Simply Scilly Blog

About the Isles of Scilly … everything from events to news to pictures to how to get here and have a great holiday!

World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly this weekend!

PILOT GIGS … When Ships were made of Wood and Men were made of Iron!

The First Pilot Gig Boats were built in the 18th century with the purpose of taking a pilot out to a sailing ship and putting him aboard to carefully navigate ships into safe waters. Pilotage on Scilly was for many years the main source of living with a general rule that the first man aboard got the job and of course the rewards that came with it. 

All Scillonian gigs and Cornish gigs were made of Cornish Elm and are approximately 30 feet in length and 5 feet in beam. They were built for hard work; had to withstand heavy seas, yet were required to be fast and stable.

Gigs were sometimes used in conjunction with Pilot cutters. These are larger boats that would tow the Gig closer to the oncoming ship then they would transfer the crew of the gig onboard for the race to the ship.

Pilotage in Scilly was a hazardous occupation and until the arrival of a lifeboat on St. Agnes Scillonian gigs were synonymous with saving and loss of life.

Pilot gigs were also used for smuggling and salvage. Gigs often rowed to France and contraband tobacco and spirits were also exchanged for fresh vegetables and eggs. In fact gigs were banned from having eight oars as the custom and excise couldn’t catch them!

Gigs were also used in salvage. Anything that could be salvaged from the sea from cattle to grand pianos brought in wealth to the islands, and the church on St. Agnes was built in the nineteenth century using the proceeds of the sale of a wreck. The church bell was also taken from the same wreck.

World Pilot Gig Championships

The 21st World Pilot Gig Championships will take place from Friday, 30 April until Monday, 3 May 2010 on the Isles of Scilly.  The Islands extend our invitation to you to come experience this unique event. The format will remain much the same as in previous years, but with some changes.   The wonderful spirit of competition and camaraderie that endures during this weekend is what makes this such a momentous occasion. Please join us to celebrate all that is good about rowing.

Programme of Events 2010

Friday 30th April

5.00pm Coxswains Meeting and Registration Town Hall
All coxswains are requested to attend
Ladies Veterans
Mens Veterans
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)

Saturday 1st May



Coxswains Briefing
Ladies Round 1
Mens Round 1

Ladies Round 2
Mens Round 2

Holgates Green
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.16 nautical miles)

Sunday 2nd May

Ladies Round 3
Mens Round 3
Ladies Final
Mens Final
Presentation of Trophies
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Holgates Green
Porthmellon Gig Sheds (Bar until 1am)

Monday 3rd May

Rugby ‘International’
Gig Sail Race Briefing
Gig Sail Race
The Garrison
Holgates Green
For the Pilots Widows Trophy

You can find more about the 2010 World Pilot Gig Championships at:

You can find out more about the Isles of Scilly at


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