To Falmouth for Orders!

The CPGA asks us to set our annual regatta date in the autumn, and we tie our event into Falmouth’s, so that visiting clubs might make a weekend of if. Little did the old committee realise what a terrible date they’d picked – there was hardly any water due to spring tides! Not great for the traditional sprint races between the two quays in Flushing.

With a lot of beach and not much water this had our Chair, Dave Matthews thinking. Why not do something that celebrates the heritage of the Cornish Pilot Gig, and have crews competing to be the first one to get their pilot to collect ‘orders’?

Crews racing to get their pilot back to the beach…

On Sunday 25th June we held the regatta.  With such little water, we had to make it an invitation only event, and were delighted to welcome a handful of clubs. The race format was a “Le Mans” racing start, with crews/pilot running down the beach to their waiting gig, with Cox in place. They then had to back up and round a buoy, causing much shouting and competion for water. The gigs then raced out to the waiting ship, BOB, positoned off Trefusis Point. They had to round the ship clockwise and then race back to shore to put their pilot back on shore. It was as much a test of coxing skills as the power of the rowers.

Our Ladies C dressed up as fairies for their race…

Of course there was another demand – clubs needed to be in fancy dress (of course!), with the pilot having to wear (and return) a tricorn hat. Club secretary Julia Webb-Harvey said, “We wanted to celebrate the heritage of the Cornish Pilot gigs, and inject some fun into the gig racing calendar, echoing the ethos of our club. It was a battle for water off the line, and you had the real sense of what the competition might have been like to get your pilot to the waiting ship back in the day,” she added, “Lyme Regis had most of the glory in the results, but there were no real losers on the day as everyone left beaming.”

In fact, the thanks poured in from all clubs, saying that it was such a fun day, and a contrast to the more serious sprints the previous day. All have asked to be invited next year… so it looks like we have a new format in the gig racing calendar. If we want to invite more clubs next year, we’re going to need a bigger beach!

Bristol’s Old Luggers heading out to the waiting ship…

Thanks go to all club members who stepped up to make the event a success – this includes our beach marshalls, time keepers, event planners/executers, boat providers, safety boat… and especially to the catering crew, who put on a splendid spread, surely reason enough alone to return in 2018.

Photograph credits: Ria Sands.

And now for something completely different… confirmation of our Regatta!

On the beach at last year’s regatta (2015)

We’ve completed the risk assessment, obtained permission from Falmouth Harbour Master, built a project plan, so we’re good to go!

Our Regatta will take place on Sunday 25th June, at ‘Flushing beach’ right at the end of Trefusis Road, home of our gig club. This year we have rubbish tides to deal with, so it won’t be the usual sprints between Kiln Quay and Flushing Sailing Quay. No this year, thanks to the imagination of our Chair, Dave Matthews, it will be a race celebrating the heritage of the Cornish Pilot Gig.

The ‘race mission’ will be to launch, with a pilot, and race to a waiting ship. The pilot will collect ‘orders’ and complete those, coming back to the beach to finish the race. Races will be timed, and of course there will be winners (and cups!). We’re encouraging crews to come in fancy dress, and take part in a ‘fun’ regatta after the serious business of the Falmouth Sprints the previous day.

As we will have more beach than water, the emphasis will also be on the beach activities. Of course there will be plenty of lovely FMPGC food – bacon butties from 10:00, a BBQ at lunch, and a constant supply of cake and hot drinks. A bar will also be available all day. We hope to have some beach games, and we’ve secured a big fat rope for a tug-o-war…

Entries are strictly by invitation only, so if any club reading this hasn’t received an invitation (sorry), write to us anyway, and we can always put you on our reserve list. Email:

Now, who has a line up to the weather gods?

My gig rowing story… Tommy

Your Committee has been working on a project over the last six months to bring together all information pertinent to the club (from its organisation, the ‘types’ of rowing we offer, training, selection, and policies on our equipment) in the form of a Welcome Pack for new members, and a guide for rowing. Thank you to everyone who has helped with it. As part of this project, I have collected a series of “my gig rowing stories” from a selection of members in the club, hopefully capturing different types of rowers, from out-and-out racers, to the very beginners. The Welcome Pack is almost there (delayed as yours truly was hospitalised and has been in recovery), but I thought I’d share the stories in a series of features on the website.

We start the series with our current chairman, Tommy:

I’m currently in my 7th year of rowing. It all started while I was studying for my masters degree at Falmouth Uni. A friend of mine roped me in and, having always been pretty sporty and keen to try new things, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I joined FMPGC out of chance. Since then the club has become a huge part of my life and through it I’ve met some of my closest friends. We moved to Cornwall 8 years ago, not knowing anyone, being part of the club has given Polly and I an amazing group of friends. One of the highlights was the two-gig escort we had as we sailed up Mylor Creek from the church on our wedding day. It’s a wonderful club, full of great people, top facilities and brilliant coaches.

I’m definitely a racing rower. Pretty much from day one I’ve wanted to compete. I struggle not to want to race even when training!

I enjoy so many things about gig rowing. The clunk of six oars in unison, the splash of the catch, the run of water under the boat, the history, the heritage, the characters, the competition, the challenge to make each stroke better than the next, the delicate balance between power and grace, crisp cold winter mornings as the sun peeks over the Roseland, long hazy summer evenings with a dip in the sea after rowing, the laughter, going places mentally and physically I never thought I’d go to…and then surpassing them again, leaving everything in the boat, being part of this wonderful, mad, fiercely competitive group of people…I could go own. You don’t row for 7 years without loving in. It’s an all-consuming sport, with highs and lows, yet within rowing there are moments of pure beauty.

The challenge about rowing is organising rowers – splitting the atom would be easier.

I have learned so much and more through gig rowing. The best thing about rowing is to never stop learning. I’ve learnt that 90% of pain is in the mind and it’s possible to go further even when you’re convinced you’ve got nothing left. I’ve learnt to love early mornings! I’ve learnt what sacrifice means and what it takes to reach the top levels of a sport.

My first goal was to race, then to row at Newquay, then to row at Scilly…I managed those all within my first year. My goal now is to row in a crew that beats the club record for highest placed men’s crew in Scilly.