Administrator, Author at Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club

New Water Sports Centre for Barnstaple

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club Chairman Kevin Ward is pleased to announce that the Club has now completed (as of 3rd July) the purchase of the The Warehouse on Rolle’s Quay for use as a Water Sports Centre and communal meeting place for the people of Barnstaple and surrounding areas. The Club has been engaged in an active fund-raising drive since November 2017 and has managed to raise £200,000 in that time to complete the purchase. Expressions of interest in using the building have already been received from North Devon Scouts, the W I, Bideford canoe club, University of the Third Age, Petroc, Morris Dancers, West Buckland School, and two Surf Life Saving clubs.

Kevin said ” We are immensely grateful to all of the club members and the people of Barnstaple who have supported our own fund-raising efforts, managing to raise more than £30,000 in the past year and a half. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of the grant funders who responded so well to our proposed project, to raise the balance of the funds needed. The largest grant was £75,000 from Sport England, and the next largest £49,850 from the Fullabrook Wind Farm Community Interest Company. Other grant funders included the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation (£30,000), Garfield Weston (£15,000), Bernard Sunley (£10,000), Investors in Devon (£1,500), and Barnstaple Town Council (£500).
The next step for us is to complete the necessary renovation works to the building to make it useable as a boathouse, workshop and meeting room, with a target date of 24th February 2020 for completion – this being the tenth anniversary of the formation of Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club. I am confident on past performance that the club members and the people of Barnstaple will rally round to ensure that we achieve this target, and the club will go from strength to strength.”

To celebrate the completion of the purchase, the club arranged a river outing on Sunday, with all four boats leaving Castle Quay in Barnstaple to row to Fremington Quay. Thirty club members made up mixed crews for the row, and all disembarked at Fremington Quay to enjoy refreshments at the cafe. The boats then rowed back to Castle Quay and, after the boats were returned to the temporary yard in Mill Road, the club members were shown around the new premises on Rolle’s Quay.

Coincidentally, during a training row on the previous day club members on a training row were able to assist the owner of a ‘houseboat’ that had come adrift on the Taw and was grounded on the north bank near Ashford. The gig boat Barum Bobby, rowed by a social crew, later replaced by a men’s racing crew, towed the stranded craft for almost a mile upriver to a safer location.

1813_T_03 B – Proposed Elevations E + W

1813_T_02 B – Proposed Elevations N + S

Big Weekend for Gig Rowers

The Gig rowing community enjoyed a full weekend of sport across the South West last weekend, with regattas taking place at Ilfracombe, Boscastle, Rock, Exmouth and St Ives. North Devon Clubs were well represented with Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club at Boscastle regatta on Saturday and Rock on Sunday, Torridge gig club at Ilfracombe on Saturday and Rock on Sunday, Bideford gig club attended Exmouth regatta on Saturday, and Appledore and Ilfracombe gig clubs were at Ilfracombe regatta also on Saturday.

Boscastle regatta on Saturday continued despite the early fog that shrouded the harbour in the morning, but which fortunately lifted enough for the racing to commence in the afternoon. The home club (Boscastle and Crackington Haven) were well adapted to the almost unique conditions on the race course that circumnavigated Meachard Island, with a final buoy turn for a homeward dash to the finish line at the harbour entrance. They came first in every category to take the overall trophy for the day. Barnstaple came 2nd in the Ladies B, 4th in the Men’s B, 3rd in the Ladies A, 4th in the Men’s A, and 4th in both the Ladies and Men’s Veteran races. The home club then entertained the visitors to a garden party in the magnificent setting of Boscastle Harbour, enjoyed by all.

Rock regatta was held on Sunday at Daymer Bay and it attracted 27 boats to take part, including Nipper from Barnstaple and Will to Win from Torridge. Many of the Barnstaple rowers had also rowed at Boscastle the previous day, so they all took part in five separate races over the weekend. The conditions at Daymer Bay were good, with only a slight swell and light winds, in contrast to the ‘Bibbly-Bobbly’ conditions the previous day at Boscastle. Friendly rivalry took place between Torridge and Barnstaple in the different races during the day, culminating in a determined row by Barnstaple Ladies in the A race chasing Torridge ladies all the way to the finishing line. The Torridge crew prevailed to cross the line one boat length ahead of Barnstaple. The beautiful beach and river views at Daymer Bay were a fine setting for this regatta, much enjoyed by all who attended.

