Lyme Regis shine at World Pilot Gig Racing Championships

Lyme Regis Gig Club on the podium at the 2019 World Championships. Picture LRGC

Lyme Regis Gig Club on the podium at the 2019 World Championships. Picture LRGC - Credit: Archant

Lyme Regis Gig Club elevated their status at the recent annual World Pilot Gig Racing Championships in the Isles of Scilly over the Mayday bank holiday weekend, with one of their competitive crews securing two podium finishes and another 2 crews finishing just outside a medal position writes Chris Bailey

With the exception of challenging waters encountered on Saturday's first open race qualifier, the rest of the weekend saw very favourable conditions.

Competition was as fierce this year as it has ever been, as changes have been made to the running order.

Because of the growing popularity of this event, the organisers have taken measures to 'cap' 2020 entries to one boat per club entered, for safety reasons.

However, were a team to finish in the top three in Ladies or Mens Vets or Supervets events or the top 12 in the open event, this would entitle them to take a second boat for their club to enter next year, allowing extra club members to secure a racing opportunity.


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A different race order for the Vets and SuperVets was also introduced. To secure a position in the final top three, a qualifying race was held on the Friday evening, to determine the top 12 crews for Saturday morning's final.

The qualifying rounds for this category was under way at 5pm on the Friday evening when the starter's flag went down for the Ladies Vets race. (40 yrs & older). They would battle it out over the longer 1.8 mile course from St. Agnes back to St. Marys.

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From the start, much vocal support could be heard from the many accompanying viewing boats and from any available vantage point on land as they approached the closing stages of the course.

Lyme`s Ladies Vets finished mid-pack at 24th, so were denied a place in the final.

At 5.30pm, this event was followed by the Ladies SuperVets (50 yrs & older) and this race was as fiercely contested as the Vets.

From the start, much wood rattling and words of encouragement from the respective coxes could be heard as the teams executed their well-rehearsed starting routine. 20-30 strokes in and the crews are at full race pace, maintaining a long and powerful stroke in an attempt to forge ahead and gain an early advantage over their competition.

Lyme's Ladies drew on all of their pre-race training and very soon could be seen to be making head way over the competition. They maintained an excellent pace to cross the line in sixth place, in so doing earning themselves a place in Saturday morning's final.

After a swift Ladies-to-Men crew change and in some cases the swapping of oars, the evening continued with the start of the Men's Vets at 7pm.

As with the Ladies, much of the pre-race adrenaline was expelled from the start and this event was under way. All of the crews chasing after the early leaders to gain a 'top 12' position.

Lyme's Vets did not disappoint, after an excellent race they crossed the finish line in fourth place, meaning they were also through to the final.

The last race of the evening saw Lyme's SuperVets set off towards St. Marys. Their start did not go according to plan which meant they had to draw on all of their resources to haul their boat into qualifying position. This they achieved in the first half of the race, gaining an early advantage in an attempt to also secure a top 12 position. They finished in fifth, also elevating themselves into the final.

Saturday morning saw the start of the Vets and Supervets finals. The first contest for Lyme in this category was the Ladies Supervets. They continued to do well, as their hard work and training through the winter months repaid them with an excellent 6th place overall.

After an impressive final stages contest, Lyme's Men's Vets would attempt to improve on their fourth place in the previous heat. However, they were only just denied a podium position, remaining in fourth place after a close battle with their counterparts. An incredible race to watch.

The last final was the Men's Supervets. For this race, they executed the perfect start and from around 500 metres out they were in the leading pack, alongside established crews from Falmouth, Helford and Charlestown. From half way, Falmouth started to gain a very small advantage, being pushed by the Lyme crew. Falmouth and Lyme Regis drew ahead of the rest of the pack, with Lyme holding off a challenge from Helford and Charlestown who have always beaten them on previous meetings. Falmouth secured the win to be crowned World Supervet Champions with Lyme less than a boat length behind them securing second place and a visit to the podium.

Following this race was the qualifying stages of the open racing event. These races would involve the largest number of boats (164) on a start line of over a mile wide. From this race, the position of the finishing boats would confirm their group placing in the next heat. There would then be a further two heats to determine final placings.

Going into the final the Ladies A crew rowed themselves into group C (top 36) and finished just short of a group win and podium visit in 26th place. The best ever result achieved by them.

The Ladies B crew earned themselves a respectable 72nd overall position, and the Ladies C crossing the line in their category to take a remarkable 76th overall.

In the Men's event, Lyme's A crew rowed an exceptional race, finishing in 28th, closely followed by their B crew in 34th.

Lyme's Supervets were also in the open race event as their C crew. Racing in Bridport's Blaez, they qualified as group E winners, securing another visit to the podium.

There was an early set back for Lyme`s development crew in their first group qualifier, as they were rammed by another boat. That aside, they rowed themselves into Group I and were second across the line in their final.

Lyme Regis Gig Club would like to thank Men's vet and A crew member, Ben Short for his part in their winter and on-going training schedule, Mike O`leary for his valued coaching sessions and to Chris Waller for giving up so much of his time. Also, the home-based support team and other coaches, sponsors and all who helped to ensure all went well.

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