Uncategorised Archives - Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club

Boscastle Regatta 27.05.2023

On Saturday the 27th of May Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club joined forces with Clovelly Gig Club to compete at the Boscastle Regatta. 

A beautiful Cornish village that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the set of Middle Earth was the arena for the races to commence. 9 teams from across Devon and Cornwall were represented.

With the sun beating down ‘Barnvelly’ took to the water for the first race, the Men’s B. Light winds and soft swell gave away to a competitive race and the crew came in a very respectable 4th position. The following 2 races produced even better finishes, the Ladies B fought hard to take an excellent 2nd place and this was followed by a 3rd in the Men’s Vets.

Two races remained for the ‘Barnvelly’ crews to compete, the Ladies Vets and the Men’s A. With an increasing northerly wind the swell played its part buffering all crews in the remaining races. The adrenaline was flowing and the excitment was increased as the crowds watched on from there high vantage points on the cliffs.

The conditions were now playing there part, the Ladies Vets finished the now challenging course in a healthy 4th place. Men’s A came next, a challenging race throughout with snapped pins and shouting a plenty brought the crew home in 6th place.

With the racing now complete and the scores added up, ‘Barnvelly’ finished the Regatta in joint 3rd position. This was an amazing effort by all involved but most of all new friendships were made and fun was had by all.

Write up: Steve Page

IOS World Pilot Gig Championships 2023

Over the weekend of Friday 28th April to Sunday 30th April Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club proudly had crews representing the club and competing the 2023 World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly. The crews performed exceptionally well in tricky conditions, guided by some very talented and competent race coxons. The men came 69th and the ladies crew came 66th, with the Ladies Supervets crew winning their heat – the best ever ladies results achieved at BPGC. A huge well done to all the rowers and supporters involved.

Image courtesy of gigrower.co.uk

Three Rivers Race 18.03.2023

The annual Three Rivers Race took place on 18th March this year, and BPGC entered two Men’s crews and a Ladies crew for the event. There were 86 gigs from 54 clubs lined up along the pontoons at Saltash sailing club, with almost perfect weather conditions – light winds and long sunny periods – spoken of by many as the best conditions ever seen for the event.

The Ladies race went off first in Nipper, with the boats starting off in groups of 12 for the grueling 6 mile timed race, and they crossed the line in a creditable time of 64 minutes and 2 seconds, in 56th place. The Men’s race followed with both Lady Freda (Men’s A) and Nipper (Men’s B) entered in a very competitive field, with Lady Freda crossing the line in 51 minutes and 13 seconds for 38th place, and Nipper in 55 minutes and 29 seconds for 65th place.

The day was enjoyed by all who took part and no one was in a hurry to leave Saltash when the racing was over. The Barum rowers enjoyed a de-briefing at the Union Inn in the afternoon sunshine before loading the boats back onto the trailers for the drive home.

Featured photo: Ladies Nipper crew, photo credit: gigrower.co.uk

Grand Opening

At the third attempt on the morning of Saturday 22nd October 2022 Kevin Ward, Chairman of Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club CIO welcomed the Town Mayor of Barnstaple Louisa Yorke, our County, District and Town councillors, representatives from a number of organisations that helped the club with the funding for the project, suppliers that provided their services and materials for free or at cost, friends from other parts of the gig rowing community who have helped us, other town clubs, and anyone not mentioned for all help provided.

During Kevin’s address he described how in 2017, 7 years after the club’s conception in 2010 the club were once again in a position that we needed to find accommodation for the clubs growing requirement to store our gig boats and equipment. The club had been fortunate to have had storage facilities at Brunswick Wharf and then the old Glidden and Squires site to the rear of the Rugby club. Immensely grateful for the use of the latter site, this did mean a long walk along roads through the town pushing and pulling our boats, so this as well as being given notice to vacate, galvanised the clubs resolve to seek facilities that could be permanent in the town with better access to the water, quite a tall order. And so “The of the rowd” appeal was conceived.

