father to the yearling from Nina and Wilfried a cock from Winken-Rothenburg from Itteren and the nest mate of this cock is at Michael Schmell’s breeding loft.

First time?

Did it ever happen that a fancier that lives in Germany and races along with holland that won a national (ZLU) race? As far as I know not. With fanciers out of Belgium it happened before. The most famous one is Hein Eussen out of the Belgian village ’s Gravenvoeren who won Bordeaux ZLU and München national in Holland. More recent Ide Hoefs out of the Belgian village Rekem won in 2019 the long-distance race Vierzon against entire Holland. By the way, that Hein Eussen was in his good years a real phenomenon on the longest and most heavy long-distance races. Just across the border he had a farm and had the appearance of a rough bolster that kept cows. Our lead person Michael races since 2016 with Holland and became member of p.m. Beatrix in Maria Hoop and there you can find the necessary fanciers on the extreme long distance on a stone throw with the German border. Michael lives with his family in a suburb Hückelhoven and this in Kleingladbach. Hückelhoven has had a big mine for a long time named Sophia-Jacoba and was from 1917 property to the Dutch company from the known family Fentener from Vlissingen.  In 2003 they started building a new house for the (young) Schmell family and both fathers had an important role in building it. Michael comes from Wassenberg and his wife out of Erkelenz and in Kleingladbach they live almost exactly in between the two places. When building the house immediately a pigeon loft was built and in the back yard a brick loft with very thick walls was build. Pigeon sport started for Michael at home. Franz Schmell was a fancier himself and Michael got at the age of 14 in 1982 also a big interest in pigeon sport. And this stayed until Michael went to study in Köln and was too much away from home, but he followed pigeon sport from a distance. In Wassenberg there was also contact with Dutch pigeon fanciers via Gert Kraft. He had a big printing company and was also a fervent pigeon fancier. Pigeon sport was taken on big, and he also had a Dutch loft manager working for him those days and this Marinus van de Laar from Helmond (Mierlo-Hout) who raced himself well in the seventies. In Kleingladbach Michael started racing pigeons from his fathers’ loft but the ambition was bigger than that and they eye was set on better pigeons from top colonies. And in this search, he mostly went across the border. A companion in that search was Wilfried Tellschow from Eschweiler who sold all his pigeons in 2005 and Michael bought a few of his best racers and from then on, they started working and breeding together.

New pigeons

A top acquisition was done at Jos Hooybergs from Mol (Belgium), and offspring did Michael shine on the German program races. A good breeding pigeon was also the ‘Belgier’ who came on his loft via Peter Windeln out of Effeld and this breeder had the strain of Gunter Prange in his blood. In 2006 the eye of Michael Schmell fell on father and son Verkerk from (back than) Alphen aan de Rijn.  Toppers in Dutch pigeon sport and this on total widowhood. Michael also races on total widowhood and sees it as an advantage to get pigeons at fanciers that also race their hens as they don’t pair up amongst each other that quickly. In 2008 young pigeons out of ‘Benji’, ‘Taylor’ and ‘Oprah’ came to Kleingladbach, and those Verkerk-pigeons were top of Holland as Ace bird in 2006. Around 2012 Michael also went to the brothers Freddy and Jacques Vandenheede out of Zingem in East-Flanders and pigeons out of their toppers such as ‘Triggerfinger’ from 2009 came to Germany. A wonderful breeding team was built over the years, and this gave the necessary fruit with regional and national toppers in the German game. Around 2013 Michael found it harder and harder to give 100% to pigeon sport with two growing up kids (from 2003 and 2005) who asked more and more time and attention and this next to his busy job with the commune of Selfkant in Germany. Michael decided there for to race the extreme long distance as this gave him more possibilities in Holland and that’s why the ‘move’ to Holland. And pigeons for that game were bought in 2015 at a.o. Jacques Winkens (Winkens-Rothenburg) in Itteren and Jos van Olmen from Broechem.


