Major gig rowing championship to take place in Swanage

Swanage in Dorset is to host the first national supervets gig rowing championships which will see 66 crews, 33 gig boats and 400 competitors descend on the town for the competition.

The event which takes place on Saturday 30th September 2023 is a huge logistical challenge, so the full length of Shore Road along the seafront will be closed for the day, to allow enough space for the boats and crews.

Sea rowing competition at Swanage
Timothy Crabb

Gig rowing crews competing in Swanage in 2021

Awarded championship status

Swanage Sea Rowing Club has hosted a supervets competition for those aged 50 and over before, but this is the first time that it’s been given championship status which has increased the number of crews signing up to take part from 17 to 33.

The crews, seeded from the World Championships held on the Isles of Scilly in May 2023, will race in heats around a kite shaped course in the bay with the finish line strategically placed near The Mowlem, starting around 10 am.

After first round time trials, progression will see clubs race in plate and shield finals, with the fastest ten crews battling for the coveted trophy.

To qualify all rowers must be aged 50 or over on the day with the event being endorsed by the sports governing body, the Cornish Pilot Gig Association.

Swanage sea rowing club

The Swanage crews

Boost to the local economy

Preparations for the event began well over six months ago, working with Swanage Town Council and various other stakeholders to make the event run as smoothly and safely as possible.

While Cornish Pilot gig rowing and racing has been around Dorset for 20 years, with Weymouth, Bridport, Poole, Portland and Lyme Regis all having clubs, it’s a huge achievement for Swanage to be awarded the honour of running the first ever ‘Blue Ribbon’ Championship.

It’s also a boost to the local economy with all the visiting crews booking accommodation and spending money in the town.

map of Swanage road closure

With 33 gigs arriving for the championship, Shore Road will be closed from The Mowlem to Clifton Road near Ocean Bay from 6 am to 7 pm on Saturday 30th September 2023

“It’s a big deal for Swanage”

Secretary of the Swanage Sea Rowing Club Debbie Witney said:

“It’s a big deal for the club and it’s a big deal for Swanage. The reputation of Swanage as a rowing venue has really shot up and we’ve seen double the number of entries this year. Everyone says how friendly Swanage is, so all credit to the town for helping us win the right to host the championships.

“The rowing club has a good reputation for organising events and we were the first club to start dedicating races to the over 50s. Older people are getting fitter and with the good team spirit, people don’t want to stop rowing so this is a great way to keep participating.

“Rowing is such an excellent all over exercise and valuable for good mental health. The sport is much more inclusive now and there’s also a junior side within the club. As well as the physical benefit, it helps teach young people social skills, mixing with older people and joining the adult crews as they get to 16.

“We’d love anyone interested in rowing to get in touch!”

Gig rowing Mens B crew winning the Jurassic League Cup at Sidmouth in August 2023
John Elysee / SSRC

Mens B crew winning the Jurassic League Cup at Sidmouth in August 2023

Swanage Men win the Pilot Gig Masters Championship 2023
Simon Fenech / SSRC

Swanage men win the Pilot Gig Masters Championship September 2023

Competitive rowing and fun events

Swanage Sea Rowing Club has had a number of successes during the 2023 season with the Mens B crew winning the Jurassic League Cup at Sidmouth in August and the Men’s Masters crew taking gold by just three seconds at the championships in Paignton at the beginning of September.

Alongside the competitive rowing, the club takes part in fun events including the novice races during Lifeboat week and a mini regatta during Swanage Carnival.

The club says it also has a very strong social rowing section, who love to be out on the water and who warmly welcome new members of all levels.

Further information

  • Anyone interested in joining the club can get in contact via its Facebook group

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