At this point in his address Kevin made one of the numerous acknowledgements thanking the clubs Vice Chairman David Dixon for being one of the main driving forces within the project and commented on his professionalism, tenacity and his personal time he had given, for which the club would be eternally grateful.

Kevin expressed his gratitude to have been blessed with being supported by a fantastic committee and Trustees who have always stuck together and supported him and one another.

Special mention was made to Sue Kingdom our treasurer who has been exceptional throughout the project and in general, he referred to how Sue has coped with the building team, he expressed how the club are very grateful for all she has done, even though she doesn’t row.

Kevin explained how a business plan was first put to the club in the Ebberley Arms Pub in the town in late 2017 and how he could sense the doubt amongst the membership as the plan was an enormous task for a small rowing club in North Devon.

It was quite a task to identify a suitable building, considering Barnstaple was a once very busy port town.

It was explained how a fund-raising subcommittee was set up with the few that were willing, Kevin then commented that this is where the club struck upon a stroke of genius, “we were introduced to a Lady by the name of Lorna Jones”. Kevin thanked Lorna exclaiming that she had been truly amazing and although again on our first meeting I could sense that slight doubt as to our resolve, but Lorna  stuck with us, guided us, nagged us, encouraged us, put us right on a number of ideas, but most of all, helped us. Kevin expressed that “we really do owe you a debt of great gratitude”. Flowers were presented to Lorna.

It was explained how the fundraising occupied us for two years, Lorna told us from the start it would probably be something called patchwork funding, where a number of funders would fund some but not all. We started raising funds, some self-generated, some funded. We then made an enquiry about this practically derelict old warehouse from the 1800’s on Rolles Quay, which had the potential to store our boats and equipment and with some work on the poorly maintained slipway allow us to launch into the River Yeo feeding into the Taw, our home waters.

It was a mammoth task to which on the whole we were given great encouragement and support by the many in the town, you will see the names of all that have helped our project, our boathouse, on the large thank you board. You will probably appreciate me not reading out every name. I will give special mention to Fullerbrook who really helped us to get things started and the county, district and town councillors who came to our aid during and at the end of the project to allow us to complete it.

So, on the 4th August 2019 we signed papers and handed over the hard earned money which made a ramshackle, pigeon infested old warehouse building on Rolles Quay, ours.

Two other thanks yous at this point must go to Nick Authur from Slee Blackwell and Perry Mears from Peregrine Mears Architects in the town, who both helped us in the early days and at conception of the project to realise where we are today.

There was lots of excitement and a looming realisation of what we had done and what we had now got to do to turn this ramshackle near derelict building into a usable and safe place to house the club, our gig boats and equipment.

At this point we still had to fund raise to carry out the renovation, all this whilst still running a programme of rowing to keep our membership numbers up to make the project worthwhile.

I kept saying in my head and probably out loud at times that famous line from the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come”

So, we are now clearing away years of rubbish which was on the site and fundraising again with lots of Lorna’s help and guidance.

A building team was set up with those in the club that had general trade skills and were willing to put a lot of their personal time, expertise, experience and hard work into the project, others in the club got involved when asked and the club on the whole set about the task of creating what we have today.

Kevin gave thanks and appreciation from the club to Matt Bacon from Advanced Scaffolding who provided all the scaffolding internally and externally for us to carry out the early demolition and rebuilding of the roof and walls.

He also gave thanks and great appreciation from the club to Dave and Michelle Muir from Exmoor Fascia’s for their generosity with materials and expert advice and help.

Kevin explained that when you come up the stairs to the upper deck you will see two half boat models of the Barnstaple Pilot Gig race boats Lady Freda and Nipper these were hand crafted by Patrick Bird of Kernow Boats, he also makes full size boats too, but we will talk about that another day Lorna. These models were presented to the fundraising and building team with the names of the building team on the plaque. This is your legacy to this club and to the town, describing the hard work, dedication, and service you have given.

