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The Cornish pilot gig is a six-oared rowing boat, built of Cornishmarker narrow leaf elm, long with a beam of four feet ten inches.

It is recognised as one of the first shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, with recorded rescues going back as far as the late 17th century.

The original purpose of the Cornish pilot gig was as a general work boat, and the craft is used for taking pilots out to incoming vessels off the Atlantic. In those days the race would be the first gig to get their pilot on board a vessel (often those about to run aground on rocks) got the job, and hence the payment.

Pilot Gigs today

Today, pilot gigs are used primarily for sport, with around 100 clubs across the globe. The main concentration is within Cornwall and the Isles of Scillymarker, however clubs exist in Devonmarker, Dorsetmarker, Walesmarker and Londonmarker. Internationally there are pilot gig clubs in Francemarker, the Netherlandsmarker, the Faroe Islandsmarker, Australia and the USAmarker.

All modern racing gigs are based on the "Treffry", built in 1838 by William Peters of St. Mawes, and still owned and raced by the Newquay Rowing Club. However non-racing gigs have been built which do not conform to the exact specification of the Treffry and are disallowed from racing in competitive races.

The sport is governed by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association, which monitors all racing gigs during the construction phase. The Association's Standards Officer is responsible for measuring every gig at least three times during construction, to ensure that it conforms to the Standard set by the Association.

The 100th gig, built for the Bude Gig Club by Ralph Bird was launched during the summer of 2005.

Currently there are 128 gigs on the CPGA register of gigs, this does not include the Isles of Scilly. The most recent being 'Tamar' of the Tamar Tavy Club, but by the end of 2008 there will be 131 gigs with an additional three gigs that are currently under construction now - Ilfracombe, Lyme Regis and Mevagissey.

World Championships

Since 1990, the World Pilot Gig Championships have been held annually on the Isles of Scilly. Held over the first May bank holiday weekend, they are attended by over 2000 rowers and spectators, and is widely believed to be the busiest weekend on the islands, with an approximate doubling of population.

At the 2005 championships, Caradon triumphed coming 1st and 2nd in the Men’s race and 3rd in the Ladies. Falmouth won the Ladies, with Isles of Scilly coming 2nd. Par Bay came 3rd. Men's results Ladies results

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