​World Gig Championships  

Friday 1st  - Sunday 3rd May 2020 

Every year the islands come alive with a festival atmosphere for the World Pilot Gig Championships.

2020 will be the 31st event, with crews flying in from all around the world to take part. There will be four new races introduced to expand the veterans competition; A Ladies' Vets Final, Ladies' Super Vets Final, Men's Vets Final, and Men's Super Vets Final will all be raced from Nut Rock on Saturday morning by the top 12 crews in each category from Friday night.


Each pilot gig boat holds a crew of six, with a cox sitting in the stern to guide them.  The modern racing gigs are given names which speak to their heritage and history and painted a vivid colour. It’s quite a spectacle to watch the main race on the Saturday from St Agnes to St Mary’s, when every gig is on the water, fighting to get to St Mary’s harbour first. The start line of over 150 gigs is about a mile long! After this, crews are divided into groups depending on their finish line position. After this, each group competes in heats which take place over the rest of the weekend with the top and bottom 2 crews being promoted or relegated with the last races on Sunday afternoon determining overall positions, group and medal winners. Each evening, Hugh Town on St Mary’s is filled with celebrating (or commiserating) crews and supporters for a real island style party. Listen out for a Cornish shout from the packed pubs lining the harbour, grab a pint of island brewed ale and join in!

The best vantage point to watch this amazing event is on a tripper boat which you can hop on from St Mary’s quay. The tripper boats go out for each of the long races from St Agnes to St Mary’s and the heats that follow. If you prefer to stay on land, the Garrison on St. Mary’s is a great spot to take a picnic and a pair of binoculars to follow the colourful gigs. Or wander along the coastal path to Juliet’s Garden for a cream tea or light lunch, and take in the races in comfort and style.

Pilot gigs have a long and interesting history, with records of their use dating back as early as the late 17th century. They were the first shore based lifeboats that went out to vessels in distress to save lives and salvage goods. They also raced to put pilots aboard incoming ships to guide them through the treacherous waters, the winning gig would earn payment for their crews. Originally a general work boat, now the modern racing gigs measure 32 foot long and are based on the Treffry, built in 1838 by William Peters of St Mawes and still owned and raced by Newquay Rowing Club.

For places to stay over the Gig Championship Weekend, take a look at our accommodation section. Accommodation is booked up well in advance each year, so do book early.


Event Dates & Times

2020 (1 May 2020 - 3 May 2020)

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St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

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