Exmouth enjoy great gig day at world championships
PUBLISHED: 09:07 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:42 23 May 2019
The annual World Pilot Gig Championships (WPGC) on the Isles of Scilly have been growing at a pace since its inception 30 years ago writes Gary Cook.
2019 was the largest ever event at 169 gigs participating, with entries being capped to 120 in 2020,
Exmouth Gig Club were keen to make the most of this final opportunity by sending seven crews to the event.
As ever the Veterans' race kicked off proceedings on Friday evening.
In many sports this category plays second fiddle, but not in gig rowing where the field is equally as competitive and each boat often boasts decades of experience. It was especially encouraging then that the Ladies Vets A crew leapt from 33rd out of 43 boats in 2018 to 17th out of 49. This was an early sign that Exmouth are starting to battle with the more established crews.
The Open event started with a warning to stay on the beach if fielding weaker crews due to rough weather. Some discussion was had on the beach but after some minor crew tweaks and pep-talks all five Exmouth gigs headed out to the mile-long startline.
After implementing more regimented dry land fitness programmes over winter, thanks in part to new member Steve Williams, all crews were hoping to reap the rewards come race day.
No crew wanted this more than Ladies A who only narrowly beat the B crew at the Three Rivers event in March.
In the seeding race (St. Agnes to St. Mary's) their focus over the last few months on technique in rough water paid dividends and they finished 70th, placing them in group F.
Their 2nd heat race (Nut Rock to St. Mary's) on Sunday morning saw them narrowly miss out on promotion to Group E. A solid final after some tuneful singing on the start line to settle the nerves saw them finish 70th overall, a full group higher than any previous Exmouth crew.
Mens A had all put in considerably more training, both on and off the water this year under new cox Karen Mossman.
With 5 new crew members and a solid Three Rivers performance they were hoping for significant improvements.
The Sunday morning heat race was just as exciting for the Mens A as it was for the Ladies A, except they were fighting for survival in their group.
The fitness work really paid off though, as they ramped up power and rate in the final third to fend off a spirited fight from Lady Freda of Barnstaple.
A much more comfortable final row, despite some aggressive manoeuvring from Miller's Daughter of Caradon, saw them finish in the top 80 for the first time. This is the best performance of an Exmouth men's crew at the WPGC by 20 places.
Since taking on coxing duties last season, Rob Santucci has overseen a vast improvement in the strength in depth of Exmouth's female rowers.
The Ladies B made the most of the opportunity offered by Bideford Pilot Gig Club to row their gig Endurance, a far lighter boat than Exmouth's second choice, Rodney Bey.
An initial goal of the Top 100 was smashed early on and with a win in their 2nd heat race they earned a final placing of 79th. This is a higher placing than any Exmouth ladies crew at previous World Championships - pretty 'hench' for a crew that boasts an age range spanning five decades.
The Mens B in Rodney Bey had a challenging but defiant World Championships with a crew that included WPGC debutantes.
A dash for clear water at the start of the first heat race saw a clash of oars and choice words exchanged between coxswains. However, they managed to fend off gig Kathrin Rose to cross the line in front.
They fought hard to maintain position in the group but their goal of beating the A crew was not to be, as they achieved a final placing of 151st.
Prior to the WPGC, Exmouth Ladies C crew lacked experience in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, with many crew members having rowed for less than a year.
Like Ladies B there is a considerable spread in age but unlike them, 5 of the crew had never rowed in Scilly before. However, like the A and B crews, they had put in considerable winter training to prepare for the event.
Their primary objective was to not finish last out of the nearly 170 boats and the seeding race ended with a full group in their wake. The heat races consolidated their position before the final race on Sunday afternoon.
A tired but satisfied crew lined up for their final race in Group M.
A solid start was followed by continual shouts of cox David Lomas, who has trained them since January and was already starting to lose his voice after a long weekend motivating his crew.
The crew edged ahead of their rivals as a drone followed and the A and B crews listened to the coverage from the start line. Then the news came through: Rodney Bey had won the heat.
Cheers from A and B crews and exhaustion from Ladies C who forgot to raise their oars in victory but received a rapturous ovation on the World Championships podium.
Celebrations in the evening at the famous Bishop and Wolf in Hugh Town were just as lively as the racing with gig rowers from other parts of the south west stating, "I've never seen such a happy club."
Final WPGC placings: Ladies Veterans A: 17th, Ladies Veterans B: 44th, Ladies A: 70th, Ladies B: 79th, Ladies C: 145th (Group M winners), Men's A: 78th, Men's B: 151st.
If you'd like to get involved in gig rowing (competitively or socially) and all the fun that goes along with it, visit www.exmouthgigclub.com.