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Cornish Pilot Gigs

The first 'gigs' were built in the late 18th century and were used to carry the 'pilot' out to ships waiting off the Cornish coasts.

The pilot would then navigate the ship through the potentially hazardous rocks into the harbour.

Pilots needed to row out to the ships quickly - it was a competitive career as the first man to reach the waiting ship would receive the pilot's fee. Gig racing evolved both from this competition and from the testing of newly-built gigs against others to measure their performance.

Competitive gig racing was popular in Cornwall during the mid 1800's, but by the end of the century began to decline as the industrial revolution gathered speed and engines increasingly replaced sails and oars.

Many gigs were subsequently broken up or left to rot, but Newquay in Cornwall managed to retain a few and formed Newquay Rowing Club in 1921.

One of their boats, 'Treffry' built in 1838 still races and is used as the standard measurement for the construction of all new boats.

Newquay Rowing Club also owns two other historic gigs: 'Dove' built in 1820 and 'Newquay' built in 1812 - which is considered to be the oldest rowing boat in the world.

A List of local Pilot Gig Rowing clubs can be found here