Cotehele Quay Gig Club hosted their annual Tamar Challenge last Saturday. 20 pilot gigs from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset took on what many thought was the relatively straightforward task of rowing the nine or so miles from Saltash’s bridges to Cotehele Quay. It was to be a standard, if long, river race where gigs would set off in waves at three-minute intervals.
The anticipated rain had either stopped or never materialized by the time the race got underway in the mid-afternoon. However, not many had thought that the northerly wind blowing down the Tamar would be any more than something to partially negate the tide that the boats would all be riding on up the river.
Previously, winning crews had won in times of around 45 minutes. The conditions on the lower parts of the Tamar meant that this year’s winners, Caradon Gig Club’s Miller’s Daughter and Torridge Pilot Gig Club’s Will to Win, took half an hour longer. Whilst the tide was favourable, the wind brewed troughs and waves more usually seen on the sea. Pulling against the strong wind as well through the swells was a big ask. Many boats’ bows were stood up by the water then thumped down, making it hard for rowers to maintain a steady and powerful rhythm.
Will to Win showed the rest how to overcome such trials; turn back time and almost lay flat on the drive as rowers used to when they raced out to ships to earn their living. So it was that the Torridge crew’s backs didn’t act like sails as much as others, thus enabling them to reduce resistance and power on through to the calmer waters beyond Cargreen. Good river sense meant both crews used the slightly calmer waters closest to the Cornish bank of the river to aid their cause.
Their fortitude was rewarded with trophies for the fastest finish and first to finish respectively, and presumably some soup provided by dedicated volunteers from Cotehele Quay!
Confirmed results below;