Regatta celebrates heritage of the Cornish Pilot Gig

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Flushing and Mylor’s annual regatta, on Sunday 25 June, saw Cornish pilot gigs racing in true traditional style. With a low tide and lots of beach to cover, the club came up with a solution to the lack of water: a “Le Mans” racing start, with men’s and ladies’ crews and their pilot running down the beach to their waiting gigs, with the Cox already in place.

Once afloat, the gigs had to quickly back up and round a buoy, causing much shouting and competition for water. They then raced out to a waiting vessel positioned off Trefusis Point. Here they collected their orders, rounded the ship clockwise and then raced back to shore, where their pilot ran up the beach in a final burst of speed to the finishing post, cheered on by spectators. It was as much a test of coxing skills as the power of the rowers.

Flushing and Mylor’s chair, Dave Matthews, came up with the new format. Dave says: “We had a lot of beach and not much water so it got me thinking, why not do something that celebrates the heritage of the Cornish Pilot Gig, and have crews competing to be the first one to get their pilot to collect ‘orders’? It made for a great spectacle from the beach, as well as a challenge for the crews.”

Flushing & Mylor Pilot Gig Club Regatta 2017

Club Secretary Julia Webb-Harvey said: “We wanted to inject some fun into the gig racing calendar, echoing the ethos of our club. It was a battle for water off the line, and you had the real sense of what the competition might have been like to get your pilot to the waiting ship back in the day.” She added, “everyone who came has asked to be invited again next year – if we invite others too we’re going to need a bigger beach!”

An invitation only event, the club welcomed Bristol, Falmouth, Lyme Regis, Nankersey and Portreath, and fielded its own Flushing and Mylor crews. With coxes in tri-corn hats and crews in fancy dress, including pirates, mermaids and fairies, the regatta was a feast for the eye as well as a test of skill for rowers and coxes.

The race format proved a hit with all the clubs who took part. Lyme Regis took most of the glory but everyone left with a smile. Thanks go to all club members who stepped up to make the event a success, including the beach marshals, time keepers, event planners, boat providers, safety boat, and especially the catering crew, who put on a splendid spread, surely reason enough alone to return in 2018.

All photos courtesy of Ria Sands

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