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24 September 2014
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Gig Rowing

The Amelia Lee gig

The history of Cornish Pilot Gigs

The Isles of Scilly has been hosting the World Pilot Gig Championships since 1990. The origins of the Cornish Pilot Gig stretches back hundreds of years.

Gigs were originally built at the end of the 18th Century in Cornwall, to take the pilot out to the sailing ships. They were used as many of the harbours were too small for the ships to anchor.

It was essential for the gig owner to build a boat that would be fast on the Cornish waves. Whichever gig reached the anchored ship first received the money for the job. Gigs have also been used in smuggling, and as lifeboats.

When a new gig was built it was tested against opposition boats to find out how fast it was. It was only a matter of time before these impromptu races were replaced with official fixtures, and so pilot gig racing was born.

Falmouth gig
One of the Falmouth gigs

Today the competition is fierce but always friendly. There are more than 25 clubs in Cornwall alone with around 50 gigs. During May to September competitions are held most weekends. The main highlight for gig rowers is the World Pilot Gig Championships which takes place on the Isles of Scilly usually at the end of April. The islands have been host to the major event since 1990.  

World Gig Championships 2007

This year the Championships run from Thursday 3-7 May and BBC Radio Cornwall are going to be broadcasting live from the event.

There will be live inserts into all BBC Cornwall programmes throughout the weekend. Laurence Reed will be doing his lunchtime phone-in from the islands, Matt Sandoz will be broadcasting his Saturday Sports programme from the event and there will be live commentaries from the Championships on Cornwall Connected on Sunday.

Tune in to BBC Radio Cornwall 103.9, 95.2 and 96 FM.

last updated: 30/03/07
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