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Gig Club visits Dorset

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club (BPGC) took their boat Lady Freda and 15 rowers on Saturday 25th to the Gig Boat regatta at Lyme Regis. All 12 gig clubs at the regatta enjoyed a sunny late-summer’s day with fairly calm seas and light winds, competing a kite-shaped course in full view of the crowds assembled on the famous Cobb breakwater.

There was a full programme of thirteen races for the day, but the Barum club could only compete in six of these races because of limited availability of club members on a Public Holiday weekend. Every club member there competed in at least two races, most in three races, enjoying the friendly rivalry and the sunny weather.

This regatta completed perhaps the busiest month yet for BPGC. On Sunday 6th August the club held a Duck Race and Car Boot Sale at Barnstaple and Pilton Cricket Club, raising more than £1050 towards their ‘Off the R’owd’ appeal for a Watersports Centre at Rolle Quay. This was followed by the annual Estuary Race between north coast clubs at Appledore on Wednesday 8th August, then Paignton Gig Boat regatta on Sunday 12th, competing with clubs from as far afield as Essex as well as clubs from Devon and Cornwall. The next Gig Boat regatta attended was Porthleven, on Saturday 18th, where the Barum club competed against 20 other mainly Cornish clubs, winning 14th position overall. Many club members stayed for the whole weekend to enjoy the area and the entertainment provided on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the RNLI Lifeboat festival on the Sunday.

As well as attending these four competitions, normal training sessions continued on weekday evenings and weekends throughout the month, also sessions every Monday and Thursday evening at Ilfracombe. The racing boats Lady Freda and Nipper were towed to Ilfracombe harbour for sea-rowing practise and the Barum club is indebted to Ilfracombe Pilot Gig Club for the assistance and advice freely offered on those occasions.

The club is now looking forward to the County Championships at Newquay, 2nd September for the Ladies crews, and 15th September for the men.


1000 Ducks at the Cricket Club

The Cricket Ground at Lower Raleigh played host to a Duck Race and Car Boot sale on Sunday, organised by Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club as part of their fund-raising effort to establish a Watersports centre on Rolle’s Quay.  It was a gloriously sunny day and, since no cricket was being played the event took place on the outfield around the cricket pitch.  This was a particularly suitable venue since both the cricket club and the Pilot Gig Club have received considerable assistance from the Keith Noel Abrahams charitable trust in the past.

The Duck Race was along a stretch of the River Yeo that skirts the boundary of the cricket fields.  It began just after 12 noon when the barrel containing the ducks was upended into the river by two duck ‘herders’ wearing waders, who followed the flock of plastic ducks down the river to the finishing line.  They intended to free any ducks tangled in the undergrowth, but were caught by surprise when some started to drift upstream, much to the amusement of the watching crowd. The recalcitrant ducks were herded in the right direction and followed down to the finishing line some thirty minutes later.  This section had some deep pools which caught the ‘herders’ by surprise, but fortunately no one fell in.  The winning ducks were greeted by cheers and loud applause as they were swept into the net by the increasing current.

The day was an overall success for the Gig Club, raising in excess of £1100.00 towards their ‘Off the R’owd’ appeal from the sale of ducks, barbeque food and cake stall, and the Car Boot sale.

Barum gig boats at Green Man Day and Torridge Regatta on the same day

Barum gig boats at Green Man Day and Torridge Regatta on the same day

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club (BPGC) had their two racing boats (Nipper and Lady Freda) on display on Saturday –‘ Nipper’ on Pilton High Street for Green Man Day, and ‘Lady Freda’ racing at Appledore in Torridge Gig Club’s annual regatta.


The Barum club has always supported Green Man Day, and this year they had a ‘Whack-a-Mackerel’ competition that was enjoyed by many passers-by. Tickets were also sold for ducks to be entered into the Duck Race and Car Boot Sale being held at Barnstaple Cricket Club on Sunday 5th August. All proceeds will go towards the ‘Off the R’owd’ appeal, raising funds for a Watersports Centre on Rolle Quay.

