The fluttering of a thousand pigeons may be heard above Lerwick this weekend.
But the launch of this year’s flagship contest among a group of pigeon fanciers for the coveted King George V Cup will depend on weather playing fair.
The race is being staged by the North Road Championship Club, made up of breeders south of the border keen to take part in the ultimate endurance challenge for long-distance racing pigeons.
Competitors have been flocking to Shetland for years. They even came twice in 2011, once letting the birds take off from Saxa Vord in Unst.
Not that flying from Lerwick isn’t a challenge. On their release the birds have to navigate their way hundreds of miles across the North Sea and over land before they get home.
The pigeons have come from Yorkshire, right down to the Southern Counties.
Club secretary Stephen Spinks was delighted to attend, but he was unsure whether the pigeons would be released tomorrow from Lerwick’s Seafield car park as planned.
“It’s scheduled for tomorrow morning, but it’s obviously weather-permitting,” Mr Spinks said. “We can’t let them go if the weather forecast is unsuitable for them to fly home.
“Cloud and rain is no good for pigeons. Pigeons can’t fly for a long time in rain because they get too heavy – their feathers soak up the water.”
The King George V Cup was first presented way back, when the King was patron of the club. He presented the club with a solid silver trophy, which is up for grabs in this race. The Queen is now the club’s patron, as well as a member. Indeed, she even has pigeons of her own competing in the race.
With the Queen’s horse Estimate recently having claimed victory in Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup – could this weekend, and a bout of clear weather, herald a second victory for Her Majesty in less than a week? Only time will tell.