This weekend sees Scilly come alive and pulsate to the sound of more than 130 pilot gigs being raced in the waters around the islands by teams of six rowers and a cox from as far flung as the Netherlands at the World Pilot Gig Championships 2014. The visiting gig clubs sport ladies’, men’s and veterans’ teams who are cheered on by their visiting supporters, islanders and all-round lovers of traditional pilot gigs, if not the islands themselves. Quite simply, Scilly will be buzzing!
This year is extra special, too, because we celebrate the 25th year of these magnificent Championships. Special anniversary memorabilia is everywhere – flip flops, wrist bands, guides and of course the ubiquitous IOS hoodies!
All the islands on Scilly are represented. Here on St. Martin’s we were once a racing force to be reckoned with, but as the “champs” have got a little more serious and professional in nature, our approach has been to become a touch more laid back. In fact, these days we’re so laid back about it, we’re almost horizontal! St Martin’s has two island gigs, but because we’ve struggled so to get competitive teams together more recently, we lend one – Dolphin – to Clevedon rowing club who last year did us proud by winning a trophy in the Dolphin.
Our scratch crew races in the beautiful pilot gig called Galatea, built in 2001 by Ralph Bird. This year, we will operate a squad team system – taking it in turns to race – as none of us is fit enough or young enough to get through the weekend unscathed if we don’t! And because we like to share – the pain as well as the glory! After all, it’s the taking part and having a truly great time that counts.