Club Chairman Kevin Ward said: “We are grateful to all who showed an interest in our club and our ambitions for the future. We are a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, run entirely by unpaid volunteers, to provide opportunities for all to take part in the fast-growing sport of Cornish Pilot Gig Boat racing. We also wish to represent Barum by competing with other clubs from the South West and beyond, and to help with the regeneration of the waterfronts in Barnstaple with our proposed new Watersports Centre.”

On the same day BPGC entered seven crews into Torridge Pilot gig Club’s annual regatta at Appledore. Conditions were excellent for rowing, with light winds and calm waters over the triangular course starting near Churchfield slipway and finishing opposite the Seagate Hotel.

The first event (Ladies B race) provided an upset straightaway when the Barum boat was blown by the light winds onto the start line marker buoy seconds before the start. The buoy mooring line became entangled on the rudder, and the boat started off dragging the buoy. The boat stopped and the cox almost disappeared over the stern to free the rudder, after which the ladies bravely set off in pursuit of the rest of the pack. Although they managed to close the gap, the others had too much of a lead, and the race was won by Torridge’s Kerens, which also won the Men’s B race next.


The Veteran crews took to the start line next, the Ladies race again won by Kerens, and the Men’s race by Rogue from Ilfracombe. Mixed and Novice crews raced next, won by Whitford (Appledore) and Kerens respectively. The under 14 race went to Whitford, as did the Ladies A, Men’s A and the Decade races that followed. The Decade race required each of the six crew members to have been born in a different decade, so the youngest had to be under 20 years old and the oldest over 60 years old. This proved to be the strongest race for Barum when their crew came in second ahead of Rogue and Kerens.

Fullabrook CIC Support new Watersports Centre in Barnstaple

Fullabrook CIC announced on Wednesday that they are happy to support Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club’s application for funds towards the cost of purchasing the warehouse on Rolle Quay adjacent to the Sea Cadets compound, for use as a Watersports Centre.  Fullabrook CIC have pledged £34,000, which, when added to funds already raised, exceeds 25% of the purchase price.

Barnstaple Pilot Club intend to refurbish the building for use as a boathouse and equipment store on the ground floor level, and as a spacious club room on the first floor level.  The latter will be made available to any other organisation needing a meeting place in central Barnstaple as needed.

Planning permission has already been obtained for change of use, and initial drawings prepared by Peregrine Mear’s Architectural practise for refurbishing the building, including proper access for the disabled, new toilet facilities and a spectacular hall on the first floor level.

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club have a number of fund-raising events coming up in the near future which the people of Barnstaple and surrounding areas may well like to join in and support.  These include:

5th August                  Duck Race and Car Boot sale at Barnstaple Cricket Club.  The Duck Race will be on the River Yeo along the Cricket Club boundary, starting at 12.00 noon on the day, and ducks can be bought for £1 each.  First prize will be £50, 2nd prize a voucher from TK MAX for £30, and third prize is lunch for two at Green Lanes Café. The Car Boot sale will start at 9.00am for sellers (£5 per pitch) and 10.00am for buyers.  There will also be a raffle and cake stall, and there will be a bar and food at the Cricket Club house.  Contact Steve on 07599 771090 to book a pitch.

15th September           BPGC’s second Dragon Boat Racing festival – contact David Dixon (davidcharlesd@yahoo.co.uk).

30th September          Six club members rowing the Marathon distance on rowing machines in Rock Park while Barnstaple Marathon is underway.

22nd September            Pirate Gig Nipper is entered into Barnstaple carnival.

5th October                    Autumn Ball at the Queen Anne Café

18th October                   A Quiz night and meal at Queen Anne Café

Club chairman Kevin Ward said “We are very grateful to Fullabrook CIC for choosing to support our project, this is just the encouragement we need to go on and achieve our Club ambitions.  Our members have already worked hard to get where we are today, well supported by the residents of Barnstaple and the surrounding area.”

