A Brief history of Port Isaac Rowing Club
This is an exceedingly brief description of how Port Isaac Rowing Club came to be and how it is today. The initial mention of gig rowing occurred during a much needed drink in the Golden Lion after a RNLI meeting. One of the RNLI crew described what he’d seen and learnt from visiting Padstow and Cadgwith, where there were rowing clubs already well established. This sparked some interest with another of the group relaying how they’d been involved at Newquay Rowing Club since the 1970s. After more discussion and undoubtedly more beer it was decided to take a visit to Padstow and check out what this sport of gig rowing was all about. Newquay and Padstow Rowing Clubs invited the interested novice rowers to have a go at rowing, singing and maybe the odd pint.
This, in itself, inspired more interest in the village from a diverse selection of people; some who were focused on the opportunity to row from Port Isaac, and those who wanted to contribute something towards the community. A committee was formed, complete with a constitution in 1990. A grant and loan were applied for from North Cornwall District Council. Enough for the cost of a gig, trailer, oars and boat cover. The club was expected to raise a percentage of the money borrowed and 5 years to pay the interest free loan back.
There were various ways funds were raised; donations were made from so many people, both local to the community and further afield, who believed that having a rowing club would be positive for the village. Share certificates were designed and sold. Each certificate indicated that the owner had invested money into helping the purchase of a gig. In reality they were fancy pieces of paper that gave the owner a little piece of kudos, as they could display their certificate proudly knowing that they had joined into the community spirit which the rowing club represented.
The whole community was involved including the Primary School, where they ran a competition to produce a design to be used on club clothing, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
A boat builder from Padstow, Peter Reveley aka Dasher, was commissioned to build the gig. He had already built ‘Dasher’ for Padstow Rowing Club and ‘Cape Cornwall’ for the rowing club of the same name, based in Sennon.
A name had to be chosen for Port Isaac’s first gig and a competition was held. Members of the public could pay for the privilege to name the boat. A short list of names was compiled from research on gigs that had existed at some time in the village, Tom Sawyer, Jane and Corsair. ‘Corsair’ was the clear leader.
She was officially launched in Port Isaac on Easter Sunday 1991. Other clubs were invited to attend. Races were held, apparently Port Isaac didn’t fair too well on this occasion. The crews were still novices; at least that’s one excuse that’s been used! A good day nonetheless.
One of the best achievements of this era of the club is when the Ladies Crew came in second place in 1995 at the World Pilot Gig Championships held in the Isles of Scilly and third at the County Championships at Newquay.
By the year 2000 the club was thriving; regular rowing 3 times a week for men and ladies and once a week for juniors. It was time to buy another gig. At this time clubs were reluctant to announce within the rowing community if they were either buying a new gig or selling an older one. But eventually word came that ‘Hornet’ was for sale. She was currently at Yealm Rowing Club, but prior to that had been built for Newquay Rowing Club in 1978 and named ‘Unity’. Port Isaac bought her with funds raised from club membership fees, regattas, gig pushes and other small events.
She was brought to the village, painted in Port Isaac Rowing Club colours, and given her old name back, after asking Newquay Rowing Club’s permission. It was realised that work was needed to make her more seaworthy (Yealm is on a river) and a comparable boat to Corsair, so they could be raced against each other on the North Cornwall seas and beyond. Boat builder Peter Williams of Fowey was asked to take on the job.
Throughout this period, Port Isaac Rowing Club was able to assist in the formation of two other rowing clubs- Bude and Boscastle & Crackington. The club held coxswain’s courses to help train personnel to be able to handle the gigs safely and to be competent at managing the boats and crews at sea; and under as many different scenarios as possible. The club also provided valuable navigation skills and local knowledge of the coastline. This facility was open to members of other clubs and, at the time, the only service of its kind within the sport.