Educational

Why I love the gig boats. 

I grew up in St Mawes, Classic Sailing’s home base, and learnt to row in the harbour when I was about 7 years old and I have rowed off and on ever since.

From 1996 I  worked on the water from St Mawes harbour as a skipper of our Pilot Cutter Eve of St Mawes. I would frequently see the gigs in action and racing and training. I even got to cox one in a near South West gale when the A Team were short of a cox and they thought as I was about and had some seaman like skills I could take them out. Well we headed out to sea straight into the eye of the wind and eventually we had to turn around and head for home.  

That’s the tricky part, gigs are open boats, pretty narrow, have no built in bouncy and adult rowers don’t wear lifejackets. So to turn the boat around 180 degrees requires two things, firstly the cox, who is the only person looking ahead, has to choose a smooth patch of waves to do the turn in. Secondly the crew need to spin the boat around as quickly as possible and get underway again so the cox can steer down wind rather than being pushed along.

It all happened according to plan and when we got into more sheltered waters they let me have a go at rowing, well that was amazing.

I wanted to take up gig rowing but to race you need to commit to training and working at sea made that impossible. Then when I stopped being an RYA Yachtmaster Instructor I thought I was to old. Shame on me, Debbie took it up and I thought I’m not letting her do that on her own so now I’m a gig rower and loving it.

Historically the best gig boat design and one still in existence is the Trefry, which is now at Newquay Gig Club.

The Trefry was designed and built in St Mawes at  Freshwater Boatyard by William Peters in 1838.

St Mawes is the location for the Roseland Gig Club formed in 1986 right at the beginning of Gig Boat revival and our most revered gig boat is called the William Peters in honour of that boat builder. Historically the Roseland Gig Club has and still does compete at the top level in Regattas and the World Championships in the Isles of Scilly.

If you ever get the chance to see 120+ gig boats in a race, get to the Isles of Scilly for the annual World Championships during the UK Early Spring Bank Holiday. I’ll be there this year racing in a team for men over 50, known as Supervets. Unfortunately I could not get in a team for over 60’s, Masters, and they have yet to sort out a category for those over 70.

As a St Mawes’er it gives me huge pleasure to know that every new gig boat that wins a gig race is based on the St Mawes, design created in 1838 by William Peters. If you like being active on the sea all the year round, get in a gig Club or form your own. There are gig clubs in England. Wales, Holland, US East Coast and Bermuda.

History and Trefry: https://www.gigrower.co.uk/about/history/

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