Gig rowing and Falmouth

It is likely you’ll notice during your holiday in Falmouth, 6 oared rowing boats either racing or practicing. Built of Cornish narrow leaf elm, 32 feet long with a beam of 4ft 10inches, Cornish Pilot Gig boats to give them their full name, are now used for racing but their primary original use was as a pilot vessel.

Back in the 19th century on first sighting or knowledge of a large ship attempting to make its way up to one of the major British ports of Bristol, Manchester or Southampton, crews would race out to it in an effort to be the first gig to get their pilot on board to enable safe passage and hence receive payment.

Gigs are also recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, with recorded rescues going back as far as the late 17th century. Nowadays the sport of gig boat racing is growing in popularity with over 100 clubs, the majority being in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. However, clubs exist in Devon, Dorset, Wales, London and overseas in France, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Australia and the USA.