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Lyme Regis celebrates gig’s first world championship appearance.

A new wooden gig, partly-built at the Boat Building Academy (BBA) in Lyme Regis, has made its debut at the World Pilot Gig Championships 2024.

Lyme Regis Gig Club, Men’s Crew

A new wooden gig, partly-built at the Boat Building Academy (BBA) in Lyme Regis, has made its debut at the World Pilot Gig Championships 2024.

‘Ammonite’ and the men’s crew from Lyme Regis Gig Club finished top of Group C in the annual event, which welcomed 441 crews to the Isles of Scilly during the May Day Bank Holiday weekend.

Craft from across the South West of England and Europe race from St Agnes to St Mary’s  (1.6 nautical miles) to determine their seedings for subsequent heats.

Groups of 12 crews then compete for their final position by racing in two heats from Nut Rock back to St Mary’s (1.1 nautical miles).  

Lyme Regis men’s team member, Rob Hounslow, was commissioned to build Ammonite by his club.

He said: ““The weather was fairly good over the weekend. However, as it progressed, the wind picked up along with the swell. It was a bit of a baptism of fire for Ammonite with lots of difficult races back-to-back, but she held up well, as did her crews.

“Our Women’s Super-Vets (over 50s category), Men’s Vets (over 40s category) and Women’s A crew, all secured excellent results in the gig over the weekend.”

Rob trained as a boat builder on the BBA’s Professional Boat Building course from March 2012 and has gone on to become a talented boat builder in his own right, as well as a much-valued tutor at the Academy.

He explained: “It took approximately nine months to build Ammonite.

“She is traditional clinker construction, so her 24 elm planks are held together with around 3000 copper rivets and over 60 steam bent oak ribs give her strength.

“The BBA very generously made space available to me for part of the build, free of charge, which was a saving I was able to pass on to the gig club.

“I was also able to take a sabbatical to build her.

“I think it was useful for the BBA’s students to witness a commercial build in progress while they worked on their boats alongside it, and I was also able to employ some people to help me along the way, all of whom were ex-students and one, Joe Blathwayt, is also a Tutor at the BBA.”

Rob Hounslow, working on ‘Ammonite’ at the Boat Building Academy

Ammonite’s build was completed at Lyme Regis Gig Club’s own workshop at the tunnels shooting range in January 2024. 

Will Reed, Principal at the Boat Building Academy said: “Rob is an outstanding boat builder and exemplary tutor, sitting well among our first-class team.

“When he asked for extended leave to build a gig, I was delighted. We were all thrilled to accommodate the build in our workshops at the Academy.

“Rob worked tirelessly, and the beautiful craftsmanship is testament to his skill and determination, and the help of his colleagues and students.”

Pilot gigs are a six-oared rowing boat, built of Cornish narrow leaf elm, 32 feet (9.8 m) long with a beam of 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m). 

Ammonite continues Lyme Regis Gig Club’s tradition of all its wooden racing boats being built in the Dorset town.

The three existing boats: Rebel, Black Ven – and Tempest which Ammonite replaces as the club’s primary racing boat – were all built by local boat builder and Rob’s fellow BBA graduate, Gail McGarva.

Ammonite’s next race will be at Ilfracombe Regatta on Saturday 15th June. Following this she has a packed programme of racing across the south west this summer.

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