Gig Racing Spectator Boats
Six rowers. Six paddles. One coxswain. Gig racing is Scilly's national sport - an island pastime and a holiday must-see...
With their heritage in pilotage and lifesaving (not to mention the odd spot of 'free trade' when the opportunity arose), the Cornish pilot gig was born on the Isles of Scilly.
Each island had several gigs, each owned by a collective of island families. When a ship was spotted passing through the Scillonian seas, the gigs would race to be the first to secure the pilotage fee, save lives or make a trade. Gig racing - albeit for survival, not sport - had begun...
Today, gigs are raced for fun across the archipelago that gave rise to these beautiful, 31-foot-long wooden boats, each with six rowers hauling on wooden paddles, urged on by the increasingly hoarse voice of their coxswain echoing across the sea.
Every week, crews race each other in a series of championship and trophy races, from notoriously competitive and fun off-island finishes to the infamous clashes of triangle races and the frequent 'Swap Races' - designed to separate the best crews from the best gigs.
Tresco and Bryher Gig Rowing Club have several gigs crewed by islanders, from the 1879-built gig Czar - the oldest gig to have spent her entire life on Scilly - to the modern racing gig the Alfie Jenkins. Each week, our crews battle others from across the archipelago, cheered on by islanders and visitors from the spectator boats.
Gig Race Spectator Boat Times & Fares
From May to September, Tresco Boats offer Gig Race Spectator Boats for most races, allowing you to witness this spectacular sport and cheer on our island crews.
Usually, at least one race is followed each week, with both the men's and ladies' races followed many weeks throughout the season.
Trips are often aboard the Firethorn (when booking is not required) but are sometimes aboard Jetboats, in which case seats must be booked in advance.
The boat usually leaves Tresco and Bryher between 7 pm - 7:45 pm (depending on the race start time and location), and usually returns by 9 pm at the latest, often earlier. For Gig Boats aboard the Firethorn, the cost is £8 per person (children under 14 half price; under 3s free). Prices vary aboard Jetboats.
For full details, click below.