WITH the annual World Pilot Gig Championships, held on the Isles of Scilly, cancelled due to coronavirus, rowers from Lyme Regis Gig Club took part in the next best thing – a virtual rowing championship.
Held over four days, competitors rowed a series of fixed time heats on their rowing machines, in gardens, garages and living rooms – wherever they could find space.
The virtual rowing championships replicated the format of the World Gig Championships with one long-race used to rank competitors in order of distance rowed.
The field was then split into groups of 12 and, each day, competitors rowed a short-race to try and gain promotion to the group above or avoid relegation to the group below.
Competitors took part from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Australia and the Netherlands, as well as those from across the South West, including current world champions for the women and men, Falmouth and Looe.
Lyme Regis Gig Club had five rowers pulling virtual oars in a field of more than 300 competitors. All Lyme Regis rowers posted impressive results and maintained their positions over the weekend, with only one group relegation.
Tony Ford, Lyme’s highest placed rower finished fifth in the vets (over 40s) category and 33rd overall in a field of 191. Lisa Watt, Lyme’s highest place woman, finished 45th in a field of 137 women.
In the crew competition, which comprised the top three rowers in terms of distance achieved over the four races from each club, Lyme Regis finished in an incredible 10th place, ahead of Falmouth A in 11th place, and the top placed crew in Dorset.
Men’s captain Dan Dunford, who took part in the event, said: “It may not have been the sandy beaches and clear waters of the Isles of Scilly but these championships reminded us of why we do gig rowing.
“The incredible spirit, determination and commitment shown by everyone who competed was a big part of the success. To achieve a 10th place finish for Lyme Regis Gig Club in that level of competition was outstanding!”
The results were announced during a live-stream presentation ceremony with shanty sea singing and drinks in true gig-rowing style. The event has also raised more than £1,200 for NHS Charities Together to support NHS front line staff.