Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What is Gig Rowing and Who is it For?

gig practice and dogs playinggig practice and dogs playing (Photo credit: grakki)

Gig rowing is a traditional Cornish sport that has taken the boating world by storm in recent years. Its roots lie in the late 18th century when gigs were used as work boats. Incoming ships to harbour needed a pilot to guide them through treacherous waters and teams would race to the ships to deliver their pilot first and get paid. Side jobs included salvaging goods from wrecked ships and they were known to row the English Channel, smuggling goods from France and outrunning duty officers.

Modern Day Gig Rowing
Though gigs are no longer used for work, little else has changed. Teams comprising six rowers and a cox compete in races over 1-2 miles of choppy coastal water. Most popular on Britain's South-West coast, gig racing has seen a global expansion since the 90s with clubs in France, The Netherlands, Australia and the USA. Many events and regattas are held during the Spring racing season, culminating in the World Championships. Held over four days on the Isles of Scilly, the population here doubles as 2000 rowers and spectators descend onto the islands. In the 2011 competition over 200 teams competed in Mens, Ladies and Veterans classes with rowers aged 16 to 80. International teams gave a strong showing, with a Dutch team finishing runners up in the ladies event. Gigs can be seen at inland races too, such as London's Great River Race.

Boats measure 32 feet long an 4'10 wide. Built by hand out of Cornish elm as they have been for 200 years, they are rigorously inspected at several points in their construction by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association. The recent popularity of the sport has kept the traditional gig building alive and well in Cornwall, where a new boat will set you back around £25,000. Though a fair outlay, the quality of build ensures their seaworthiness for many years to come. All boats conform to the specifications of Treffry, one of the oldest functioning gigs in existence having been built in 1838. It is owned by the Newquay club along with two others named Newquay (1812) and Dove (1820). These three have a special race of their own with the top club rowers competing fiercely for the pride of crewing them.

Many coastal towns in the South West will have clubs, with larger cities farther afield competing too. Clubs are looking for members of all ages and their long histories promote a strong esprit de corps unique to this sport. If it's not there already, gig rowing will be soon coming to a coastline near you.

Crew Clothing sponsor gig rowing teams and are trying to get more people involved in the sport of rowing. For more information, click here.


  1. Iam overwhelmed to notice your post. you have profound knowledge regarding this topic. your input is praiseworthy. I like to thank you for this. I am looking forward to more informative posts from you.

  2. Very informative post which was very intestering. Been on holiday to Cornwall and its a beautiful place.

  3. Very informative post which was very intestering. Been on holiday to Cornwall and its a beautiful place.



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