Cornish pilot gig racing is one of the UK’s fastest growing sports, with nearly 70 clubs scattered across the mainland from the south west upwards, as well as clubs in mainland Europe and even as far afield as east coast USA and Bermuda.
Designed to help new gig rowing clubs to expand by lending them GRP training gigs (Glass Reinforced Plastic) and other essential rowing equipment, the Club in a Box program literally gets fledgling clubs afloat and is the most important step towards encouraging more rowers to get involved and generating wider local interest, in turn allowing clubs to grow and purchase more equipment.
Walter Hicks, named after our founding father who set up the business back in 1851, is the second training gig to be delivered as part of the program. The first – named Seven Stars after our first pub – was recently dispatched to the London Cornish Gig Rowing Club in Richmond and was officially launched on the Thames in June.
While Seven Stars has raised plenty of attention in the capital with its distinctive Tribute colours, Walter Hicks looked very much at home on the Tamar in its Korev finery, taking to local waters for the first time this weekend.
Christening the new training gig at its riverside home, Torpoint Mosquito Sailing Club gig rowing chairman Lisa Hocking said, "TMSC Rowers are ecstatic to have been offered the second Club in a Box training gig. We have been rowing mini gigs, designed really for juniors, so Walter Hicks will mean our members, especially the taller ones, will be much more comfortable out on the water. It will also mean that the club can start training for events and complete longer training rows out of more sheltered areas towards the sea and coast. Basically, the new gig will open many more opportunities for us to become an inclusive and established gig rowing club as well as promote Torpoint as a water sport destination.”
As the Club in a Box program begins to roll out proper, CPGA chairman Shane Sullivan commented,: “This is a major step for the CPGA which starts to address our future plans with GRP training boats, as well as helping prospective or new clubs become established and build capacity. Now the program has been successfully rolled out it can be expanded to meet growing demand in this popular sport.”
If you'd like to see a display tracing the history of the pilot gig, there's one at the Brewery Experience Visitor Centre.
The Cornish Pilot Gig has a long and hard-working history. In the early 1800s around 200 gigs were in use around the Cornish coastline. They were used to help larger vessels to navigate a safe passage, to trade with those same ships and to help rescue those in danger – stranded in remote or dangerous locations or jumping from sinking ships. They would have transported goods and people between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland but also would have smuggled contraband ashore.
Established in 1986 using boats built to an exacting traditional design, the governing Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA) body has overseen the development of the sport which now features a full season of racing culminating in the World Championships on the Isles of Scilly with upwards of 190 boats competing in events for men, women, juniors and veterans.