The home of Cornish Pilot Gig Rowing welcomed its new pilot gig on Sunday afternoon.

Newquay Rowing Club launched ‘Toby’ at Newquay Harbour, during an event which was attended by hundreds of people.

In keeping with the club’s tradition, Toby gets her name from one of the many fish cellars that were located around Newquay.

Toby has been built by boat builders W C Hunkin and Sons of Fowey following a legacy from David Sleeman, a former mayor of Newquay who worked as a plumber throughout his career.

Dave’s friends, councillor Joanna Kenny and Natasha Smith were among those to give speeches at the launch. 

Natasha also poured champagne over Toby to christen the boat and bring the crews good luck.

Reverend Jane Kneebone blessed the boat before she was taken out on her maiden voyage.

Newquay’s gig trustees were given the honour of rowing Toby for the very first time as is the tradition with any new gig’s launched at Newquay.

Newquay Rowing Club secretary Phil Trebilcock said: “It’s been 15 years since Newquay Rowing Club’s last gig was launch, which was the Spy.

“This is an historic occasion for the club.”

Natasha added: “Dave always wanted to donate a gig to the rowing club and for his hometown.

Natasha at the Toby unveiling (Picture: Warren Wilkins) ( )

“It’s beautiful and he would be so proud.”

Joanna added: “It’s touching so many people have attended, especially to have so many old Newquay here.”

Gig trustees take Toby out on its maiden voyage (Picture Warren Wilkins) ( )

The Toby fish cellar was located near to Toby Way towards the bottom of Tower Road and, until quite recently, parts of the old building could still be seen. 

The gig, which is pale blue in colour with a varnished top strake and dark blue rubbing strake and underside, will be used at the 2024 World Championships in May. 

The club’s very own Toby Row, who rows for Newquay and is undertaking an apprenticeship at W C Hunkin and Sons, has had the privilege of helping to build the new gig.

Newquay Rowing Club was established in 1921, is the oldest club on the gig rowing circuit.

The first rowing season was in 1922, with the club starting using three old gigs, Newquay (1812), Dove (1820) and Treffry (1838).

Newquay was the last port in Cornwall to have pilot gigs. Gig racing was a long-established sport in Newquay before 1922.

During the 1830’s, 40’s and 50’s, gig racing had become a popular sport all around Cornwall, often with considerable amounts of prize money going to the winning crews.

By the 1880’s, gig racing in Cornwall was in decline, the industrial revolution was under way and engines were replacing sail and oar.

Gigs around Cornwall were left to rot or were broken up, but Newquay was fortunate enough to retain some of its gigs.