The best coastal rowers from Italy are on their way to Cornwall to compete against the top county pilot gig crews at this year’s Mounts Bay Regatta on June 30th as part of a national sport sharing experiment set up by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association and the Cornwall Rowing Association.
The event is the brainchild of Penryn Gig Club’s Bev Davies who saw a flyer for an Italian rowing championship six years ago and decided to investigate. Not unlike Cornish pilot gigs, Italians row fixed seat boats called Gozzis, though with four rowers and cox as opposed to the Cornish 6 and cox. The sport is huge in Italy and the Italian Fixed Seat Federation’s European Championships were traditionally held in Savona in Northern Italy.
Several Cornish clubs decided to take part in the Championships and a tradition was set, with the Cornish crews following the Italian championships as they moved three years ago to a new venue on Lake Maggiore and then on to Lake Pusiano.
The championships now feature both the Gozzis, as well as Joules, less seaworthy lake boats, but all teams are as competitive as the Cornish gig rowers and, last year, the president of the Italian Federation, Marco Mugani, outlined his dream for an International Championship moving around Europe allowing teams from different disciplines to try each other’s’ boats.
As Mounts Bay had been sending a team over to Italy for the last 2 years, it seems the most logical idea to invite the Italians back over to Marazion and the result is the addition of the four best male and female rowers from Italy to the rowing schedule at this year’s Regatta at the end of June.
As CPGA Chairman Shane Sullivan said, “We are delighted to welcome the Italian National Crews to Cornwall. Following on from the recent Tribute National County Gig Championships this will be the first time CPGA County Crews will have the opportunity to race against International opposition. Similar to ourselves, the Italians have a long and proud history in traditional rowing, I am sure they will be made welcome by all and hope they enjoy their visit to the home of UK Coastal rowing.”
Not content to be taking on the pilot gigs, the Italians will also be trying their arms on a variety of Cornish vessels, as Bev explains, “For 5 years the Italian Fixed Seat Rowing Federation has welcomed rowers to their championships when provincial crews take on the visitors in the local gozzi boats. We are delighted to reciprocate and have the chance to race the Italians in 3 different craft over the weekend, namely Cornish pilot gigs on the Saturday at Mounts Bay, and flashboats and Cornish skiffs at Mousehole on the Sunday. We look forward to some competitive racing!”
The weekend will commence on the Friday evening with a Welcome Gala Event for the visiting Italian delegation together with a a special Celebration of Rowing to be held at Penwith College under the auspices of the Chairman of Cornwall Council, Councillor Mary May and hosted by Councillor Hilary Frank, Vice Chairman Cornwall Council.