Sidmouth Gig Club crews take part in the 2018 Great River Race in London

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Gig Club took part in what was a new venture for them last Saturday when they travelled to London to take part in the Great River Race, writes Jeremy Clode.

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Sixteen of the club’s rowers took part in the race, which began at Millwall and made its way along the Thames, through the arches of most of the iconic London bridges, to Richmond at the finish, a distance of nearly 22 miles.

The scene at the start was unforgettable, with a ‘Dunkirk-like’ sea of craft filling the river as far as the eye could see. Competing crews come from all over the world, including this year from the USA, and Romania, making this a truly international event. Nearly 400 crews took part.

This is a challenging course, particularly for coxes, who faced a strong following stream and have to pass through specified arches of bridges while trying to avoid slower craft just in front. One gig from Salcombe was unfortunately caught by the stream and congestion and became wedged under two large moored boats!

Thankfully the crew was evacuated to a rescue rib safely and no-one was injured, but the damage to their gig was considerable.

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


Sidmouth took both its racing gigs – Keith Owen and Little Picket – and since this is a maritime festival, fancy dress was a must!

The ‘Smugglers of Sidmouth’ received many cheers from well-wishers on the bridges during the race and rowed steadily through a surprisingly turbulent river course.

Most Read

It is compulsory in the race to carry an extra person in the pilot seat (bow) primarily to warn of impending collisions, but also to rotate in and share the rowing over this endurance row.

You are not allowed to stop, so changeovers were completed with the remainder of the crew rowing on and trying to maintain a stable boat. The welcome finish at Richmond bridge, just below Ham House, saw our first crew of Scott Rowson, Dave Timms, Barry Morton, Charis Buckingham, Julie Turner, Pete Blackmore, James Tarr and Nigel Winchester cover the course in Little Picket coming 159th out of 320 boats in a time of 2:56:29, placing them as 28th out of 49 clubs in the gig class.

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Our second crew of Jeremy Cloke, Linda Wheate, Gina Rodgers, Alan Rodgers, Megan Rodgers, Jacqui Blackmore, Sarah MacCourt and Philomena Steer, racing in Keith Owen, came 192nd out of the 320 boats in a time of 3:05:06, giving them 36th position out of the 49 gigs.

Thanks were expressed to Barry Morton for taking on most of the organisation of this ‘first’ for the gig club and to Nigel Winchester and Alan Rodgers who somehow managed to tow two pilot gigs through central London during a Friday rush-hour to the start of the race at Millwall!

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Sidmouth Smugglers at the start of the Great River Race in London. Picture CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus