Brixham Gig Rowing Club reflects success over the past decade

The two ladies crews after the final of the ladies' long race at the 2019 World Pilot Gig Championsh

The two ladies crews after the final of the ladies' long race at the 2019 World Pilot Gig Championships Photo: Blackstone Photos - Credit: Archant

Gig rowers around the country have suffered the disappointment of not being able to make their annual pilgrimage to the Isles of Scilly for the World Pilot Gig Championships which were due to be held over the first weekend in May.

A heat in the 2019 CPGA Veterans' Championship hosted by Brixham Gig Club Photo: Blackstone Photos

A heat in the 2019 CPGA Veterans' Championship hosted by Brixham Gig Club Photo: Blackstone Photos - Credit: Archant

Among those disappointed rowers was Brixham Gig Club who can now only reflect on their success over the past decade.

Club secretary Caroline Dadley said: 'Brixham Gig Rowing Club launched its first training boat in 2012, and has gone from strength to strength with the support of the community, its members and valuable fundraising.

'We now have three training boats and two traditional wooden racing boats, Pegasus and Henry Smardon, named after a well-known and respected past resident of Brixham.

'Our gig shed is located near Breakwater beach, and was partly funded by the National Lottery and built by club members with help of local tradesmen.

'We have around 100 members aged 11 to 72, most row competitively during the summer but we also have social rowers. Rowing takes place all year round in all but the very worst weathers.

'There are fantastic benefits to be gained for wellbeing, keeping fit and feeling part of the community, as well as actual rowing!

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'We have a great social life, and look to support local events such as the Pirate Festival and the Torbay Cleaner Coasts initiatives, and also raise money for our chosen charity, Muscular Dystrophy UK.'

Rowing is addictive, and one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK.

Gig racing evolved when a ship was spotted heading for the harbour, families would race out to try to get the pilot onboard to win the pilotage fee to guide the ship in.

Nowadays racing regattas are held throughout the South West and stretching much further afield.

The sport is overseen by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association with races are for all age groups U14s, U16s, Veterans (aged 40+), Super Veterans (aged 50+), and now even Masters (over 60s).

Competitive races are rowed in wooden racing gigs, which are all built to exact specifications.

There are six rowers, and a coxswain to guide and instruct the crew.

Most races are around three kilometres with three buoy turns.

Championship events are held and Brixham was extremely fortunate to host the Veterans' Championship for the last two years, and gained the honour again this year which, Coronavirus allowing, is looking to hold later this year.

Caroline added: 'We were the first club outside of Cornwall to host it. The World Championships are held in May in the Isles of Scilly. Unfortunately, this year's event was cancelled due to Covid-19 but Brixham were entering two ladies' and two men's crews and were hoping to build on last year's results.

'We invested in six rowing machines to build our fitness, competitive rowers also follow their own regimes and we have circuit training classes twice a week during the winter months for those that wish to participate.

'The gigs are expensive to buy and maintain but we have been incredibly lucky to be awarded grants from Sport England, National Lotto and Brixham Council.

'We are also supported by local businesses including Rockfish, Absolute Sales and Lettings, Maritime International and Coralline Health and recently benefitted from the Co-op Community Fund. Without these injections of funds, we could not achieve what we have and are extremely grateful to all our supporters.

'Going forward, we will continue to grow the club, become more competitive and are proud to support and raise the profile of Brixham as a thriving community.

'We welcome anyone wishing to support us, please follow our Facebook, website and Instagram pages.'