BRNC take part in the Annual World Pilot Gig Championships

A team of 14 officers and cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) were among the thousands of competitors who took part in the 30th Annual World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly.

The annual event, which takes place over the May Bank Holiday weekend, saw the BRNC crew compete in the College pilot gig, named Baccante. 

Arriving on the Friday the team pitched their tents at ‘Forward Operating Base’ Baccante to set up the pre-positioned Gig ready to race on Saturday. 

Although bright and clear the weather was blustery and cold and the sea conditions promised for exiting racing for the largely novice squad. 

We all had a great time and set a benchmark to improve on next year.

Lieutenant Commander John Barry RN

The World Championships take place over four races.  The first from St Agnes back to St Marys and the remaining heats and final on a shorter sprint from Nut Rock to St Marys. 

Having been seeded into groups of 12 in the St Agnes race the groups then race two heats and a final with the top and bottom two crews in each group switching places each time.

Sea conditions on the Saturday were choppy and unfamiliar territory for the crew.  In the St Agnes race the largest ever collection of boat,160 in all, formed up over a two mile start line with almost a thousand competitors ready to go. 

Caught at the back of the pack in rough seas the BRNC crew had a slow but steady race, placing in the bottom group. 

Sea conditions grew more challenging over the day and the first Nut Rock race did not see BRNC improve their position.

Sunday’s heat was more suited to the crew with calmer seas that allowed BRNC to put the power down and as a consequence Baccante won the heat and moved up into the next group for the final.

The crew were buoyant and raring to go as the starting flags went up for the final race.  Pulling hard from the off Baccante moved quickly through the back markers and was steadily closing down on the leaders as she passed through finish line in sixth place.

Whilst they may not have ended up on the podium the BRNC team gave a good account of themselves and it was a weary team that eventually returned to the college at midnight on Monday. 

Lieutenant Commander John Barry, team captain, said:  “I am really proud of the team’s efforts, we were competitive in challenging conditions which caused a number of teams to turn back and even won a heat. 

“We all had a great time and set a benchmark to improve on next year.”

In addition to Baccante, BRNC crew filled spaces in the London Cornish team and the Brixham ladies team, both of whom achieved creditable results.

Cornish pilot gigs were originally used as general work boats and craft to take pilots out to incoming vessels from the Atlantic, who helped guide them into port.  

Gigs raced each other to be the first to get their pilot to the vessel, to be selected for the job and hence receive the payment.