This bank holiday weekend sees the magic and mayhem of the 2023 World Pilot Gig Championships descending upon the Isles of Scilly and here at Readymoney Beach Shop, we are heavily invested in it. Read on to find out more.
Now I’ll be honest, before moving to Cornwall in 2015 I had absolutely no idea what gig rowing was. In fact, as someone who grew up in Cambridge, the only sort of rowing I had any idea about (but had never tried) was “slidey-seat” rowing, the sort you’d see in the Oxford Cambridge boat race (we do have that type of rowing here too, check out Castledore Rowing Club down at Golant). But if you’ve ever spent any time in Fowey, you are likely to have heard the reassuring clunk of the wooden gig oars as they power along the river.
Our home club is River Fowey Gig Club and our amazing Ladies A crew are currently the reigning world champions after an incredible series of wins at last year’s world championships. These six ladies and their ace cox James train super hard all year round and the whole town is rooting for them to regain their title this weekend. Give this excellent video below a watch to get yourself fired up.
Gig rowing has been part of Cornish culture for hundreds of years. The gig, a six-oared fixed seat wooden rowing boat, was historically used for piloting ships and rescue missions off the coast of Cornwall. Today, gig rowing is popular across the UK, with over 200 clubs participating in regattas throughout the year. The Championships are a highlight of the rowing season, attracting teams from around the world to compete in this historic and picturesque location.
It's not just Fowey Gig Club who train here in Fowey, Vanessa’s son Ross rows with Par Bay Men’s A (8th place last year) in their burgundy gig Warrior and Vanessa's husband Martin coxes the Par Bay Men’s B. Par Bay also launch from Caffa Mill and you’ll often see other local crews too including Charlestown and sometimes Gorran as our river location means crews can train on the river towards Golant or out to sea in pretty much any weather conditions.
My own rowing ability is much more sedate, I did the Fowey Gig Club Novice’s course about 6 years ago but never made the grade for the Ladies C crew and now just prefer to enjoy my weekly social rows (often with accompanying cake….) and supporting my son from the sidelines when he rows with the U14 Juniors. There are gig clubs all over the UK and indeed all over the world so if you fancy having a go and aren’t too far from a big river or the sea you might find a club near you.
If you’d like to support our rowers during this weekend’s championships, the races will all be live streamed by the Gig Rower Stream Team from both boat and drone (although be prepared for technical issues, it’s all volunteer led and signal can be iffy). If you’re in Fowey then Gallants will be streaming the open finals on the big screen.
You can find the full championships guide here (and all times are approximate, this is Cornwall after all) but Vanessa will be out at 12 on Friday (28th) with the Supervets round one then out again for round 2 at 4.30pm.
Friday night will see Vanessa enjoying one solitary pint of Rattler before getting her head down in advance of The Long Race with Ladies B in Troy at 12.30 on Saturday. Racing in a straight line from St Agnes to St Mary's for 2.96km the streaming focus will no doubt be on the Ladies A in Q. This race is an incredible visual spectacle with a huge line of boats stretching as far as the eye (or drone) can see as they fight for the places in the heats. Round Two Nut Rock race heats then start 3.15pm.
On Sunday Vanessa will then have Round Three Nut Rock heats at 10 and then the Final starts at 1.30, working backward through the seeded places finishing with the top boats. It’s all a bit complicated for me to be honest but give The Gig Shed or Gig Rower a follow on socials and you’ll have as much as a chance as me of keeping up!
Don't forget to shout 📣 GO FOWEY!!! 📣 and support all the Fowey crews, it doesn't matter if they can't actually hear you! Go on Vanessa, we are SO proud of you and how hard you've worked for this, we know you'll smash it and we look forward to seeing the photos of you dancing on the tables on Sunday night!