Dart Gig Club hosted a 26 hour gig row relay from 12pm on Friday 13th to 2pm on Saturday 14th, to help raise money for their new gig shelter in Coronation Park.

The relay took place to ensure the safety of the gig boats, which are traditional, open, six-oared, wooden rowing boats. As working boats, they have been on the river Dart since the nineteenth century.

The club said: “Traditional gigs are very beautiful; they have a history which goes back hundreds of years and they are a joy to row. We can only race with traditional wooden gigs and racing is a focus which holds together the whole club.

“Looking after wooden gigs takes a lot of our volunteers’ time. Gigs must be protected from hot sun and cold winters, and our ‘best’ gigs towed back and forth from a barn several miles from Dartmouth. Currently our beautiful, vulnerable wooden gigs are kept in the open, at the mercy of the weather.

“A shelter would enable us to provide much needed protection from the elements for our beloved traditional wooden Pilot Gigs, it will lessen the work of our volunteers, who can then give more time to people’s needs, and also give the club a base… (it) will protect our lovely boats and free up our volunteers time to take more people rowing.”

The shelter has been designed to help minimise any visual impact. The low, single-story shelter will have a Sedum roof and natural wood or feather board cladding to blend into the park surroundings and reduce visual impact for homes directly above the site.

The club has a target of £20,000, and have raised £21,464. They were supported by Sport England, which pledged £8,000 towards the fundraiser.

Peter chivers, chair of the club expressed how "delighted" they were with how the sponsored row went.

He said: "The weather held out and the sun shone during daylight hours. The river was mirror calm during the evening and a pleasure to row upon. The rowing continued indoors overnight on rowing machines, one member rowed for 15 hours, another completed 100,000m. Many rowers completed three hours and have the blisters to prove it.

"The event was embraced by the whole club, young and old; over 70 members rowed, 18 of whom were under 15. The response from sponsors has been magnificent. We have exceeded our Crowdfunder target of £20, 000, and we estimate that we need only around £5,000 more to complete the basic construction. If we are lucky enough to raise more than that, we will use the extra for solar lighting, inside water supply, and shelving for the oars.

"We'd like to thank all our supporters from the community at large, local residents, friends and family, local businesses, BBH and also Dartmouth Town Council, South Hams District and Devon County Councils, the harbour authority and the ferries who are ever patient with us. And a special thanks to Dartmouth Amateur Rowing club, for the use of their premises overnight and their rowing machines. We couldn’t have done it without them.

"We feel humbled by the generous response and how the community is behind us. After 26 years the club will have a handsome shelter for its boats and a base for its current and future members. We thought we might be defeated by Covid and the cost of living crisis but the club and local people have risen to the challenge and made us very proud to be part of our local community."

The club have been fundraising for their shelter for five years, with building starting in October 2022, however, they have a shortfall of over £20,000 due to an escalation in costs and the current economic climate.

The gig club are a modern Gig Rowing Club based in Dartmouth. Gig rowing is a structured and modern sport whose governance and safety is overseen by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA).

The club is run completely run by volunteers, who all give their time for free, and aims to make rowing inclusive, ensuring that anyone who wants to row can.

The club said: “We would like to ensure that everyone who wants to row can do so… We have British Rowing qualified coaches, and we have always worked hard to make sure that everyone who wants to row can do so. We keep membership fees low to encourage wide membership, and so must fundraise for large projects… We have over a hundred members ranging in age from 11 to 77 and from all parts of our community. Some row socially, others like to race.”

The club encourage both younger and older generations to get involved with their club and take up rowing.

They said: “We actively seek out new members at local schools. Our juniors section has been really successful in teaching dozens of teenagers to row – and learn the value of winning – and losing. But more than that they learn life skills, confidence, team building, fitness and social skills that stay with them once they get out of the boat… Our senior men with an average age of 65 recently took a gig to Ireland and were first gig over the line on a 28km row from Ocean to Cork.”

The club have taken part in various races, representing Dartmouth in the annual World Championships, County and National Championships, taking part in friendly regattas across the South-West during the season, and even rowing the English Channel in record time, as well as to Guernsey and back to raise funds for a new gig.

The club have also stressed the positive impact this will have on the community, highlighting the mental and physical benefits of rowing and the impact the shelter will have on bringing visibility to Dartmouth.

They said: “ Making the club available to the community can, and does, have positive impacts on individuals, especially young people in the communities and wider society.”

They explained that the events they host are a key part of the Dartmouth community, such as their popular annual regatta in April, where clubs from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset are invited; their gig sprints with local clubs and their end-of-season Lyzie Pyne memorial race to Dittisham and back.