CPGA 30 Today

The Cornish Pilot Gig Association today celebrates it’s thirtieth birthday after being formed in the living room of legendary gig builder Ralph Bird on December 5th 1986.

The Association was set up with one simple objective – to oversee and maintain a one class design for the Cornish Pilot Gig. Gigs had been used for racing since the early 1920’s, but by the 80s the sport was really starting to grow, and it was decided that a set of lines be taken from the ‘Treffry’, a pilot gig built in 1838 by the Peters family of St Mawes.

The Pilot Gig’s story can be traced back over 350 years to 1666 when ‘gig’ was the description for rowing boats built for a diversity of uses around the Cornish coast and the Isles of Scilly including lifeboats, smuggling, carrying passenger and pilotage.

Today the Association has grown to support what is now one of the fastest growing sports in the South West, if not the UK. In 1986 when the Association was established there were 5 clubs. Today the CPGA represents 69 clubs, spread over 9 countries, with over 8,000 rowers who row a fleet of nearly 200 traditional Cornish pilot gigs all built to the same lines as the Treffry.

President Norma Edwards said ”We all knew that we were part of a very special sport, and felt privileged to row such beautiful wooden boats. We felt passionately about what we were doing, not just because of the boats and the history behind them, but also because of the camaraderie it engendered. I feel privileged to have been part of this unique experience.”

John Bawden, another founder member added ”Back then we were just a bunch of rowers that wanted to preserve the heritage of these beautiful boats. Never in our wildest dreams did we think the sport would grow to where it is today and it is a great feeling to see so many people now enjoying this traditional craft and the community values it embodies”

With no signs of slowing the Association is currently restructuring into a charitable organisation, this will enable them to support the sport as it swells, both in terms of rowers and geographically across both the UK and Europe,

Annamarie Phelps CBE, Chairman of British Rowing “It is great to see how Gig rowing has grown over the past 30 years. It istestament to the hard work of the CPGA and all those involved. Gig rowing is an important part of our sport; dynamic, social and inclusive. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the CPGA over the next 30 years and beyond.”

The birthday coincides with the launch of their new website www.cpga.co.uk which has been built by one of the committee members Toby Budd and populated by other members of the CPGA.

Shane Sullivan, current Chairman concluded ”The growth of the Sport within the UK and overseas has been phenomenal, especially over the past 15 years, all driven by volunteers who are passionate about bringing such a vibrant, non elite sport to their communities as well as injecting a considerable amount into the SW and local economies. As such we now have to look at how the CPGA manages and supports the growth of the sport and aspirations of its rowers.”

Comments 5

  1. There was Ted and Ralph
    Down at Newquay and each of
    Them my friends
    And Joyce and Anne and good
    Old John
    And Brian and Milly with
    Poor old Norma and as ever
    Anne Curnow Care
    Picking up all the lose ends

    But I was just a Devon boy
    In Cornish company
    And yet every one I met
    Why you can bet they were
    Civil and kindly to me

    Yet has it been now that fully
    Thirty years have come then
    Gone away
    Since I meet with those who
    Are now my friends and was it
    Not the common love of the pilot
    Gig that brought us together
    For always

    And when I see such fine light
    Hulls rising and falling out
    There on the seas
    Oh how I love everything about
    The legends of
    The pilot gig and its never ending
    Place in history

  2. My life has changed so much for the better after finding this awesome sport.

    I used to suffer from depression & thought I would never be part of a sporting team again after a serious knee injury cut any contact sport out of my life.

    However gig rowing has given me a new lease of life and after 25 years of thinking I would never again be able to participate in sport , I am back keeping fit and socially enjoying life as much as I did in my early twenties in Young Farmers Club. Also meeting some fantastic like minded people from all over the globe & traveling with friends to places I would never have dreamed of going and participating in an epic sport.

    Thank you for such a great time so far and many more years to come gig rowers

  3. I have been a gig rower with Rame since the club was first formed nearly 25 years ago. Since then I have rowed with other crews when they or we were short. I have done The Great London River race 5 or 6 times and Holland once with the Morlader ladies . Scilly and Newquay many times but never would I have thought I would be rowing a gig in Bermuda in 2016. What a great sport to be involved with and with rowers like Ross for company we have lots of fun as well.
    Best wishes and thanks to all the hard working association officers who pull it all together .

  4. Happy Birthday CPGA. Congratulations on all you have done and long may you bring friendship within your communities, and inspiration to those who row elsewhere.

    From the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association.

    1. The Cornish men tell
      Great tall yarns
      About how they fished
      And mined and indeed
      Wrecked and farmed

      They would have
      You believe that
      The pasty was theirs
      And there’s alone
      And that weather you
      Put the jam on first
      Or the cream on first
      Defines if your are
      Eating a Cornish or
      A Devon scone

      And while it is that we
      Might at times “disagree”
      It is fare to say that
      The Pilot Gig is a true
      Part of Cornish history

      And while they might
      Have been found on
      Many a Devon hard
      Each by origin came
      At one time from
      Mr Willie Peter’s yard

      Ralph Bird he was
      A friend to me
      As indeed was dear
      Kind Joyce and Ted Gundry

      And if it is now thirty
      Years since the forming
      Of the CPGA
      Then “congratulations”
      Is all that this old
      Devon boy is now
      So very pleased to say

      And while I won’t be
      Around for thirty more
      Them pilot gigs will be
      And that’s for sure
      Lined up lovely on many
      A south west foreshore

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