North Devon Hospice Float Bye

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club took their two racing gigs, Lady Freda and Nipper, to escort the flower-decked raft towed out from Instow beach at the culmination of the Float Bye ceremony on Sunday evening, in memory of loved ones and organised by North Devon Hospice.
The raft was towed by a gig boat from Torridge Pilot Gig Club, and Lady Freda and Nipper were on either side as it was slowly taken across the estuary past the moored lifeboat at Appledore. From the beach at Instow it was a spectacular sight as the raft disappeared into the amazing sunset that evening.

The ceremony on the beach.

Dragons on the River Taw

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club held their first Dragon Boat festival on Sunday 1st July on the River Taw in Barnstaple.  Crews were invited to take part from the local community, and entries came from Pearce Construction, Fremington Trailblazers (2 crews), St George’s Dragons (NHS), the Windsor Arms and a Barbarian crew.

Two gig boats were decorated with Dragons heads, and seating arranged for 12 paddlers, a drummer and a coxswain in each boat. Race control was at the Town Station on The Strand, and racing started at about 7.45am as the incoming tide rushed in.  The start line was adjacent to the swing bridge over the Yeo, and the finish line was adjacent to Queen Anne’s statue.

The first race was between a Trailblazers crew and the Windsor Arms.  Both crews struggled to get to the start line from the slipway at Castle Quay against the incoming tide, but once there turned and raced with the tide towards the Long Bridge. The Windsor crew put on an impressive performance to cross the finishing line first.

Trailblazers versus Pearce Construction

The tidal flow slackened off for the following races, making it much easier to get to the start line for the second race.  This featured a second crew of runners from the Trailblazers, and Saint Georges Dragons from the NHS who, sadly, were left behind by the Trailblazers.  A crew of Pearce Construction men then raced against a Barbarian crew of gig club members, who were well beaten by the builders, and the fourth close-fought race was between the Windsor Arms crew and the second Trailblazer crew, just won by the Windsor Arms.

The fifth race was between the Trailblazers first crew and Saint Georges Dragons, comfortably won by the Trailblazers, putting them into the sixth race (a semi-final) against Pearce Construction.  Pearce’s convincingly won that race, meaning that they had to race again against the Windsor Arms for the final race.  Both crews were quickly up to the start line for an eager start ( to the Starters dismay), but were allowed to continue, and Pearce’s once more finished first and took the trophy for the event.

The winning crew

BPGC Chairman Kevin Ward presented the trophy to the winning crew and commented on how successful the event had been.

He said “Thanks to all of you for making this festival go so well. We intend to make this an annual event, and extend an invitation to all local groups and companies to register interest in entering crews for this competition by emailing the Club Secretary at secretary@barnstaplepilotgigclub.co.uk. All proceeds from this event will be divided between the Race for Life and our own ‘Off the R’owd’ appeal for a Watersports Centre at Rolle Quay.”

Next weekend the Barum club will be competing in gig boat regattas at Appledore on Saturday and Rock on Sunday.

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club ‘Off the Row’d appeal’ – Rowathon

Barum Gig Club are making 2018 their “Off the Row’d” year in an effort to fund the creation of a Watersports Centre that Barnstaple can be proud of.
By the kind permission of Tesco, the latest fund-raising project is a Rowathon at the store near Barnstaple railway station on Saturday 17th February from 10.00am to 10.00pm, and Sunday 18th February from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Proceeds from this event will be shared equally between Childrens Hospice South West and the Barum Club’s Off the Row’d appeal to fund a new Watersports Centre for Barnstaple.
During the weekend club member Graeme Clarke will be attempting to row a Marathon distance (26.2 miles) in less than three hours, supported by other club members who will demonstrate continuous rowing on the Club’s Ergo Rowing machines. In addition the new Ergo Sliders financed by Community Fund grants provided by Councillors Brian Greenslade and Mair Manuel will be on show. The Sliders have been a boon to the Club, giving a much more realistic rowing experience, and the Junior rowers particularly have benefitted. A collection will be made on the day, and Club members will be on hand to talk about the Hospice and future club activities.


