THE first weekend in May will see thousands of athletes converging on the Isles of Scilly for the annual World Pilot Gig Championships.
Members of Lyme Regis Gig Club will be among those to fight it out for the honours in this highly competitive contest that pitches the best crews in the South West’s against one another in this fastest growing sport.
The World Championships were first held in 1990, only attracting 19 visiting gigs from Cornwall – the home of gig rowing – but this year 155 boats are expected to compete from clubs from coastal towns and villages throughout the region, London and further afield.
There are multiple races that take place over the weekend, of varying distance, all starting on Friday, May 4. The ladies and men’s veterans’ races take place on Friday evening, with the main event happening on Saturday and Sunday.
The longest race is from the island of St Agnes down to the finish line just off the quay of St Mary’s (map pictured). Both veterans’ races follow this course to decide the winner of the trophy for these categories.
On the Saturday, the men and women race separately, and the finishing positions of this race determine the seedings for the subsequent heats. The St Agnes race back to St Mary’s will be exhilarating with the gigs competing driven on by the prevailing South Westerly winds and Atlantic Ocean swell.
Each gig is seeded based on the St Agnes race and the heats are split into groups of 12 for the next race from Nut Rock, back to St Mary’s. Two heats are held, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, with the top two gigs being promoted and the bottom two relegated.
The finals for both the men and ladies take place on the Sunday afternoon, again racing the same course. Each group then has a winner, and the outcome of group A decides who is the overall champions.
Lyme Regis Gig Club, celebrating its eleventh anniversary this year, will be entering its three wooden gigs – Rebel, Black Ven, Tempest and being loaned gigs kindly by Sidmouth Gig Club and London Cornish Pilot Gig Club- with 54 club members competing and hoping to improve on last year’s results, when the Men’s A team was placed 18th overall and Ladies A Team 36th.
They will face competition from clubs across the country, as well as local rivals from Bridport, both of who’s A teams did well in the 2018’s inaugural 3 Rivers Race, held in Saltash in early March.
Radio Scilly will bring the official commentary and coverage of the World Pilot Gig Championships, which you can listen to through the website at www.scillytoday.com.
They will devote the weekend to covering the championships, from first thing in the morning until an hour after the last race. You can also record your own good luck message for broadcast using a laptop, Mac, PC or device by clicking on the ‘send voicemail’ option on the website.
Lyme’s competitive crews have been training hard over the last six months, including circuits and gym sessions, and using the rowing machines and weights at the club’s new year-round dry land fitness centre, based at The Tunnel Target Sports Centre, near Charmouth.
Gig rowing is continuously growing in popularity across the UK with over eighty Clubs and internationally in the USA, Bermuda and the Netherlands. Having launched in 2007, Lyme Regis Gig Club now has 190, including 50 Juniors members and five gigs – three wooden and two fibreglass, plus an additional 24 eight to 12 years olds who regularly enjoy rowing the club’s two Cornish sea skiffs.
As well as taking part in the World Championships, the club will be competing in 23 regattas this summer and hosting our own Lyme Regis Rowing Regatta off the Cobb on August 11, 2018.
Highlights from the Vets Races on the Friday of last year’s World Pilot Gig Championships