Lyme Regis Gig club to Launch “Tempest”
On Saturday 29th September the Lyme Regis Gig Club will celebrate the launch of our new 6 men/ladies sea rowing Cornish Pilot gig boat “Tempest”.
Rowed by our Youth members, Tempest will be welcomed onto the water at 4.00pm off the slipway at Lyme Regis harbour by her sister Cornish Pilot gigs, “Rebel” and “Black Ven”.
The Lyme Regis Gig Club are proud to welcome “Tempest” the third of our wooden clinker built boats built locally by our very own Lyme Regis traditional wooden boat builder, Gail McGarva.
“Tempest joins the host of other Cornish Pilot Gig boats, keeping alive an element of our seafaring heritage. I believe it is a privilege to build such vessels. They demand patience, accuracy and passion and rightfully so.” Gail McGarva.
Celebrations will be all day. Weather and crews permitting, there will be sea rowing races off the Cobb in the morning, refreshments and craft stall from 9.00am, a raffle and tombola and of course, the “Tempest” launch and celebrations at 4.00pm from the slipway. Everyone is welcome to come along and join the celebration.
To find out more visit www.lymeregisgigclub.com
If you are local to Lyme Regis and would like to try sea rowing please contact to find out about ‘taster’ rows
“Tempest” under construction.
The current Lyme Regis Gig Club fleet
Gigs at the World Championships
Potted History of the Cornish Pilot Gig Rowing
In the early 19th century gigs were working boats in the South West and the Scillies, ferrying pilots out to incoming vessels to help them navigate through the rocks and safely into harbour. The boats competed to get their pilot out to the boat first and win the fee. Gigs also served other purposes along the English coast; salvage smuggling and lifesaving, sometimes under sail but more often rowed by a crew of six. “Even today the thought of out-running the revenue man has a certain ring about it!”
Gigs needed to have length, lightness and flexibility to be manageable in extremely heavy seas. Gig racing was born out of the competition to get pilots out to boats and from the testing of newly built gigs against others to measure their performance. but, by the end of the 19th Century and after the Industrial Revolution, oar and sail were replaced by engines and competitive gig racing declined.
In 1921 men who had rowed gigs before the war felt it was time to revive the sport and the Newquay Rowing Club was formed. There were still three gigs in Newquay's ownership, all built by William Peters (whose name is synonymous with gigs and gig building); ‘Newquay’ - built in 1812 and thought to be the oldest traditional rowing boat in the world and who is still rowed by the Club, Dove - built in 1820 and Treffry built in 1838. Peters considered Treffry his finest gig.
Racing continued until around 1929/30 when wider interest in the sport declined. With the outbreak of the Second World War the gigs were kept watertight and prevented from drying out only because cadets used them for training. In 1947 the Newquay Rowing Club was reformed and gig racing once again became popular on the South West coast and Scillies.
In June 1986 Ralph Bird, the celebrated gig builder, and Newquay's George Northey agreed that as the sport was growing in popularity some specifications for gig builds should be agreed. On 5th December 1986 a group of 14 interested parties met in Ralph Bird's front room and laid down a spec; length, beam, elm planking, no fibreglass. The only officer elected was the Chairperson, who would also do the measuring. The following January, in the Royal Hotel, Truro, Ralph Bird's specifications (based on those of the Treffry built in 1838 by William Peters) were adopted as standard and the association was christened the Cornish Pilot Gig Association. Lyme Regis Club member and gig builder Gail McGarva was fortunate to be mentored by Ralph Bird. Ralph’s vision, philosophy and skills live on in the safe hands of Gail a new generation Cornish Pilot Gig, boat builder.
Membership of the CPGA today stands at 58 clubs, with over 130 registered gigs. In May 2012, 129 teams took part in the Cornish Pilot Gig Championships, in the Isles of Scilly. New Gig Clubs are starting up at the rate of 3 a year and have spread outside of their traditional Cornish ‘homeland’ to Devon, Dorset, Wales and as far a-field as Holland and the Faro Islands
Published on 14/09/2012.