1 Men’s B crews at Rock regatta, Torridge followed by Barnstaple then Bude.
2 Gig boats in Boscastle harbour preparing to race.

Indoor Rowing Championships, St Austell

The Barum Club also sent a contingent of rowers to take part in the Cornish Pilot Gig Association indoor rowing championships on Saturday at St Austell’s Brewery.  This was attended by clubs from all over the South West, with almost 200 competitors and more than 20 separate competitions.  Notable results for the Barum club were the first and second places won by Alan Pidner and Mickey Fry respectively in the Men’s 60 to 69 category 2000 metre race, and the third place won by the mixed relay 3000 metre race team (Megan Clarke, Jo Walter, Chris Walter and Andy Kearsey).  Graeme Clarke also achieved joint tenth in the Men’s 50 to 59 group 2000 metre race.
Graeme Clarke preparing for his race.

Dragon Boat Challenge-February 2019

Dragon Boat Challenge – February 2019
Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club finished one of their busiest weeks ever on Sunday with their third Dragon Boat Festival on the Taw in Barnstaple.  Full advantage was taken of the Spring-like weather and high spring tides when the nine competing crews gathered at Castle Quay early on Sunday morning, and the first race got underway at 8.45am.
The visiting Bude Pilot Gig Boat club kindly loaned their gig ‘Barrel Rock’ to race alongside Barum’s ‘Phillipa J’ and ‘Barum Bobby’ in a series of seven races from the swing bridge over the Yeo to the finish line opposite Tea on the Taw. The boats were adorned with Dragon Heads on the bow, and each had 12 paddlers for crew and a Barum helmsman.  Crews came from Lyme Regis Gig Club, Bude Gig Club, Exe-Calibre Dragon Boat Club, Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club, Fremington Trailblazers (3 crews), Parker Hannifin in Barnstaple, and Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club.
Each crew raced in one of the first three races against two other crews, and the third-placed crews from those races raced each other in race 4. The second-placed crews raced in race 5, and the first-placed crews raced in race 6 to determine the overall winner. Finally the second-placed crews from races 5 and 6 raced each other in race 7 to determine second and third places overall.
The final placings were:
1st  Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving Club
2nd   Lyme Regis Gig Club
3rd   Exe-Calibre Dragon Boat Club
Phillipa J and Barum Bobby racing each other.

North Coast Gig League – Race 2, 16th February

Nine Gig Boat clubs travelled to Appledore last Saturday to take part in the second round of the North Coast Gig League. Many of the clubs use this league to try out new crews and to introduce new rowers to gig boat racing, so it was well attended with no room left in the car park by 10.30 in the morning. The start line was beyond Yelland Quay in the river Taw, and the boats raced back to the finishing line at Appledore Quay.

The weather was fair and sea conditions good as the first race (Ladies B) set off for the start line, pulling against a strong incoming tide. This meant the crews were well warmed up before the race back, won by Bristol. Bristol went on to win the Men’s A and B races, and the Ladies and Men’s Veteran races, and the Men’s A was won by Appledore. Appledore also went on to win the Supervets races for both Ladies and Men.

Bristol Pilot Gig Club have presented strong crews at both NCGL meetings this year, indicating their determination to get good results in the World Championships in the Scilly Isles in May.

David Dixon
Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club CIO
Charity reg no. 1172955

1 Boats on Appledore slipway

North Devon Coast League- Saturday 26th January

The gig racing season got under way on Saturday 26th February, with ten boats from nine different clubs descending on the Churchfields car park at Appledore during the early hours of the morning. Many rowers travelled a long way for the first gig boat racing regatta in 2019 for the North Coast clubs. Sea conditions were calm with light winds initially, although wind speeds did pick up for the later races.

The Ladies B crews set off against a strong incoming tide on the kite shaped course, with Bristol laying down a marker with a comfortable win, setting a trend for the rest of the meeting. The Bristol club went on to win Men's B, Men's A, Ladies Vets and Men's Vets. Only Appledore were able to break Bristol's dominance with a first place in the Ladies A race and second places in the Men's A and Men's Vets races.

