GigRower host worldwide virtual rowing championships

Following the cancellation of the biggest event in the Cornish Pilot Gig rowing calendar due to take place earlier month, over 300 rowers from across 13 countries took to their rowing machines at home


The Cornish Pilot Gig Rowing World Championship was due to take place earlier this month, from 1-3 May, in the beautiful Isles of Scilly, 28 miles off the coast of Land’s End in Cornwall.

Following news of the cancellation on 14 March, were contacted by rowers, asking if they could organise an event to bring the community together during the national lockdown. Putting thinking caps on, the GigRower team of volunteers devised the GigRower Virtual Rowing Championships and set about registering entrants.

It was a concept which grew and grew, GigRower volunteer who masterminded the event, John Starkey explains: “When we launched the concept for the event we anticipated maybe 30 rowers would want to take part. By the time we closed the registrations four weeks later, we had 500 people signed up from all over the world.”

Want to try out some virtual indoor rowing yourself? Check out the British Rowing Virtual Championships - click here to find out more.

The racing, which echoed the same format as the Isles of Scilly World Championship, comprised of four races over four days, from 26 to 29 April 2020. Day one saw an initial seeding race of 14 minutes, and individuals ranked according to the metres rowed following the first event. The following two days saw races of 9 minutes, with competitors given the opportunity to win their ‘group’ and move up to the next group, improving their ranking position. The final on Sunday (26 April) was a 7 minute sprint, and many of the competitors joined a Zoom conference to row live, with friends and family spectating alongside.

The event took a great deal of organisation by the volunteers who supported GigRower with many late nights verifying screenshots and analysing all the data to ensure the results were accurate going into the next day’s racing. With a strong field of rowers including ex-Olympians, it was gig rowers who came out on top, with current world champion rower Lena Budd from Falmouth Pilot Gig Club completing 1961m for the 7 minute final, an average 500m split time of 01:47.0 minutes; and Henry Smith from Clevedon Pilot Gig Club taking the title for the men completing 2224m, an average 500m split time of 01:34.4 minutes. In total, the rowers covered an astonishing combined 3,241,601 metres during the four-day event.

One of the participating rowers commented: “At times like this, the event has brought our rowing community together, but not only that, competing against rowers from across the world has really shown what gig rowers can do. It was great to see so many familiar faces from across the circuit on the live results presentation and even better that two gig rowers came out on top.”

Due to the popularity of the event GigRower created an online fundraiser in the aftermath of the event, which has now totalled over £1300 for NHS Charities Together –

If you’re interested in competing in upcoming virtual rowing, check out the British Rowing Virtual Championships here for real-time, side-by-side indoor rowing action.