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Gig Racing on Scilly

Another year of WGC wrapped up over the weekend and the sun finally came out to give the crews those distinctive red arms and faces. Some wonderful images circulating on the noticeboards.

It brings a few days of chaos and busyness not seen for the rest of the year. I got to thinking how did we end up here, crews coming from all over the world to race in heavy wooden boats 28 miles off the mainland!


What is a gig?

Wikipedia tells us The Cornish pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat, clinker-built of Cornish narrow-leaf elm,[1] 32 feet (9.8 m) long with a beam of 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m). It is recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, with recorded rescues going back as far as the late 17th century.


The first recorded use of the boats was in 1666 the crew of the Royall Oacke were rescued by a St. Mary’s gig after being wrecked on the Bishop. That traces the heritage of the gigs all the way back to when the Mermaid fire was lit !


It's become a popular sport in the south west and further afield and we regularly see a gig in the docks in the harbour in Bristol. The world championships were first held in 1990 snd since then have gradually grown in scale to what we see today with tens and tens of boats.


It's a gargantuan effort for the week before and after the event to get all the gigs across the sea and into place on the various beaches. This years event was pretty foggy until the sun finally broke through on Sunday.


It stretches the islands resources to the limits over the long weekend with all concerned working tremendously hard to make sure everyone is accommodated, fed and watered appropriately! Of course the locals pubs and restaurants look forward to the weekend and the mermaid floor gains its legendary status from the nights entertainments. It's often difficult to find accommodation on Scilly during gig weekend so I would recommend booking early if you want to compete or just experience the one of a kind event. Let us know your experiences of gig weekend and get booking for 2024 which will be in its traditional slot across the first bank holiday of May. Check out all the details on https://www.wpgc.uk.


Particularly well done to the Zelda crew of St Marys and to Helen who has won this more times than we can remember. Helen has one of the best work views on the planet down at Rat Bags, check it out next time you are on St Mary's https://www.ratisland.net/shop.


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