The Super Vet races in contrast were dominated by Appledore with first places in both Mens and Ladies, and Bristol had no Super Vet crews to enter.



Ladies Team

Men's Tean

Barnstaple Water Sports Centre

Sport England grant brings Barnstaple Water Sports Centre nearer to realisation

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club has now been promised a grant of £75,000 from Sport England towards the cost of purchasing a former warehouse on Rolle’s Quay for use as a Water Sports Centre and communal facility for the people of Barnstaple. This follows on from the earlier promise by the Fullabrook Community fund to provide £34,000 as well towards the project. Both promises are conditional on BPGC raising the balance of the £200,000 purchase price for the building, and, in the case of Sport England, for the estimated £50,000 needed to refurbish.

During the last twelve months the club has raised £26,000 through it’s ‘Off the R’owd’ appeal, with fund-raising events at least once every month. In addition the club is very grateful for the grants from NDC Councillors Community fund that allowed professional surveys of the building, so that plans can be made for the necessary remedial works. The Peregrine Mears Architectural practise has kindly prepared design drawings and technical drawings for the building to be used as a boatshed and communal facility, and Clear Asbestos Solutions Ltd, Slee Blackwell solicitors and Underwood Wright Chartered Surveyors have all provided professional services at little or no cost.

There is still a balance of £65,000 needed to achieve the purchase price, and the club is continuing with its fund-raising efforts every month. Also the outcomes of two further grant applications are awaited.

The proposed Water Sports centre has already aroused interest from North Devon Scouts, the WI, the University of the Third Age, PETROC, local Surf Life Saving clubs, Bideford Canoe Club, a Morris Dancing Group in Braunton, and West Buckland school. When complete it will have a secure boatshed and workshop on the ground floor and a substantial secure compound outside for storing trailers, boats and ancillary equipment. The first floor will be principally a large meeting area big enough to seat at least 60 people, a small kitchenette and toilets. Modifications to the building will allow disabled access.

Club chairman Kevin Ward said “We are very grateful for all the support given to this project by local business and the general public in the Barnstaple area that has allowed us to achieve so much in such a short time. We are hoping to achieve the purchase price during early 2019 so that refurbishment works may commence and the Water Sports Centre become fully operational by late summer 2019. It is the club’s aspiration that the facility will welcome other water sports users, and encourage creation and growth of other clubs, and individual users to create a vibrant water sports culture in Barnstaple. To help us turn this dream into reality we have a just giving page (, so please dig deep – every donation, large or small will help create a water sports and community facility that can benefit us all. Thank you to all who have already supported our aims. Our fund-raising team continue to organise fund-raising events and I ask for everyone to support those events in order that Barnstaple will benefit from this project.”

6656 Former Warehouse, Rolle Quay A04

6656 Former Warehouse, Rolle Quay A02

Marathon rowing at Barnstaple Marathon

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club held a sponsored Marathon row in Rock Park last Sunday to correspond with the annual Jewson Barnstaple Marathon, raising funds for the ‘Over and Above’ campaign at North Devon Hospital, as well as the Gig Club’s Watersports Centre for Barnstaple.
Ergo rowing machines were set up in the distinctive BPGC shelter erected near the Marathon start line in Rock Park.  As the countdown for the runners took place five rowers from the club were poised on the machines to start rowing the full Marathon distance, and the row began as the first runners moved off.  All rowers completed the full distance in less than three fours and twenty minutes, the fastest time by Stuart Mann was just over three hours.  Jackie Webster, Graeme Clarke, Chris Walter and Andy Kearsey all finished very soon after Stuart.
The Half-Marathon rowers then took their places, including Peter Webb who had just completed running the Jewson Barnstaple half marathon as well.  Alan Pidner and Megan Clarke also rowed alongside Peter to complete the distance, cheered on by assembled club members and passers-by in the park.
The Jewson Barnstaple Marathon organisers awarded medals to all seven rowers who took part in the afternoon’s activities; Peter Webb received two medals for both running and rowing the half-marathon distance!
1  Marathon rowers, from left to right - Chris Walter, Andy Kearsey, Jackie Stewart, Stuart Mann and Graeme Clarke
2 Half-marathon rowers, from left to right - Alan Pidner, Megan Clarke and Peter Webb

