Two crews from Clevedon Pilot Gig Club are set to race to transfer a pilot to the Matthew just off the coast of Portishead. This will be the first time this has happened for at least a century, if not two.
With the support of the Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA), the club has been working with Bristol Pilots Ltd and the ‘Matthew’ to plan the event which will take place on Weds 31st May. On this day, the Matthew will be transiting from Sharpness to Bristol and requires a pilot for passage through the Avon Gorge.
Each boat will be carrying a Bristol Pilot and the first pilot to reach the Matthew will board the ship and guide it into Bristol. The day will take the sport right back to its Cornish roots when pilots fought to be first to make it to an incoming vessel. If successful, they and their crew would get the job, and the pay, for bringing the vessel safely into port. This fostered a culture of racing between pilot crews which lead to the modern-day sport of Cornish Pilot Gig racing.
Locally, the month of May bears strong significance. Records of pilotage out of Pill go back to 1497 when barge master James Ray was appointed to pilot John Cabot’s Matthew at the beginning of its historic voyage to the New World. That voyage departed in May 1497, making this month the 520th anniversary.
Clevedon’s Men’s Captain, Scott Ferrier said “As a club, we attend many races and events throughout the South West, though none are quite like this. It will be a privilege to use the gig boats in the manner for which they were originally intended.
This is an extremely exciting opportunity to recreate history and locally raise the profile of this fantastic sport. It is one of the fastest growing in the UK and should this race be a success we are planning on making it an annual event in our club calendar.”
“Thanks to Paul Wells and the Ruby D for providing a safety boat for the event.”
For more information about the sport and how to have a go please visit www.clevedonpilotgigclub.co.uk
Update 30th May: The 2 gig boats will leave Bristol docks at approx. 11.15am and will row up to Pill for approx. arrival of 12.30pm where they will moor up and wait until race start. The race will start approx. 2.45pm.