Kevin listed the names of the core building team.

David Dixon, John Popham, Mickey Fry. Alan Pidner, Keith Baker, Steve Ford, Chris Walter

Tom Mud was also  mentioned who had carried out the majority of the painting in this building to an exceptional standard.

It was declared that this club could never repay you for what you have given to it, and I just hope guys that every time you sit down on the balcony or are rowing, retrieving your oars from the racks that you take a while and think to yourselves, we did this!

Kevin also gave mention that it would be remiss not to acknowledge the wives, partners, girlfriends that have been patient and have supported us spending the time we have, over the last three years on this building. It is a long time to wait for some blinds to put up isn’t it Shirley, it’s a bit of an in joke, sorry.

I think that these guys deserve a round of applause at least. They tell me there’s a decent bar later.

October 2019 started showing signs that the Covid pandemic was to take a grip on the country and across the world, this in some ways helped the project under strict guidelines as it stopped rowing taking place alongside so many other sports, but it also hampered the project, as any funding that might have been available was being diverted quite rightly to Covid related causes.

We as a club persevered along with Lorna assisting with fundraising and the guys completing works as we had funding for, being sometimes a little lucky, creating our own luck and working ever so hard gradually completing the task at hand.

Kevin addressed the crowd, “So here we are three years later, I could go into much more detail. There are as I have said displays, video and other recollections and stories by word of mouth that might be true depending on whose telling, that are much more interesting that listening to me read out an address. I encourage you to look and chat because there are lots more thank yous I could make to individuals and  representatives of companies that gave us advice and club members that helped us out, but we would be here all day.

It was a struggle to find our way again as a club after restrictions were lifted due to Covid. Like many clubs we have had to regroup and rebuild our membership. New training regimes have begun to bare fruit, new rowers in the club are starting to learn and be competent in the art of Pilot Gig Rowing, which can only be good for the club going forward. We have had some wins in the season,

A lady’s crew winning the Barnstaple to Bideford Bridge race and a Men’s A at Appledore sprints, a number of close 2nd’s and 3rd’s and we are generally starting to always be in contention at most regattas. Barnstaple is now starting to be seen on the circuit around the South West as contenders.

There is a winter training regime being planned ready for next season and we will compete in the North Coast Gig clubs winter league, newly named the Lundy League.

Now we have our boathouse we are going to encourage youngsters to join our junior section 11- to 16-year-old to which at one time was quite a thriving section within the club, The Barum Blades. We will hold a junior club night just for them, offering rowing, fitness training, games nights with table tennis, table football etc. together with the ability for dry training with videos of rowing and lots of fun and activities hopefully leading to them to compete at the junior championships at Hayle and Newquay.

Now, we won’t just stop. As a club we will continue to fundraise and replace equipment, we now have a building to maintain and provide for its revenue costs, we have ambition to buy a small crew bus to tow the boats to regattas and championships. And while I’ve got our councillors here, I think we would like you to view our slipway and rally support expertise, ideas and funding to improve it, but of course we can talk about that in a civilised fashion over a cup of tea.

Madam Mayor, we as a club are proud to represent the town of Barnstaple within the Pilot Gig Rowing community. We are proud that we were granted the right to carry on our livery and clothing the Barnstaple town coat of arms, ours with the crossed oars. We hope that we have, and will continue to make the town proud.

To end this address, the last thing I want to say to the club membership, supporters, funders anybody that has helped this project in any way big or small.  

 After five long years, We did it! And we got there!

Thank you.

Warm Space

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club to make new Boathouse available as a “Warm Space”

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club (BPGC) are to make the heated meeting room in their new Boathouse available as a warm space for local residents who may not be able to afford to heat their own homes properly during the current economic crisis.  The premises on Rolle’s Quay, Barnstaple has underfloor heating, a kitchen, accessible toilet and a meeting room large enough for up to 60 people, and will be open from 2.00pm to 4.00pm every Wednesday and Monday from Wednesday 4th January until Wednesday 29th March. Club members will be in attendance, ingredients will be available for visitors to make hot drinks, and tins of soup available for heating up, all free of charge.

