Gig Rowing & Falmouth

The drama and excitement of a gig race

The drama and excitement of a gig race

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.

To learn more about Pilots Gigs visit the Cornish Pilot Gig Association website here.

Falmouth Gig Club

Falmouth Gig Club was formed in 1985, when a handful of enthusiasts started to row the gig ‘Energy’ built by Falmouth Marine School of Engineering. This led to a second boat being built by Ralph Bird called Fury in 1992. Interest and membership soared and so a third gig Idas was added to the fleet in 1997. All the clubs boats are covered by a trustee agreement to ensure the boats will always stay in Falmouth.

The Ladies and Mens A crews are the current world gig champions. Visit the Falmouth Gig Club website.