PICTURES-Club launch new gig named after Keith Owen

Sidmouth Gig Club unveiled their brand new boat last weekend, and named it Keith Owen after the �15,000 donation from his fund towards it.

The new gig will allow the club to compete in races for the first time, and is the product of 18 months worth of fundraising.

And on Saturday they launched it amidst a celebration of jazz, tea, cakes and champagne on Sidmouth seafront.

The vessel was built by Maurice Hunkin, the renowned boat builder from Fowey, and was even blessed with holy water by Reverend David James at its launch.

It was officially unveiled by Nigel Winchester of Sidmouth Gig Club and Handel Bennett, from the Sid Vale Association (SVA).


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Mr Bennett, who is chairman of the Keith Owen Fund at the SVA, said they were pleased to have been invited to support the project.

He said: “We feel the Club is providing a new facility for local people, and at the same time, will be putting Sidmouth on the map at competitions throughout the South West.”

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Mr Bennett said Keith Owen had a great admiration and love for open-air activities, adding: “I am sure he would have been ‘right-chuffed’, and honoured, that you have chosen his name for your gig.”

After the unveiling the crew took the boat, which is rowed by six crew and a cox, out for its first race.

Val Huntingdon from the club said: “To have launched two gigs has been a major achievement and thanks go to all the businesses, trusts and individuals who have made the club the success it is so far.

“A season of competitive racing awaits us.”

She said gig racing, which began in the 18th century and is enjoying a revival, is now the fastest growing sport in the South West, and hopes the arrival of Keith Owen will attract even more new people from Sidmouth.

The club began in September 2009, when the Bagwell family at Sidmouth Trawlers were approached by a group from Lyme Regis about starting a team in the town, with the intentions of forming a Jurassic League.

They didn’t have a boat, but with sponsorship from local businesses and a lot of fundraising events they managed to buy a training gig, Alma, the following year.

But they needed a wooden, and much more expensive, boat, to compete in racing events, so with more fundraising, a lot of help from grants, and the massive donation from the Keith Owen fund, they managed to get their new gig.

Val says they will be entering a host of events this summer, and anyone who wants to get involved should visit www.sidmouthgigclub.co.uk.

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