In addition, free Wi-fi is available as well as charging facilities for mobile phones, and a large-screen TV that visitors will be able to watch.

BPGC is indebted to North Devon Council for the provision of a financial grant towards the cost of making this warm space available.

David Dixon

Vice chair, Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club CIO

(Charity reg 1172955)

Newquay Mens Championships Saturday 17th September 2022

On Saturday 17th September we put forward two mens crews for the Newquay Mens Championships.

The format of which is as follows:


Seventy-six (76) crews race in fifteen (15) races: fourteen (14) races of five (5) gigs and one (1) races of six (6) gigs
Top two (2) crews in each race progress straight to the quarters (quarters to take place on Sunday) = thirty (30) crews
Remaining forty-six (46) crews into Round Two.

Forty-six (46) crews race in nine (9) races; eight races of five (5) gigs and one (1) race of six (6) gigs. Top two (2) crews in each race progress to the quarters = eighteen (18) crews

Forty-eight (48) crews race in six (6) races of eight (8) gigs.
Top three (3) in each race progress to the semis = eighteen (18) crews

Three (3) races of six (6) gigs in each
Top two (2) in each race into the final


Our crews made it through the first round and finished in round 2 in 3rd place (Mens A) and 5th place (Mens B) in their respective races.

Clovelly Regatta 27th August 2022

Saturday 27th August was a Bank holiday weekend and also the date of this year’s Pilot Gig Boat regatta in the picturesque village of Clovelly. Barnstaple Pilot Gig club joined eight other clubs from around the West Country for a glorious day of inter-club races, enjoying calm seas, blue skies and the charming surroundings.

The boats were delivered to the top car park on the previous day, and Clovelly club members towed them down the steep service road that evening to park them on the beach ready for the racing on Saturday. The regatta started with the Vets and Supervets races, with Barum’s Supervet Men’s crew achieving a very creditable fourth place. This was followed by the B crew races and Lady Freda came in fourth with the Ladies crew and third with the Men’s crew. The Junior and mixed master’s races followed, for which BPGC did not enter crews, then the much-anticipated A crew races after that. In the Men’s A race Appledore were the clear winners, but Barum and Boscastle fought hard against each other all the way round, with Boscastle in Pentargon just taking second place at the very end from Lady Freda in third place.
The final race of the day was a Barbarian race, with individuals from different clubs making up crews for each boat. Much to the delight of BPGC members Lady Freda came in second, and as a reward this was the second boat to be carried off the beach and through the tunnel beside the Red Lion for loading on to the club trailer and towing back up to the top car park.

This was the first regatta organised by Clovelly since prior to the pandemic, and all taking part enjoyed the camaraderie and pleasure from meeting each other again and sharing the beautiful surroundings.

Write up: David Dixon

Photo: Natalie Pinto

BPGC mourn the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club members mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth the second

The club members were greatly saddened to learn on Thursday 8th September that our Monarch had passed away that afternoon. The sad news arrived during a normal rowing training session in the evening, and immediately a conversation began about how club members could demonstrate their respect for her late Majesty and honour her remarkable life.

It was agreed that the training session scheduled for the following day (Friday) would proceed, and the rowers would observe a minute’s silence with oars raised in the air, which is a traditional rowing fraternity way to show respect and honour to those that most deserve it. For those that took part it was an emotional and poignant action that affected all present, and all will remember that moment for a long time to come.

The Club had planned an official opening ceremony for the newly refurbished Boathouse on Saturday 10th September, and an open day then and on Sunday 11th for members of the public to see the new facilities provided. This has now been postponed to a later date to be determined once the funeral arrangements have been made public.

The photos below show the crews saluting her late Majesty.

David Dixon

Vice chair, Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club

Skip to toolbar