The great gig boat races in the Isles of Scilly.

If you ever make it to the Isles of scilly, you should definitely take the chance to see a pilot gig race. First of all, for those who don’t know what a gig is, here’s a quick explanation. A gig is a 6 oared rowing boat, that was used to take a pilot out to an incoming ship. It was also used as a lifeboat, to help rescue ships in trouble. Nowadays its pretty much used for sport.

The races are held most wednesdays and fridays. Wednesday being the ladies race, and friday the mens. Each five islands in the Isles of Scilly have their own team to represent them. And each island can have different teams and boats. Spectators are taken out in passenger boats, to cheer on their team, and is great fun to join in.

gigs racing isles of scilly

Gigs start their race of St Agnes island

The absolute best time to see gig races, is the world pilot gig championship. Held every year on the Isles of Scilly, in may. The use of the word ‘world’ could be a but amusing, as there are generally only a few countries that join in. That’s because pilot gigs are of Cornish origin, and are mostly found now on the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. But other counties of England ,have their own gig teams that come. And the Netherlands is well represented.

pilot gigs st marys island

Gigs leaving St Marys island to race

It is an impressive sight. Seeing dozens of gigs lined up on the beach, with all the different teams getting ready to race. The races start from St Agnes island, racing to the quay on St Marys island. And then from nut rock to St Marys quay. Team supporters and locals, head out in boats to cheer them all on. Championships are held over 3 days, with different heats, to determine the skill levels of teams. Culminating in the finals on the 3rd day. All the other heats gig teams, raise their oars in salute, as the finalists from the A teams, cross the finishing line.

gig race isles of scilly

Teams raise their oars in salute, to the finalists crossing the line

At this time of year the islands are overwhelmed, with all the competing teams and supporters. And the pubs are heaving. Especially after the finals, when all the teams let loose, and the drinks start to flow!

pilot gig championship trophy ceremony

Teams celebrate as the trophies are given out

But wether you see the huge championship races. Or the smaller local ones. It’s always impressive to see the teams racing. Not only for the teams competitiveness. Also for their humour and fun, that they bring to these events.

gigs racing isles of scilly

Two gig teams race to the finish line

So if you get the chance, go see it!  You can find more information on the world pilot gig championships here and here.

Also if you’re looking to travel cheap with children check this post out.



Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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