In 2016 Michael went racing together with the department Limburg and when you have a look at the map you see he is the most Eastern living fancier from this department. On the long-distance races and the own morning releases from the department the Schmell pigeons were basketed and this with success. Great prizes were won with the old widowers who were already raced on the German races. One yearling and this is the ‘218’ from 2015 made it in 2016 to one of the best racers of the department with a 4th pigeon championship over the races Valence, Limoges, and Bergerac. Michael bred a cock out of him in 2009 who was top on the German program and his mother is a daughter to ’Oprah’ from Gerard and Bas Verkerk which was bought in 2008 and was a very good breeding hen. The mother to this yearling is from 2014 and comes from the Brothers Vandenheede in Belgium. Two brothers from 2014, the ‘305’ and ‘275’ were also good racers on the morning releases. The ‘275’ became in 2018 9th pigeon champion extreme long distance and he was early on Bordeaux and Bergerac. These two brothers come out of the own ‘Oprah’ from 2008 and the father is a son to her and was a top youngster himself in 2013. The best one was bred by Michael in 2016 and this is his ‘475’ and from that year on he put Dutch rings on the pigeons. This ‘475’ raced as yearling the 9th Cahors against 1,735 pigeons. He peaked in 2018 with a 5th Bordeaux against 1,463 pigeons and in 2019 even twice top 10 with a 10th Limoges against 2,934 pigeons and a 2nd Bressols against 1,569 pigeons. The second morning release was cancelled and there was no 4th race. The ‘475’ became with his 2 prizes pigeon champion of the department. The ‘475’ is out of a son to ‘Oprah’ and his brother is father to the ‘299’ and a sister is the mother to the ‘218’. And these 3 children were all pigeons with results. The mother to the ‘275’ (from 2016) came in 2015 from Jos van Olmen from Broechem and has the name ‘Ezelke ‘.


The winning yearling has ringnumber NL20-1655207 and received the name ‘Franz’ after his surprising victory which is the name of Michaels’ father who passed away in 2016. The father to ‘Franz’ is the former mentioned ‘275’ from 2014 that raced himself well on the morning releases of the Limburg department. The Limburg department doesn’t have these races this year anymore. Michael basketed 15 pigeons on Narbonne, 13 yearlings and 2 old. And the yearlings were mainly cocks and the 5 pigeons he clocked that same evening were all yearling cocks. One yearling hen was clocked at 5h48 as first pigeon on the second day. The yearlings already did Bordeaux and Agen earlier this season. On Bordeaux he had 9 prizes out of the 16 basketed pigeons with 3 early prizes and on Agen he had 5 prizes out of the 15 basketed with one early one. His 3rd and 4th pigeon on this Narbonne that were clocked at 20h26 and 20h46 both won prize on both races. The ‘207’ alias ‘Franz’ had his first extreme long-distance race on Narbonne. He was basketed as 2nd signed after an old pigeon as he already raced well on the program races, Michael raced him until the long-distance race Issoudun.
The mother to ‘Franz’ is a hen from 2017 who comes directly from Jos Martens out of Stein. And the father of his 2nd pigeon is also a pigeon that came in 2017 directly from Jos Martens. This is special, and Jos Martens was the first to congratulate Michael personally by phone with his national and international victory. Jos has already 3 international victories in his ‘pocket’ himself who were won in 2010, 2015 en 2018 on Tarbes, Marseille, and Perpignan. The mother to the 2nd Narbonne pigeon is from the bros. Vandenheede and is from 2014 and is as mentioned before also mother to a yearling that won in 2016 4th pigeon champion ELD in the department Limburg.

Total widowhood  

In Huckelhoven they race on the total widowhood system and the racers didn’t race any youngsters before the season. The breeding team is big enough to take care of youngsters. Michael competes on all ZLU-races aside Barcelona and good pigeons for these kinds of races were bought the past years at Winkens-Rothenburg (Itteren), Jos Martens (Stein), Wijnands and son (Maastricht), Jos van Heumen (Oss) and S. & A. Deckers (Meers). Michael hopes to compete on Barcelona in 2022 for the first time. Success on the ZLU-races was there already before and a highlight was surely the best ZLU-result of the year for the Grand Master competition of Spoor der Kampioenen in 2019. Michael won it on Marseille and at that race he won in 2019: 52, 63, 82 and 273 against 2,725 pigeons with 4 pigeons basketed. In one hour of time, they all got home, that must have been a real joy. But Narbonne 2021 will be for Michael Schmell even a sweeter memory by winning the 1st and 2nd national and 1st and 3rd international yearlings. Such a success couldn’t be foreseen! This is something that only happens in dreams which apparently can come true! A big congratulations for Michael Schmell.                           The 3rd prize national is won by NL18-1346130 from Helmut-Geert Schmitz out of Eys and was also the earliest clocked pigeon. This ‘130’ is a true topper as he won before the 16th Mont de Marsan (instead of Pau) this year.  Last season Helmut-Geert Schmitz had another pigeon that also won twice early prizes with a 20th Agen and 3rd Narbonne? And so, the man out of Eys wins twice national bronze on Narbonne in 2 years of time.