Dragon return to the Taw

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club held their second Dragon Boat Racing Festival last Saturday, with four gig boats decorated as Dragon Boats and eight crews of 12 paddlers competing for the BPGC Dragon Boat Trophy (kindly donated by Kevin Ward).
The 96 competitors gathered on Castle Quay slipway from 8.00am to register and prepare the boats, and the first race started at 9.30am. The boats had splendid Dragon’s heads on the bows of the red and black  Phillipa J and Barum Bobby (both BPGC boats), the white gig Siren (on loan from Appledore gig club) and the blue boat Giggles (on loan from Torridge gig club), and all were coxed by BPGC coxswains.
The first race was between crews from Parker Hannifin and Ilfracombe Gig Club, and both had a tough time getting to the starting line (entrance to the River Yeo) against the racing incoming tide.  However, once they turned and lined-up together for the starter to set them off, they speeded towards the finish line (Queen Anne’s statue) for a convincing win by Parker Hannifin. The tide eased off for the subsequent races between a BPGC crew and Trailblazer Daredevils, St Georges Dragons and the Windsor Arms, and Exe-Calibre and Fremington Trailblazers.
Semi-final races followed for the winners of the first four races; Parker Hannifin took on Trailblazer Daredevils for a win by Parker’s, and the Windsor Arms had a good start and an early lead in their semi-final against Exe-Calibre, only to be overtaken before the finish line.
The final race was closely fought between Parker Hannifin and Exe-Calibre, for Exe-Calibre to finally take the lead and the trophy
There was still sufficient water after the final race to allow two consolation races between Ilfracombe and BPGC, and Fremington Trailblazers and St George’s Dragons.  These were won by Ilfracombe and Fremington Trailblazers respectively.
Exe-Calibre were a visiting crew from Exeter where they practise Dragon Boat racing on the river Exe and Exeter canal. They will be invited back for the next Barnstaple Dragon Boat Racing Festival next Spring.

BPGC takes to the Thames!

The Great River Race on the Thames in London took place last Saturday, attended by almost every Pilot Gig Boat club in North Devon.  The race is almost 22 miles long, from Millwall slip in the East of London to Ham House next to Richmond on Thames, and it is a handicap race for all types of traditional rowing boats.  320 boats took part this year, including 49 Cornish Pilot Gig Boats, the majority of which were from Devon and Cornwall.
Because of the handicap system the Pilot gig Boats started almost an hour after the slower rowing boats, but even so Will-to-Win from the Torridge Gig Boat Club in Appledore was rowed with skill and power through the throng of boats on the river to gain first place in the race in a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 32 seconds.  It was such a quick time that the gunner who was responsible for firing the finish cannon was not ready and he missed the first boat arriving!
Finishing places and times by local clubs are shown below:
Summary showing finishing positions for North Devon Pilot Gig Boats:
Position           Boat                          Club                      Time
1                  Will to Win                  Torridge                 02.21.32
28                Bedehaven                  Bude                    02.35.48
42                Torrent                        Boscastle / CH      02.40.22
74                Margaret James          Appledore             02.47.10
84                Barum Bobby              Barnstaple            02.47.51
105              Kerens                        Torridge                 02.50.42
171              Phillipa J                     Barnstaple            03.00.28
186              Lantern                       Ilfracombe             03.04.00
209              Headon Home            Clovelly                 03.09.20
226              Morvoren                    Private entry          03.10.01
There were 49 Cornish Pilot Gig Boats in this race, so more than 20% were from North Devon.
Although the competition was strong the event was enjoyed by all, particularly the experience of rowing through central London and seeing the different types of rowing boats, ranging from 2-man rowing skiffs for picnics, to 20-man dragon Boats.
1  Phillipa J heading for Tower Bridge
2  Barum Bobby waiting for the start
Photographs by David Dixon,  Vice Chairman Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club CIO
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