25th World Pilot Gig Championships Start Today With Biggest Ever Line-up

jaspa 1The 25th World Pilot Gig Championships start this evening with the Men’s and Women’s Veterans races.

It is the biggest gig championships to date. 130 boats have been brought over to Scilly from England, Wales and the Netherlands. There’ll add to the gigs already here which will be used by islands’ crew or loaned out to visiting rowers.

There were 19 boats used in the first event in 1990 and 14 of those will take part this weekend.

7 new gigs are on the water this year and 3 clubs are attending the championships for the first time. They’re Sidmouth, Brixham and Porkellis Moor, who are effectively landlocked. They row on Stithians Lake.

Maggie Tucker was part of the original committee. Their original goal was to boost tourism during what was known as the ‘Easter-Whitsun lull.’

And the committee wanted to give islands’ rowers a chance to engage with their mainland counterparts without having to leave the islands during the busy summer season.

But Maggie says 25 years ago, when the event started, the islands weren’t ready for an influx of rowers out of season. Most of the cafes, restaurants and hotels were closed.

Maggie says the most gratifying development has been the growth of the sport since the first championships and how much the rowers still enjoy coming to Scilly to compete after all those years.

Rick Persich has been the Championships Chairman for 8 years. He says the event runs well because it is a good example of partnership working with the Council, the Steamship Company and the Police.

This year over 140 boats will line up for the St Agnes to St Mary’s races. And there are more gigs each year.

Some people, including Cornwall Pilot Gig Association Chairman Jason Nicholas, feel the event is reaching maximum capacity.

Rick says the committee won’t restrict entry numbers but his committee colleague Kevin Sherris says there are only so many places for rowers to stay and the roads are now pretty much full up with trailers.

Kevin says gig transportation is a well-oiled machine but the clubs have to do without their boats for several weeks. He says it would be better if they could get them over and back in a week.

Andrew King is the most recent chair of the St Mary’s Gig Club. He’s also rowing for the island in the Tregarthens gig tomorrow.

Before he moved here, he used to come over from the mainland to take part.

Andrew says the event is very special and it’s more like a holiday, with competitors looking forward to it all year.

Once you’re here, he says, you just relax, because there’s great camaraderie among the crew. He can’t see the popularity of the event ever tailing off.

Despite the influx of thousands of rowers and supporters, the event is traditionally good-natured.

St Mary’s Police Sgt Colin Taylor says three additional officers, including Inspector Jean Phillips, will be brought in to support himself and the stations’ two police officers in their shifts over the weekend.

St Mary’s Harbourmaster Dale Clark says this weekend is likely to be the busiest he’s seen in his four years on the islands.

There are double sailings of the Scillonian III today and Monday, with a full ship arriving tomorrow morning. And two cruise ships are scheduled to visit, with the Fram arriving today, and the Ocean Nova in tomorrow.

Dale says they still have to work around the ongoing repair work on the quay, although he stresses that this will be suspended over the weekend. And although that work isn’t going to affect the gig championships, it does mean spectators won’t be able to watch from the end of the quay this year.

Dale says his team are always worried in the run up to gig weekend, but it always seems to go without a hitch. He puts that down to good preparation and planning from everyone involved in the event.


18 Responses to 25th World Pilot Gig Championships Start Today With Biggest Ever Line-up

  1. Colin Ridsdale May 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Derick, I realized that you made your comment with your tongue in your cheek, but you did start by mentioning the Gig Committee. As yet I have seen I haven’t seen an official comment from said committee. Selena said that there where plenty of boats available & were offered.

  2. Heather Maude May 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Well done Team SPY from Newquay -from Heather in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

  3. mainland visitor May 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Well done to the TWO Kernewick clubs that won both the mens and the ladies veterans race.
    Just sad I shall not be there to support you this year.

  4. Simon Eastham May 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    My wife Lindsay (nee Fallowfield) rowed for many years and has made it to the islands for this fantastic celebration. Love from both of us to all our old friends, participants and – for me – ex pupils taking part.

  5. derek shave May 3, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Im amazed you cant tell that what i said was tongue in cheek. Im 100 percent behind the vets i am one of them, not to get use of the race gigs is wrong. How there was not a mass walk out in protest i just dont know. Lets hope they get the use of them next year.

  6. Selena Baxter May 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Can I just put the record straight that Derek Shave is not a committee member. Those are obviously his personal views and certainly not that of the st Mary’s gig committee .

  7. Duncan Graham May 3, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Re: Vets Gigs.
    For Derek Shave to suggest that the Vets might damage a Gig is utterly stupid and insulting to people who have put in huge amounts of work in the past on behalf of the Rowers of Scilly.
    Our crew comprises three ex Chairmen of the Gig Association,two former World Champion Rowers and two Coxes actively involved in rowing this season.
    The Committees’ decision was, to say the least mean spirited.
    Duncan Graham.

    • Jiggly May 3, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      No need to get angry! Calm down calm down! The history of gigs on scilly is still saturated with infighting and bickering. Be grateful the championships are here and stop being silly.

      • Cheese Whippet May 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

        It’s pretty obvious to most people that Derek was just having a laugh! Doh!

    • Oh dear not again... May 5, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Sense of humour failure….? Not sure that this comment from Duncan is going to help if a similar decision needs to be made next year……always think it’s a good idea to think before you post comments on here….never a good idea to fly off the handle it usually ends in tears.

      • String Regal Advice May 7, 2014 at 8:41 am

        I think you’re quite ‘oh Dear Not Again’, inflammatory comments without the getting the facts will cause problems (S L A). I understand that the vets didn’t ask for a gig until the last moment so it wasn’t possible to agree their request.

  8. Colin Ridsdale May 3, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Thank you Selena for your input, but there you have it Gentlemen from a spokesman (Derick Shave) for the Gig committee, ‘You old buggers cant be trusted’
    What a good job you trusted the ‘young buggers’ to take the boats out, and taught them the skills that they have now to row, and to keep the club going over all the years that you did.

  9. derek shave May 2, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    The st marys gig club decided to not let the vets crews use the tregs and emma lou incase they damaged the gigs. The old buggers cant be trusted.

  10. Christine Winans May 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Feeling sad to miss my vets race this evening due to flight cancellations today but good luck to all the vets crews there and especially my helford ladies vets b! Capt Christine

  11. marianne hastings May 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Fantastic to be listening again to the wonderful coverage of the World Championships. Hello to all the volunteers in the tunnel Sorry i can’t be there to help. Love the interview with Maggie, she doesn’t change.

  12. Selena Baxter May 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I’ve no idea Colin why the local crew have taken a mainland gig. There are plenty that they could have used and were offered.

  13. Colin Ridsdale May 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Good luck to all concerned with this weekend, I hope that it goes as well as in the last 24 years.
    One question that maybe someone can answer for me is, why have the St. Mary’s Mens Veteran crew had to borrow one of the mainland gigs for their event? Was there no spare local St. Mary’s gig that they could have used?
    Perhaps one of the islands gig committee can give me the answer.
    Colin Ridsdale

  14. Todd Stevens May 2, 2014 at 10:32 am

    A few years back the Longstone center was looked into for accommodation for Kier workers. As I remember-(and maybe Im wrong?)- but didn’t our then council decide that if it was developed for this use then it would have to be dismantled afterwards? If so-this clause was totally idiotic as it naturally made the whole idea non financially viable for the proprietor and a waste of time and effort.The gig champs yearly struggle for bed space- and the recent request from Lagan construction for accommodation for its workers -proves what a lack of foresight that decision was. We need to get places like these operational for such uses instead hindering them and their development.