Uncategorised Archives - Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club held a topping-out ceremony on Sunday 8th December 2019

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club held a topping-out ceremony on Sunday 8th December 2019 at their recently acquired premises, attended by Barnstaple Town Mayor, councillors, members of other local gig clubs, benefactors, and club members. The ceremony was to celebrate completion of the new roof on the 19th century warehouse purchased by BPGC in July this year, after a two-year fund raising effort to raise the purchase price, and to showcase work done on the building to date and the plans for future work.

On a windy and showery day the bacon rolls and hot drinks provided by the club for all present were most welcome. The club chairman Kevin Ward welcomed all those present, briefly explaining the work done to date and thanking all who have worked so hard on the project, before introducing Alan Rennles, Barnstaple Town Mayor, and inviting him to say a few words.

Mr Alan Rennles said how impressed he and fellow councillors were with Barnstaple Pilot Gig club for taking the initiative to raise the funds to bring back to life a sadly neglected building, in a manner that would be a credit to Barnstaple and an impressive Water Sports Centre for many years to come.

The topping-out ceremony then took place when one of the founder members of the club, Mr Tim Sloper, placed a weather vane in the shape of a pilot gig boat and crew on the bracket on the gable at the front of the building. The weather vane was commissioned and donated by Tim Sloper in memory of his late wife Chrissie Sloper.

Much work remains to be done to the building, most of it on a voluntary basis by club members. New windows and doors are already on site and will be installed in the very near future. The next big project on the building will be the renewal of the flooring at first floor level, with under-floor heating connected to an air-source heat pump. Further work will require additional funds, so the club fund-raising efforts continue apace; there will be a Christmas Bingo night next Thursday (12th December) at Barnstaple Rugby Club, a Christmas Raffle is underway with a first prize of a holiday for two, there is currently a Crowdfunder appeal in hand for renovation funds, and many more events are planned for next year. For further information and to keep up to date with the building works see

Topping out ceremony

Rowing a half marathon, 29/9/19

A Supervet crew from Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club set themselves a challenge to complete a half-marathon distance (21.098km) last Sunday on rowing machines, at the same time as when the Barnstaple Marathon and Half Marathon took place at Rock Park
Their challenge began as the Barnstaple half marathon runners left the starting line, and continued non-stop until the required distance had been covered. The inclement weather did not deter their effort and they continued through showers of rain blown into the club shelter by the gusting wind, so that all were very wet by the end of the row – not a problem for these rowers since it was just like rowing a gig boat in rough waters.
The finishing times varied from 1 hour 12 minutes to 1 hour 35 minutes, and the rowers were supported by other club members during and after the rowing session. The Town Crier gave encouragement and many spectators there for the running were interested in the effort put in by the rowers. The rowers had each gained sponsors for the event, and all monies raised will go towards the refurbishment costs for the new Water Sports Centre recently purchased on Rolle’s Quay, Barnstaple.

Rowers taking part were David Dixon, John Popham, Graeme Clarke, Alan Pidner, John Nickell and Tony Layton, and all were presented with half marathon medals on completion of the session.




Most of you are aware that we completed the purchase of our club building (the Fuller Building) on 3rd July this year. Since then we have worked steadily on clearing unwanted materials inside and out, removing the derelict shed at the side, modifying plumbing and electrical services to meet our needs, making the perimeter boundary secure and chasing out mortar on the walls ready for re-pointing.

At the same time we have been negotiating with various contractors to begin the renovation works on the building, and I am now happy to report that Advanced Scaffolding have fixed full scaffolding all around the building ready for roof replacement.  This work has been done for the cost of the pavement licence and the debris netting only, and we are extremely grateful to Advanced Scaffolding for the support (both physically and financially!) that they have provided.

GM Asbestos is due on site tomorrow (16th September) to remove the existing roof, after which AD Roofing Services will install felt, battens, slates and rooflights to give us a brand new roof.  In between removing the old roofing and fixing the new roof, the rafters will have to be extended by ourselves and new fascia and soffit boards fitted. The completion date for the new roof is not yet certain, but it should all be complete by 27th September.

In addition West Country Doors will be on site on 21st September to install two new roller shutter doors.  Rob Horrell from Appledore will also be rendering the front elevation and part-rendering the side elevations while the scaffolding is still in place around the building.

As soon as the new roof is in place we need to work on the existing roof trusses before the scaffolding inside the building is taken away.  The scaffolding allows easy access for scrubbing clean and oiling the old wooden trusses, so we should take full advantage of its presence.  Similarly we need to complete the high level re-pointing work on the outside walls before the scaffolding is removed.

Club members have already given many hours of work to this project, and your continued support is much appreciated.  Further group emails will be posted requesting assistance during the week and at weekends, so please keep an eye open for such messages.

Kind regards,


Dragon Boat Racing on the Taw 4 August 2019

Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club ran their third Dragon Boat Festival on the Taw on Sunday, with local crews competing against crews from Bude, Exeter and Saunton for some spectacular racing on the Taw.

The course ran from where the River Yeo emerges into the Taw, to adjacent to Queen Anne’s statue on The Strand, and the boats and crews launched from and returned to Castle Quay slipway.  The event was kindly hosted by Queen Anne’s cafe, so Race Control was situated on the lawn on the river side of the cafe. Three boats were in action (Barum Bobby and Phillipa J from the Barum club, and Giggles borrowed from Torridge Gig club), and in the first two races all three took part.  The third race was between the two third-placed crews from the first two races, the fourth race was between the second-placed crews, and the fifth race was between the the first placed crews.  The sixth and final race was between the three best-performing crews to determine the overall champions.

The final race was between Exe-calibre (from Exeter), Pearce Construction and Saunton Sands Surf Lifesaving  club, all determined to win the trophy.  Saunton Sands and Pearce Construction fought a tight race, neck-and-neck for the first half until the discipline of the surf-lifesavers paid off as the Pearce Construction crew lost their timing slightly and slipped back half a boat length to allow Saunton Sands to take the trophy.

Other crew taking part were : BPGC, Bude Pilot Gig Club and the Eastleigh crew.  The ‘Over and Above’ charity provided the PA system and music for the event, and Safety Boat cover was provided by Barnstaple Sea Cadets crew.



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

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