Thursday, 16 February 2012


CORNISH Pilot Gig Rowing has seen a massive revival over recent years and is no longer confined to the fishing villages and towns of Cornwall.

Kate Goodwin came to the sport some seven-years-ago when she moved to Dorset. Weymouth Rowing Club was one of the first gig clubs to spring up on the Jurassic Coast and as secretary of the club she is still as enthusiastic about the benefits and delights of gig rowing as she ever was.

This year is set to be an exciting year for the club with the World Championships to look forward to, and a place secured in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames this summer.

As the Olympics grow ever closer, there has never been a better to time to put the spotlight on Weymouth Rowing Club.

WHAT got you interested in gig rowing in the first place?
It was all down to a friend of mine who was a member of the club when I moved to Dorset from Cumbria some years ago. I’d seen gig racing in the Isles of Scilly and when I went along to Weymouth Rowing Club for a ‘come and try it’ session I was instantly smitten. Not only because the boats themselves were so beautifully made and I enjoyed my first row, but also because I remember seeing how all the rowers were having such brilliant fun together.

HOW has Weymouth Rowing Club developed during the time you have been a member?
The club was founded in 2000, and I joined in 2004. It’s grown alot. We currently have around 150 members. Fundraising has been a huge area of development, each boat costs around £20,000 and there is nothing we haven’t done for fundraising. Also, we have developed a really strong youth section. The thing I really care about is that the original founder members always had the attitude that everyone should feel able to come and row, no matter how old you are, what size you are, or how fit you are. There are all sorts of different levels within the club from the super fit A-Crew rowers to the older rowers like me.

THE World Pilot Gig Championships are coming up in May. Will you be going to that?
Absolutely, yes. The championships started on the Isles of Scilly about 21-years-ago. The islands are stunningly beautiful and to row there is amazing. The start line is more than a mile long and there are over 120 gigs all lined up. It’s extraordinary, not just the sight of it, but also the sound of the start, when 600 oars all hit the water at the same time, 120 coxs shout their orders and the crews grunt and groan. The races are incredibly closely fought, not just between the elite crews who are way up at the front, but equally the fight between say the 80th and 81st boat is just as real in terms of competition. Then afterwards, no matter what happens on the water, everyone gets together to celebrate.

HOW has the prospect of the Olympics rubbed off on the club?
We really want to ensure that people know about gig rowing. It’s obviously nowhere near to being an Olympic sport but it’s very much a West Country tradition and we just want as many people as possible to see the beautiful boats.  On the one hand they are finely crafted works of art, and on the other hand they are working boats that stand up to the most brutal sea conditions. 

WHAT other events are in the pipeline?
Our youth team have been successful in getting to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. We selected a very special junior crew, a group of young ladies and we are really proud of them. They rowed for us in our junior competitions last year and we wanted to recognise how hard they’d worked and encourage other young people to come and have a go.

IF YOU were adrift at sea, which three famous people would you like out there with you in the boat?
That’s easy, but they’re only famous in the gig world, and there are four of them. I’d take the four Lyme Regis rowers who have just rowed across the Atlantic. They did it in 48 days, one of them is 67 years old. I think they are fantastic!

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