Newhaven Gig Rowing Club

Meet Newhaven Gig Rowing Club

Newhaven has a wealth of opportunities to dip your toe into water sports, from paddle boarding to powerboats, but did you know Newhaven is also a home to a Cornish-style Gig Rowing Club?

The Cornish gig is the original lifeboat, made from Cornish elm, and seating six rowers and a Cox, they were used in the latter part of the 17th century.

These days, they’re used primarily for sport, with clubs all over the world.

Newhaven Gig Rowing Club is based at The Sidings and has benefited from grants totalling £10,000 from Newhaven Enterprise Zone, which it received via the Community Fund, managed by the Sussex Community Foundation.

We caught up with chairwoman Jane Thompson about gig rowing and what they love about messing about in boats in Newhaven.

What made you decide to set up Newhaven Gig Rowing Club?

Newhaven Gig Rowing Club was founded in June 2016 after a group of friends from Sussex spent a weekend rowing on the Percuil river near St Mawes in Cornwall. They mused over the possibility of a Cornish gig being used on the River Ouse here in Newhaven and felt it would be a fantastic opportunity for the local community. Our bright yellow boat Amelie boasts royal blue lettering and is a working replica of a 170-year-old boat.

How many members do you have?

Since our first row, when just seven people attended, the club has gone from strength to strength. More than two hundred people have been taught to row by Newhaven Gig Rowing Club since we started. Our current roster is of around 80 members, and we even have a waiting list of keen locals for our Learn to Row sessions.

Tell us what’s next for the club?

We are very excited about introducing junior rowing this summer, encouraging those aged 12-17 to get out on the water, supported by Lewes District Council. There are also plans in the works for a regatta, where we will be joined by the other gig rowing clubs who row from Newhaven into Seaford Bay. We are also eagerly awaiting a delivery of new oars, due any day now!

Do members ever travel to compete further afield and where have they competed?

Absolutely! Just this April we had three racing crews participate in World Gig Rowing Championships in the Isles of Scilly. It was a fantastic and memorable experience for all of us. So far this summer we have already travelled to the River Hamble in Hampshire and Appledore in Devon for some really fun friendly regattas!

What’s your favourite section of the River Ouse?

We appreciate the occasional picnic at Southease, which is downstream from Lewes, and has views of Mount Caburn. In the winter, it’s particularly lovely to row in the evening when it’s a little dark. The effort of rowing keeps you warm!

Do you row out at sea too?

Yes! We all really enjoy rowing in Seaford Bay, when the wind and weather allow, the view one can experience is always very special, with the iconic white cliffs in the distance.

What do people enjoy about being part of Newhaven Gig Rowing Club?

The club is very friendly, and the rowing itself is really addictive. It’s an incredible form of exercise, and another way to enjoy our local treasures, with the added bonus of a team of great people. People row for a variety of reasons, improving both physical and mental fitness. Just getting out on the water whilst learning new skills is a great bonding experience and real chance to form connections with new friends.

What’s Newhaven’s best kept secret?

I think the landscape is unbeatable, it has everything from the greenery of Castle Hill and Tide Mills nature reserves to sandy beaches when the tide is out and the sea is a fabulous blue on a bright day.

What’s your favourite place in Newhaven?

I love being on the river, it is the best vantage point for watching the world go by, not just the boats but the birdlife too!

What’s your favourite place for lunch in Newhaven?

There is an Italian café called Luna Rossa on West Quay, which is always a delight. The food is great and served by friendly staff.

How can people support Newhaven Gig Rowing Club?

We are a registered charity run by volunteers, so any support is graciously accepted! Whether that is help with fundraising or by donating time. Even join us – come and try a new sport, you never know, you might love it just as much as we do.

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