Famous double for Falmouth at Gig World Champs

Despite the rising cost of attending the World Pilot Gig Championships, over 1500 rowers and many more spectators flocked to the Isles of Scilly on the 4th May.

In the lead up to the championships, the organising committee had hit back at comments suggesting that the event could move to Weymouth in future years. Although the latter would be a cheaper solution, many who have attended the championships would agree that there is a certain magic to the atmosphere surrounding the competition based on the islands.

2012 saw the first time a ‘Supervets’ category has been officially recognised, with additional prizes for crews made up of rowers aged 50 and over. The Friday evening saw mostly fine conditions with gusts causing a manageable chop for crews. 59 Ladies’ Veterans (40+) crews lined up at the St.Agnes start line alongside 6 Supervet crews, and the flag dropping at 6.30pm signalled the start of the 2012 World Championships.

The crew from Mounts Bay in the Cormoron stormed to an early lead, not once looking challenged on their way to a comfortable victory. The race for second was much tighter, with several crews battling for the silver medal. Helford eventually came out on top, followed by Wolf of Salcombe. The Fowey ladies in Troy were the first Supervets home.

The Men’s Veterans were up next and – with several crews taking the decision to train solely for the Vets event – the expectation was that this would be an interesting battle. The Men’s Vets didn’t disappoint, as crews from Roseland, Caradon and Flushing and Mylor raced closely for the entire 1.59 nautical mile course. Spectators were on the edge of their seats as the race came closer to the quay with Roseland pipping Caradon by less than a length to take the gold. Flushing and Mylor came in third despite having to replace one of their rowers that week. Helford were the top placing Supervet crew, finishing a highly credible fifth place in the main race – from a field of 48 Veteran and 16 Supervet crews.

After the excitement of Friday’s Veterans racing, all eyes turned to Saturday and the start of the main event – the Men’s and Women’s World Championship races. 125 Ladies’ and 120 Men’s crews lined up at St.Agnes for the first-round seeding race, with crews racing the Vets course in order to be placed in tiered groups of twelve for the rest of the weekend. The race is the first to set tongues waggling, as it provides crews with their first glimpse of the competition after a long winter’s training.

With the competition’s top crews looking to qualify for the top group of 12 without exerting too much effort, Looe crossed the line first followed by Newquay and a composite crew in the Irene. The Ladies’ race was won comfortably by defending champions Falmouth, followed by Caradon in their new boat Amazon and Mounts Bay.

Rounds two and three saw crews battling to stay in their respective groups, with first and second place earning promotion and 11th and  12th dropping down to a lower group.

By Sunday afternoon, the top crews could finally line up at Nut Rock to compete in the 1.16 nautical mile Championship final. The weather could not have been better, with a slight breeze and bright sunshine making for flat water.

The Ladies final saw 10 groups complete the course before Group A – the top group and 2012 finalists – were called up to their lane buoys. Falmouth had been the team to beat throughout the weekend, winning each of their races with ease. The seven crews that followed, however, had been racing closely, with just two lengths between second and eighth place. The Dutch crew, who had finished second in 2011, were favourites to challenge Falmouth.

As the fast and furious final race got underway, positions changed several times – defending champions Falmouth forging a clear lead ahead of a tight chasing pack. The runaway champions crossed the finish line to seal another comprehensive victory, a fitting end to a dominant World Championship campaign. A final push from the Isles of Scilly crew in new gig Tregarthans saw them take the silver, half a length ahead of Par Ladies who had a photo finish with Caradon for third and fourth place. The rest of the fleet came in close behind, showing how much the standard within the top flight has improved this year.

The Men’s race followed, again with 10 groups completing their respective finals before Group A lined up for the Championship race. Falmouth again looked hot favourites, with top crews Par and Caradon expected to feature strongly. However, Looe had been rowing consistently well all weekend – proving themselves to be an outside favourite. After the first half of the race, the four crews were clear of the chasing crews and seemingly on their way to a blockbuster finale. Falmouth made their move first, forging a three-length lead soon after the half-way mark. That left Par, Caradon and Looe swapping places constantly for second place. Falmouth crossed first to seal an impressive double for the club, with Looe pushing hard to secure a silver medal clear of Caradon in third – themselves mere feet in front of Par in fourth.

After a stunning weekend of racing, the final 2012 results were a testament to the amount of hard work that Falmouth put it to retain their titles. Looe Gig club more than proved their top flight credentials with a best ever result in the Men’s event, achieved by a crew whose oldest member is just 25 years old. Looe Ladies also finished in 10th place – completing a wonderful weekend for the club. This year saw some staggeringly close racing for the medal positions, with more crews stepping their training up a level to compete at the very top of the sport.

However, the real allure of the World Pilot Gig Championships remains that hundreds of crews are able to compete in their own battles, with each group providing combative and entertaining races for competitors and spectators alike. Gig Rowing is truly an all-inclusive sport, with rowers of all ages and abilities able to compete at the highest level in the World Championships.

Check out www.gigrower.co.uk for hundreds of photos from the weekend. You can also read about the experiences of two Nankersey Rowing Club rowers in the June/July Rowing & Regatta magazine.

Rhiannon Halliday, British Rowing West Region Team Leader

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