The Salcombe Estuary Rowing Club (SERC) was formed in 1992, by three enthusiasts, ‘to promote, teach and facilitate the sport of rowing for all’. Aileen Mitchell, Michael and Janis Fice recognised the need for a local rowing club, their objective being to encourage an interest in the sport and pleasure of rowing. This community-wide activity had largely disappeared along with rowing boats, to be replaced by the outboard engine and powercraft.
Much public support and financial help were forthcoming for the initiative and this enabled the embryo club to purchase four small rowing boats based upon a successful Newton Ferrers design. Four benefactors ensured that the bare hulls were completed and the boats’ names reflect this generousity. These boats proved to be a great success with the young and old, experienced and novice rowers alike. Evening training sessions led to an ever-increasing club membership as the boats were seen on the Estuary.
In 1997, a local benefactor loaned the Club a new Cornish Pilot Gig, named ‘Wolf’. He had seen these exciting craft racing off the Cornish coast and felt that the club would benefit from not only widening the range of boats available, but those members would also enjoy the competitive racing and camaraderie associated with gig rowing. How right he was, as the arrival of ‘Wolf’ coincided with a rapid growth in the sport in the West Country!
Thanks to the vision of this original benefactor, gig rowing quickly caught on in and around Salcombe and Wolf was subsequently bought outright. The membership of the Club continued to grow. ‘Wolf’ soon became a familiar sight on the Kingsbridge Estuary most evenings between February and November, regardless of the weather, with Club members rowing for pleasure, leisure or training for competitive events. It did not take long for the Club to become an active participant on the gig racing circuit including both the World Championships in the Isles of Scilly in May and the County Championships in Newquay in September.
In 2002, members voted to purchase a second gig: ‘Cadmus’. She is named after another rock also found at the entrance to the Estuary. Once again, the Club was fortunate to have not one, but two benefactors, both of whom donated £6,000 each towards the £16,000 it cost to put ‘Cadmus’ on the water. The rest of her costs were funded by the efforts of the Club members themselves. ‘Cadmus’ was built locally by Brian Pomeroy whose boat shed can be found on a South Hams farm surrounded by a variety of livestock! Her oars were made by Dave Penwill, a Club member and boat builder, whilst other companies donated pins, paint and additional sundries. Club members donated cushions, oars and oar clamps and, of course, their time to ensure that ‘Cadmus’ was complete. The purchase of the second gig enabled real competititve training to be introudced to the club and more importantly increasing the opportunities for members to row socially and at weekends.
In April 2003, the Inland Revenue formally recognised the Club as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC), so allowing UK taxpayers to make gifts to the Rowing Club using the Gift Aid Scheme.
The next challenge for the Club came in 2004. Where to store and maintain the club’s growing fleet of gigs? South Hams District Council very kindly agreed to rent a piece of land to the Club, next to the long stay car park in Salcombe, and close to the slipway. It also allowed the Club to build a purpose-designed gig shed. Thankfully, some fundraising for a capital project like this had already been started and nearly half of the £20,000 needed to build the shed was raised by most of the Club’s lady rowers who, in a moment of pure bravery, had volunteered to pose for a nude, but artistic, gig rowing calendar. The shed was also substantively built and project managed by two Club members, Jon Elwell and Fred Gulliford. The new shed was officially opened to much fanfare in the summer of 2005.
With the new gig shed built and growing pressure on providing enough time for the still growing membership, the Club set itself yet another challenge – the purchase of a 3rd gig. In January 2007, Maurice Hunkin, a renowned Cornish Gig Builder, duly delivered the Club’s newest gig ‘Bolt’ – again named after a landmark in the Salcombe Estuary. The official launch ceremony for Bolt was held on Saturday 7th April 2007 on the slipway of Whitestrand Car Park in Salcombe.
Children’s Small Boats Rowing
The small rowing boats are used to introduce children (5-12 years old) to rowing. The children and their parents participate in preparing the boats before use and all help make sure they are put away properly at the end of the session.
Once children master rowing the club’s small boats then they move on to rowing the full-sized gigs. With dedicated (CRB checked) instructors they quickly progress and master the unique gig rowing style. The club’s Junior members are both very active on the rowing circuit and have been extremely successful in competition. Gig rowing fosters a great team spirit, enables focus and self discipline as well as really good outdoor fitness.
Veterans Rowing – Ladies and Men
SERC has a very active, yet competitive, veterans (over 40) section. The veterans row throughout the year for fitness and fun, yet also field very competitive squads from amongst those that still wish to race and they can be seen competing at a number of Cornish Pilot Gig Association events including the World Championships in the Isles of Scilly and other club races.
SERC is proud that it also has an incredibly active Supervets section, with rowers into their 80’s amongst the crew. The maxim is “rowing does not stop once you leave the veterans”! We are one of the only clubs in the Westcountry that can boast such an accolade.
Ladies’ and Men’s Rowing
Those adults who wish to learn how to row begin their training in May with approximately 4 taster sessions. Once the basics of technique and safety have been learnt they can progress to rowing with others of a similar standard where their new found skills can be taught and most importantly practiced! As the season progresses, and confidence/ability increases there are ample opportunities for new rowers to begin to race for the club (for those that want to!). The emphasis is on learning, fitness and fun.
SERC also has some incredibly dedicated coaches and coxes for the gigs. Many of the coxes are also active rowers, but not all. If you love the water, and have previous boating or sailing experience, and want to try something a little different from the norm why not come along and learn to be a gig cox?
SERC also has very active ladies and mens racing crews. For those who choose that they want to race there are dedicated training sessions 2/3 times per week pre-season with races most weekends all over the Westcountry during the summer. The racing crews have been incredibly successful since the club’s inception and continue to go from strength on the circuit.
The first events take place in March/April and the gigs are taken to the Isles of Scilly in May for the World Championships. In June/July, the Club hosts its own regatta and, throughout the summer, the gigs are towed all over Devon, Cornwall and Dorset for other events. The season is brought to a close with the County Championships held over two weekends in September. Winter heralds the boat maintenance programme when all members contribute and those with an eye on competitive rowing for the following season take to the gym to supplement their rowing sessions and to maintain and improve their fitness.
Read more about the history of Cornish Gig Rowing…