What else could ‘G’ be about, but gig rowing. I belong to Flushing & Mylor Pilot Gig Club, and for our Welcome Pack I interviewed several members about their gig-rowing story. In the same vein, here’s mine.
I started rowing in September 2014, shortly after we moved to Cornwall. One of the best walks is the ‘headland’ – a loop that takes in Flushing, Mylor Harbour, Church Road and the steep climb of Pillar’s Road – that takes you past the gig shed. There was a Learn2Row course advertised (a six-week programme for the sum of £25), and I thought ‘why not’? I wanted to increase my confidence on the sea, and thought this would be a good way to tackle it. I was nervous before the first session, because I am hopeless rowing the dinghy, Whinchat’s tender, and had very little faith in my oarmanship. The club’s coach, Simon, was patient and supportive, and I liked the people who were learning with me… So, I completed the course, and went on to Improvers. In the summer of 2015 we did our first race as a novice crew (Devoran Regatta), and I rather surprised myself by loving it. I’m not usually competitive, but there’s something about doing it for the crew (there are no teams in rowing!).
I joined FMPGC because it’s where I live, Flushing, and where I’d stumbled on this Learn2Row programme. It is a very friendly club, with room for all kinds of rowers. I must love it, as I’ve been on the Committee since the end of 2015, representing the novice rowers.
I’ve moved through the improvers (although you never stop learning, or needing to improve), and in 2016 was in a crew to race in the World Pilot Gig Championships but then my lung collapsed and I wasn’t allowed to race.. or row.. so I learned to cox! Towards the end of 2016 I was back rowing, but because of my surgery, I can only row stroke-side. I was subbed in to Ladies C last year, so I did ‘go to the Ball’, and rowed in the Scillies… an incredible experience. My blog post here recounts that experience. These days I am somewhere between a recreational rower (I love the notion of rowing to a cafe, or a pub, or a beach, imbibing, and then rowing home) and a racer. I’d love to race again, but not this year. I take my rowing seriously, and always want to be the best I can be. I row as part of my fitness activities, and like pushing myself. A gig only will only move when the rowers are in time, but you can get away without much ‘weight’. When a crew has timing and effort, it’s an incredible sensation to feel the gig respond, and somehow almost take off.
I love the confidence gig rowing has given me. By that I mean of the sea conditions (at almost sea level, you feel it when things are fruity), but also in my body… that only came as a result of my body failing, but every time I come out of a gig I am grateful for my healed body. At times it is hard to get crews together, and it’s not always easy to motivate yourself when it’s dark, raining, or blowing a hoolie… but it’s always invigorating, and I can’t think of a single occasion when I’d wished I hadn’t bothered.
I think there is something in me that comes to life when I am near, or on the sea, and gig rowing reminds me of this. My friend Joey Beard made the short film about us rowing, and it amazed me how enthusiastic and, well, just content I look. Rowing in a racing crew has taught me that I can be competitive – but it’s for the crew not for me. I like precision in things, and this is one of the things I enjoy (which is why I liked Dressage when I was horse riding), but I also know I get grumpy when other crew-members aren’t giving it their full concentration. That’s nothing new, but rowing does reinforce that! I have enjoyed coxing, but I’m not experienced enough to be a good coach. I’d like to do some coaching badges, but also I know that more rowing adds to the experience-bank. No two outings, as a rower or a cox, are ever the same, and there’s something very exciting in this.