Cornish racing ends gig competition season
Members of Sidmouth Gig Club decamped to the picturesque Helford estuary recently to compete in two prestigious races deep in the heart of gig rowing territory.
The Helford Head of the River race is a gruelling row of some four and a half miles from the mouth up to the headwaters at the village of Gweek and took place on the Saturday. Sidmouth had competed in the same event for the first time last year and were anxious to do well. The Two Castles Race was a whole new experience for the club and took place the next day at Falmouth over a shorter course from St Anthony’s Head at the mouth of the Carrick Roads into Falmouth docks finishing at the National Maritime Museum.
The occasion saw the new wooden gig Keith Owen return to the county of her build for the first time drawing many admirers as she was lined up on the sandy beach at Helford Passage with 20 plus gigs from all over Cornwall and beyond. The mixed crew confidently rowed out to the line and got away reasonably well in the middle of the field at the staggered start. However, a strong head wind that persisted throughout the race began to challenge stamina and fitness and meant all crews posted slower times than last year. Sidmouth rowers showed tremendous spirit and kept rowing hard for 55 minutes crossing the line with much more experienced crews still within their sights. On collecting the Rubber Duck trophy at the prize giving Chairman Nigel Winchester stated “We’ll be ‘quack’ next year!”.
Something of a blue riband field assembled to row at Falmouth the next day and Sidmouth were determined to be in the mix. Concerns over the 45 minute row to the start line were quickly allayed as the rowers enjoyed the stunning scenery and took advantage of the following breeze.
Successfully vying for a slot on the favoured end of the line Sidmouth accelerated off to a good start surging through, wind spray and wake as 24 crews strained at their oars to break away from the main fleet.
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As the tail enders fell behind Sidmouth became embroiled in an intensive battle with two other gigs over the last half of the course.
Passing the escorting committee boat, the crew were uplifted by cheering from club supporters who had managed to get onboard and pulled on every last reserve of strength to stay in contention as Keith Owen turned past the last pier into the home stretch. Crossing the line in a highly respectable 15th place, the crew quickly forgot their pain and fatigue as they watched the considerable number of gigs they had beaten finishing in procession behind them.
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While elated by the performances and the opportunity to savour the close camaraderie of the wider gig community, the weekend sadly marked the end of the racing year.
Buoyed with enthusiasm the club now looks forward to some hard winter training from the relative comfort of Lyme Regis where Alma will be based. Anyone interested in rowing a gig whether as a means of keeping fit or purely for enjoyment would be most welcome to join in. Visit Sidmouth Gig Club website for details.