Pilot Gig Boat World Championships

  • Author: Nichola Aldridge
  • Date: Wednesday 17th May 2017
Pilot Gig Boat World Championships

This year saw the 28th World Pilot Gig Championships off the Isles of Scilly where 3,000 rowers and supporters gathered. Amongst them was a squad from Britannia Royal Naval College, made up of 16 Officer Cadets and other staff members. 

Arriving on the Friday evening and having set up camp and ‘unpacked’ the boats they stood on the side-lines to watch with excitement the Veterans and Super-Vets races took place. Their turn came the next morning with of course the first challenge being to launch the gigs, which had been shipped over from the College for the event.

The college ‘Gig Officer’ is the RAF Liaison Officer on the College staff, Flight Lieutenant Mark Dustan. He said: “In true BRNC fashion the teams were organised and before we knew it Bacchante, Ajax and Leander sat poised on the mile-long start line waiting to begin the 1.59 nautical miles ‘Aggy Race’.” 

First off were the ladies’ teams tackling the challenge with all crews competing together to be separated into groups for the next three races. Ajax crew contained three members from the College. In the men’s race Bacchante and Leander battled rougher conditions than those usually found in home territory on the River Dart. Shorter races, 1.16 nautical miles, against up to eleven other crews continued over the weekend culminating in the final on Sunday afternoon; the weather had eased and the sun shone as the teams headed out for one final push. 

Flt Lt Dustan said: “A spectacular effort from the Bacchante crew saw them climb through the heats to face the final race in their group during which they stormed to victory after a close battle with the crew of the Serafina from Nankersey Gig Club. The Leander faced worthy opponents finishing fourth and the ladies in Ajax narrowly missed first place in their group.”

On Sunday night, the weekend’s successes were celebrated before an early start back to Britannia for the new term with a new addition to the trophy cabinet in tow.

The World Pilot Gig Championships runs over the early May Day bank holiday weekend and involves twelve races, one hundred and fifty gigs and a rugby match just for good measure. What started as a small competition with only nineteen teams from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has now grown to welcome gigs from all over the UK and as far afield as Holland and the United States.  The event also includes teams of serving personnel from across the Armed Forces. The support for the Championships shows the extent of enthusiasm for the sport of Gig Rowing which has strong links to the heritage of the area. The original use of these boats for pilotage, smuggling and as lifeboats around the coast of the South West can be traced back over 350 years.


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