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Still rowing strong – the gig built before the Battle of Waterloo

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 16, 2012

  • The Newquay Rowing Club celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Newquay Gig with special events to mark the occasion – including a birthday cake PICTURE: DEAN WOODS

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A relic of a bygone age which has lately become a major sport in the Westcountry has celebrated its 200th birthday.

The Newquay was built in 1812 at a time when pilot gigs were a common sight in the ports around the region, where they would vye for business guiding large vessels into the harbour.

Now restored to her former glory and owned by Newquay Rowing Club, the 30ft boat has marked her bicentennial with a reunion – of sorts.

The centuries-old gig was built by William Peters of St Mawes, where the town's modern day gig club have a vessel named after him, in his honour.

For a one-off event, the 200-year-old Newquay and the modern day namesake of her builder were taken for a spin around the seas off the North Cornwall resort.

Built in the heyday of the pilot gig, the Newquay's maiden voyage was three years before the Battle of Waterloo, when George III was King.

In the 1840s, it was estimated that there were 400 gigs in Cornwall. But by the turn of the century they were consigned to history, with one used for the last time on the Cornish mainland, in St Ives, in the 1920s, and on the Scillies in 1938.

In the 1950s, Newquay had the only pilot gigs on the circuit and the sport was little more than a curiosity.

However, thanks to the efforts of small group of enthusiasts, gig racing has become one of the fastest growing sports in the Westcountry with more than 100 teams of men and women now competing in the annual World Pilot Gig Championships, held on the Isles of Scilly.

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