Pilot Gig Boat clubs from Appledore, Barnstaple, Bude and Ilfracombe took part in the annual Two Bridges races last Friday between Bideford new bridge and Barnstaple new bridge. This event took place annually until the 2020 pandemic, so Friday’s race was the first Two Bridges race since then.
The Men’s crews set off first, lining up at Bideford new bridge for the start against the incoming tide and a light breeze. Appledore’s boat Verbena lead almost from the start ahead of Ilfracombe’s Raparee, followed by Barnstaple’s Nipper and Bude’s Bedehaven, rowing up to Crow point to turn into the Taw. From this point all crews benefitted from the incoming tide all the way past Yelland Jetty, Chivenor, Fremington Quay and Ashford to the finishing line at Barnstaple new bridge. Appledore Men took the honours with a time of 1.08.03 for the 9-mile distance, Ilfracombe 1.13.32, Barnstaple 1.18.02, and Bude 1.20.00.
With the exception of the Ilfracombe crew the exhausted men disembarked at Castle Quay to change places with the Ladies crews waiting there. Ilfracombe did not have a Ladies crew, so Raparee’s crew rowed back to Appledore in their own time before the Ladies race started.
The three Ladies boats lined up on the west side of Barnstaple new bridge for a proper racing start. Appledore took off rapidly and gained about a boat length on Barnstaple, closely followed by Bude. There then followed an exciting cat-and-mouse chase between the Appledore and Barnstaple crews, where the two boats exchanged lead position several times between the start and Chivenor. From that point on the Barnstaple boat gradually increased the lead until it was some six boat lengths ahead of Verbena as the race passed Yelland Jetty.
As the sun set on the horizon the three boats chased across the Torridge river from Crow Point to the Anchor slipway at Appledore, creating a captivating image silhouetted against the magnificent sunset. On reaching the finishing line first the jubilant Barnstaple ladies raised their oars in the air to honour the other crews as they crossed the line. Finishing times for this race were: Barnstaple 52:50, Appledore 53:35, and Bude 56:25.
Photo credit – Mike Matthews
Barnstaple’s winning Ladies crew – Jan Hunter (stroke), Roz Brooks, Kelly Baker, Tracy Torr, Jackie Spear and Jane Robson Curle.