Sidmouth Gig Club takes part in Clyde race – and it’s all done without leaving East Devon

The Sidmouth Gig Club 'River Clyde Race' awards ceremony - covid-19 style. Jeremy Cloke presents the

The Sidmouth Gig Club 'River Clyde Race' awards ceremony - covid-19 style. Jeremy Cloke presents the award which Keith Owen’s crew won in Scotland last year to the two coxes, Pete Blackmore and Julie Turner. Picture: SIDMOUTH GIG CLUB - Credit: Archant

This time last year, Sidmouth Gig Club was rowing on the river Clyde in the Castle to Crane race from Dumbarton to Glasgow, writes Nick Thompson.

This year, inevitably, arrangements were different; each boat was to race on a five-mile local course, and times were submitted to determine the winners.

Sidmouth entered two crews, an A team rowing in their newest boat, Little Picket, and a Supervets crew (over 50’s) in Keith Owen. The course started at the yellow sewerage buoy, about 400 metres from the mouth of the river Sid, and ran to a point near Branscombe, where the boats turned about and headed back to the start. Five miles is 8047 metres, so in these days of GPS systems each cox knew when to turn, and where the exact finish point would be.

There was a fresh breeze from the north-east, so the boats stayed close to the shore on the outward leg, though there were some sharp squalls along the way. In theory the return leg should be faster with the wind behind them, though after 25 minutes of hard rowing neither crew would describe conditions as ‘easy’.

The A crew finished in 50 mins 22 secs, and the SuperVets (average age 60 plus) took 54 mins 08 secs.

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There were 120 entrants in the race, mostly in Scotland, some in England and also entrants from Holland and New Zealand. There were seven different types of boat in the race, the most numerous being St Ayles Skiffs, a four oared boat widely used around the coast of Scotland. To take account of this a formula was applied to determine the overall winners. As gig boats are six-oared boats Sidmouth were bound to be downgraded, and our adjusted positions were 82nd for Little Picket and 96th for Keith Owen.

No prizes were awarded this year, however the prize awarded to Keith Owen in Glasgow last year was brought to the beach and offered to the two coxes.

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Rowing against the clock is naturally much less exciting than being in a race with a dozen other boats alongside, but it was great to get back to competitive rowing.

Let’s hope that 2021 will see the return of racing regattas along the Jurassic coast.

Perhaps, given these ‘strange times’ we live in, it’s worth adding a ‘2020 Coronavirus update’ - as an ‘organised’ sport special social distancing rules apply to gig clubs. Face masks are worn in the boat house and launching of boats.

When off-shore crews can remove their masks, though the cox, who’s facing the rowers, remains masked.

Sidmouth’s crews have found these arrangements quite manageable.

The club offers a warm welcome to new members, whatever their ability.

There are currently around 100 members and it is most certainly a vibrant and sociable club that hosts many non-rowing activities. There is also a youth section which welcomes youngsters from age 13 and over. If you are interested in joining the club or coming along for a taster session, search online for “Sidmouth Gig Club” or contact the Membership Secretary at

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