Beginnings of a new Gig Club in Somerset

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Well known Combwich resident Bill Johnson had a big surprise when he unveiled the name of a new boat – it was named after himself.

The 32ft Cornish training gig was bought by the Combwich Motor Boat and Sailing Club with the help of grants from the Parish Council and the HPC Community Fund, which is managed by Somerset Community Foundation.

Bill, 86, is a founder member of the club and had the original idea to try and obtain a rowing gig after seeing them on the Isles of Scilly and other parts of Cornwall where gig rowing is a hugely popular hobby.

Burnham-on-Sea has its own gig rowing club and has supported the Combwich club in getting the project up and running.

Bill, a lifelong boating enthusiast who has built his own craft, said: “I was very pleased to be asked to unveil the name, but totally surprised it was my name. A number of people have been involved in a lot of hard work to make this happen and it will be a tremendous facility for the community.”

Together with safety equipment, oars and trailers, the gig, which was specially built in St Austell, cost around £20,000. Club secretary Trevor Reason, said: “We had a lot of interest in this venture from people who are not members of the boat club, so we are confident it will be a success.”

At the naming ceremony, the Vicar of Cannington, Rev Alison Waters, blessed the new gig.

David Eccles, Head of Stakeholder Support for HPC, said: “Its great to see the arrival of this new gig as a result of the club’s own efforts along with the Parish Council and support from the HPC Community Fund. The club provides a great service to the local community and we’re delighted to be able to help such a worthy cause.”

The gig has six single oar rowing stations and Cornish Pilot Gigs were recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress. Their history can be traced back to the 17th Century when they were used to ferry pilots out to incoming vessels off the Atlantic. There are now dozens of gig rowing clubs throughout the UK and further afield.

Courtesy of Combwich

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