Pilot gig rowing teams from Vinalhaven took first and second places in a race hosted by Atlantic Challenge at the Woodenboat Show in Rockland. Six boats competed in the race, including two teams from Saquish, Massachusetts, a crew from Belfast, and a team of New York City youths from a group called Rock the Boat, rowing in a vessel loaned by Atlantic Challenge.

VIXEN and SIREN, the two boats leading the race, were built by the Vinalhaven High School’s Marine Technology class, but the boats are also often used by a number of different island groups of adults. In this race both crews were mixed adults, all from the island. The 32-foot gigs carry a crew of seven, six rowers and one coxswain. Power is provided by wooden or carbon fiber oars, with the boats capable of bursts of eight knots. Steering is by rudder controlled by two lines. The gig’s design is derived from the boats of Cornwall, England, where the boats took pilots to ships arriving from the Atlantic. The boats are known for their ability to go to sea in rough weather.

According to Mark Jackson, the marine trades instructor at the Vinalhaven school and coach of the team, the Vinalhaven teams had been training regularly, although he said “the other teams were right on us the whole way, and we really had to work to stay ahead.” Third place was only eight seconds back, going to the team from Saquish. The Belfast vessel, aptly named the BELLE FAST, is a fairly new strip-built boat built by a community rowing group. The New York City group, also new to gig racing, was rowing ROGUE, a local traditional gig.

– Ben Neal