Rowers seek public help to win £10k funding for historic sport

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 November 2017

Portishead Pilot Gig has begun teaching newcomers the basics. Picture: Portishead Pilot Gig Club

Portishead Pilot Gig has begun teaching newcomers the basics. Picture: Portishead Pilot Gig Club

Portishead Pilot Gig Club

A new rowing organisation has been set up in Portishead and it hopes the public will help it earn thousands of pounds in funding.

Waitrose has donated cash to the project. Picture: Portishead Pilot Gig ClubWaitrose has donated cash to the project. Picture: Portishead Pilot Gig Club

Fledgling Portishead Pilot Gig Club hopes to bring a new form of watersports to the town and emulate the success of its Clevedon counterparts.

This week, the club received a donation from Waitrose and applied for a £10,000 grant through the Aviva Community Fund. The scheme sees public votes dictate which UK projects receive crucial funding and the club needs it to get a racing gig.

However, it has already begun teaching the basics to newcomers.

In its Aviva application, a club spokesman said: “Cornish pilot gig racing is one of the most popular and fastest growing watersports in the South West, with 70 clubs and more than 8,000 active gig rowers competing at regattas along the UK’s picturesque coastline, culminating in the annual World Pilot Gig Rowing Championships on the beautiful Isles of Scilly.

“Gig boats are 32ft long, wooden, six-oared rowing boats, traditionally used for piloting, harbour work and as lifeboats.

“Cornish gig racing has a long and colourful history dating back to the early 1800s when gigs raced to transport pilots out to ships to secure the right to navigate safe passage into harbour.

“The introduction of gig rowing to Portishead builds on a proud industrial and maritime heritage at this strategic point in the Bristol Channel, with strong currents, shifting sandbanks and the second highest tidal range in the world.

“Records of the work of the Pill pilots date back to the historic voyage of Cabot’s Matthew in 1497, and commercial shipping operating from the Royal Portbury Dock continues to be an impressive sight, passing close to the Portishead shoreline.”

Since coming up with the idea in the spring, the club has received interest from about 100 people. And it believes there is a chance to offer something different in Portishead.

Its spokesman said: “Development has grown our community to some 27,000 residents, drawn by the stunning marina, waterside restaurants, coastal path and views of Wales.

“Despite this, there are few opportunities to get out on the water and make use of the jewel in our community assets.

“With membership at less than £11 per month, gig rowing aims to provide an affordable and accessible opportunity to try an exhilarating new sport in the heart of the community, get involved in a local club and forge new friendships.

“Gig rowing is more than a sport, it’s a community – whether you’re looking for a social way of getting fit or aiming to compete at the highest level, there’s something for everyone.

“With big, stable boats, it’s suitable for all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels.

“The exhilaration of rowing on open water, learning a new skill and being part of a team provides great mental health benefits.

“And it’s not just about rowing. It’s about getting involved in your local community, sharing and developing skills from first aid to boat maintenance, finance to social media.”

Club member Holly Lertxundi Willis thanked its supporters.

She said: “The up-and-coming club would like to thank the community for its tremendous support in getting the new pilot gig club get set up and receiving a warm welcome to the town.

“The money received so far will go towards getting some safety kit, but the club is in desperate need of obtaining a racing gig. We hope you can support this cause by voting for us in the Aviva appeal.”

She also thanked Portishead Quay Marina and Bluetree for their sponsorship.

Votes for the Aviva fund can be cast at

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