Two Bridport Gig Rowing Club Pilot Gig Boats, Brydian and Dagger, and their crews took to the water in the Isles of Scilly over the weekend of the 29 April – 1 May 2022, competing in the welcome return of the World Pilot Gig Championships – the 31st year of this unique event and the tenth time that Bridport has taken part.
The two traditionally built wooden pilot gig boats were transported from West Bay to the IOS several weeks ahead of the action. Meanwhile the club members in the squad made a serious commitment to months of training. From October last year this included weekly ergo training, training protocols at the club boathouse or in the WI Hall in George street. Coupled with a serious roasting from our brilliant Circuits coach Fionn from Luke Hayter Fitness at the Bee in Bridport, thank you Fionn. Training sessions took place on the sea whenever weather permitted. The change in the clocks meant that many visitors to West Bay would have seem the crews out on the water early in the morning or at sunset; inclement wind and weather occasionally restricting the crews to tough rowing sessions in the harbour.
Trust me, limited within the relatively still surface of the harbour these sessions can be the hardest as there is nowhere to hide that glitch in your timing, or technique, from the eagle eyed cox in the stern who is determined to get the best out of their crew!
Nutritional support is another key component when competing at this level and we would like to thank Firepot, another Bridport success story, for their excellent dehydrated meals. The racing schedule plus required on land activity, launching and moving boats, means during the race weekend our crews were burning around 5,000 calories a day. Ensuring the balanced input of tasty and nutritious calories is the key to ensuring prime levels of recovery and performance.
Thirty members of the club travelled to the IOS to take part in the WPGC, 17 women and 13 men aged from 24 – 67. Congratulations to all those who took part and thank you to the squad captains and coxes who kept us focussed on what was required.
The club entered six crews into the races – three for the Men’s and three for the Women’s. Men’s Supervets (over 50); Women’s Supervets (over 50) and then two crews – Crews A and B for both the Men’s and Women’s Open Event – any age welcome in the Open.
For the Supervet’s two rounds were raced on Friday 29 April with all the competitors hoping to earn a place in the third and race, the final, on Saturday 30 April. The first race is the Long Race from St Agnes Down with the second shorter starting from Nut Rock. Both races heading back to the harbour at St Mary’s. Our Supervet’s crews narrowly missed out on making the final twelve this year, but both worked hard to significantly improve their positioning over the first two races.
Women’s SV – (45 entries) – 17th in race 1; rising to 15th in race 2. Up 2 places
Men’s SV – (38 entries) – 21st in race 1; rising to 15th in race 2. Up 6 places
The fabulous weather meant we were blessed with calm turquoise waters, white sand, a hot sun, and a light cool wind!
Next up the Open section and the Long Race.
A start line of over a mile saw 115 gig boats set off all together in a race from St Agnes Down back into St Mary’s Harbour. 1.59nm. The results of which placed the crews in their groups of 12 for the next three short races of 1.19nm that constitute the Open.
At the end of the second and third races the top two boats in the group of twelve will move up into the group above; whilst the bottom two boats drop down a group. Sunday morning kicked off with the third of the races; followed a few hours later by the finals of the different groups. All the crews are competing hard against clubs of similar capability. The adrenalin on the start line is intense; as is the beauty of all the gigs drifting around behind it waiting for their group’s turn to race.
A real treat for an observer is to take a place on one of the spectator boats which shadow the different groups as they race. Up close and personal you really get to appreciate the massive effort that each individual rower is putting into moving their boat forward. The commands of the coxes as they urge their crews to strive harder and the thud of the oars as they strike against the hard wood of the pins.
Women’s Open (115 entries) –
Crew A (Brydian) placed 26 (into Group C); 26th (into B); 23rd (into C) ; 25th. WINNER GROUP C
Crew B (Dagger) placed 95 (into Group H); 93; 86 (into Group G); 83. Up 12 places
Men’s Open (106 entries) –
Crew A (Brydian) placed 54 in race 1 (into Group E); 51st; 49th; 46th. Up 8 places
Crew B (Dagger) placed 95 in race 1 (into Group ); 89th; 92nd; 88th. Up 7 places
A spot of rain for the men’s final’s on Sunday did nothing to dampen the euphoria of rafting up in the harbour, the lifting of oars and the pride shown in the winning crews at prize giving. Part of the joy of tying up next to your competitors is checking out the fancy dress outfits they have donned! Worth mentioning here is the enthusiastic hula hula dancing from the Bridport Ladies A crew in their Hawaiian skirts when they took to the stage later to accept their prize. Their efforts ensured that as a club Bridport will again be invited to take a second boat to the 32nd WPGC in 2023.
Congratulations to the crew Lucy Nightingale, Gemma Smith, Becky Hone, Carol Marsh, Genna Bunker, Kat Keogh; cox – Rachel Maltby. Cox: for flying the flag so proudly for Dorset as Brydian passed over the finishing line in well-earned clear water. Well done.
Full respect to those in the Super Vet crews who pushed themselves to row in the Open races as well. Outstanding effort.
The winners of the Women’s Open were Fowey and the Men’s Open was Looe (for the third year running). Congratulations to them – yes we do mean that. This is one of those friendly and supportive sports were applauding the efforts of other competitors is encouraged.
A final thank you to team ‘sensible’ who helped to pack up Brydian and Dagger, and who were lucky enough to row around the islands before leaving – a real treat to be somewhere so beautiful with the freedom to take a gig out. A glorious row from Porthmellon Beach on St Mary’s over to St Agnes and lunch in the sunshine outside the Turk’s Head as we watched other gigs beach up below us, over to the deserted white sand of Sansom where the water that we dipped our toes, or bodies, into varied from cold to wonderfully warm. Around the corner to take in the towering Hang Man’s Rock on Bryher and then pulling up onto the beach at Tresco and stopping for chips and a piece of cake at the New Inn. Followed by a final push across the sea to photograph the Orange Buoy that celebrated the World Pilot Gig Championship and a final push back to Porthmellon before adjourning to The Atlantic for a moment of reflection on the weekend.
A wonderful end to a successful competition in a beautiful part of the world.
Bridport Gig Rowing Club is an inclusive club and welcomes members of all ages and abilities. If you think this might be the sport for you and are aged 11 or over please do get in touch, take a look at our website, www.bridportgigrowingclub.co.uk, and book yourself in for a Learn to Row.
Or come down and meet us at the Boathouse in West Bay harbour on Saturday 2 July, when we are delighted be hosting our first Bridport Regatta post covid. There will be stalls on the green; a party in the evening, and the opportunity to cheer on the gig clubs of the Jurassic League as they battle it out on the water.