BPGC attended the regatta today at Appledore, rowing in Phillipa J. Barum Bobby was also there on loan to Portishead gig boat club. BPGC were only able to field 13 rowers, to form a Mens B Crew, a Ladies B crew and a Mens Veteran crew, so only competed in these three races.
The ladies B crew were first away and gave a great performance to cross the line fourth in a fleet of ten boats, reflecting well on the training they have undertaken recently. The Men’s B crew suffered a broken pin just after the start, and a side-on collision on a buoy turn, but put on a great spurt on the home leg to gain four boat lengths on the gig boat in front of them and pass it just before the finish. There final position was 8th across the line. The Men’s Vets crew performed well around the whole course to come in fourth place at the end.
Portishead are a brand new club and this was their first regatta. They were well supported and enjoyed the experience, despite the cold and wet conditions. They kindly donated £40 towards the Fuller fund as a mark of gratitude for the loan of Barum Bobby, and they also purchased from us the black set of oars that we no longer use.

Barnstaple Sprint Regatta

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club enjoyed a glorious late Summer’s day on the River Taw on Sunday 27th Aug, when they held their annual Sprint Regatta.  This has become a firm favourite with North coast clubs, and it was attended this year by boats and crews from Appledore, Torridge, Bude, Ilfracombe and Boscastle & Crackington.  Racing started early at 9.45am with the Men’s Veteran race on a flat calm river with no wind.  The narrow channel around Fisherman’s Point caused some clashes of oars as all the boats were still in line and they were forced to close in on each other.  Will to Win (Torridge) came out of this to be first across the line opposite Queen Anne’s Statue, closely followed by Boscastle’s Torrent.
The succeeding races were a battle against the falling river levels as the tide receded, but by virtue of some very slick changeovers between races the full programme was completed.  The combined Junior races followed the Veterans, with Appledore’s under-14s first in their group and Ilfracombe’s Under-16’s first in their group.  Barum’s Men’s A crew stormed through the length of the course to take first place in their race, and Ilfracombe’s Ladies A showed their continuing strength by coming first in their race.  The final B group races were won by Bude Ladies and Ilfracombe’s Men.
Final overall placings for the regatta were:
1st    Appledore
2nd   lfracombe
3rd    Torridge & Boscastle
4th     Barnstaple
5th     Bude

Porthleven Regatta 2017

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club took their racing Gig Lady Freda and 16 rowers to Porthleven, near Helston, on Saturday 19th August to take part in Porthleven’s Gig Club regatta.  Sixteen clubs in total attended, including top Cornish clubs, so the Barum rowers were delighted with their seventh place overall in the final results.
Sea conditions were not unlike those normally experienced during the World Championships in the Scilly Isles, with a choppy swell and westerly winds force 4 – 5 for most of the afternoon, although the sheltered harbour was a suntrap for the spectators. 
Both Falmouth and Coverack competed hard for first and second places in the races entered into, although neither club entered every race. The first two races ( Ladies B and Men’s B), were won by Falmouth and Mounts Bay respectively, followed by the Under 16’s and Ladies A races, both won by Coverack.  The Men’s A race was won by Falmouth (Coverack second), the Veterans race (men and ladies together) went to Penryn, and the final Mixed crew race was won by Falmouth. Mounts Bay also competed strongly, with a crew in every race, and with one first place, two second places, two fourth places and two fifth places actually took first place overall in the competition.
The Barum club results were:
Ladies B   10th, Men’s B   7th, Ladies A   13th, Men’s A   11th, Veterans   5th ,  and Mixed crew 7th.
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