Rowing gig Newquay restored

Newquay racing 480

Said to be the oldest rowing boat in regular use, a pilot gig known as Newquay is being restored by the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth, in Cornwall.

Built in 1812 by William Peters of St Mawes, the red and white Cornish pilot gig has left her usual home at Newquay Rowing Club to allow NMM boat builder and restorer Ralph Bird to work on her ribs.

For thirty years in the early 19th century, Newquay stayed in the Falmouth area as a working boat for William Broad & Co, a local agent for Lloyd’s. In 1840 she was sold to a Newquay-based company and remained as a working boat in the harbour until 1921 when she was bought by the Newquay Rowing Club for £5.

Cornish pilot gigs were originally developed for taking pilots to vessels incoming from the Atlantic, but the records show that gig racing was popular in Cornwall during the 1830s. Gigs are also recognised as some of the first shore-based lifeboats, with recorded rescues dating as far back as the late 17th century.

Today, however, the six-oared rowing boats are primarily used for sport, and world-wide there are now said to be around 50 gig racing clubs, although most are in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

This will not be the first time that Newquay has enjoyed the spotlight. She was taken to promote the sport at the very first International Boat Show at Olympia in 1954; she was rowed at the Henley Regatta twice and the Serpentine Regatta once in the 1980s, and in 1986 she was taken to the launch of the William Peters in St Mawes.

Go to National Maritime Museum Cornwall website for more on the museum’s activities and exhibitions.

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