By Lyn Barton on the Isles of Scilly
Controversy marred the opening stages of the World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly when nine crews were given their marching orders for flouting rules.
In the iconic long line up today, which this year featured over 130 gigs, the crew from Appledore rowing in Verbena were disqualified for bad seamanship. The previous evening as the veterans events opened the competition six crews were kicked out of the ladies competition after pushing over the starting line. Then, in the men's veterans event, two more crews suffered a similar fate for an over enthusiastic start.
Rick Persich, championship committee chairman, conceded he had come in for some flack. But he said that the rules had to be enforced in the interests of fairness.
"Sometimes there are strong words and I can understand why," he said.
"I know it's hard on crews who come a long way and spend a lot of money to take part, but the rules are there for everyone and are explained fully.
"In the case of Verbena, the boat turned 90 degrees to the starting line and impeded the passage of several gigs.
"We had about six other crews complain and it was seen by the starting marshals."
The long, 1.6 nautical mile race from St Agnes to St Mary's establishes the seeding position for the remaining heats and final over the shorter distance from Nut Rock near Tresco.
Indomitable Falmouth ladies won the first race, with Fowey River and Caradon in second and third respectively.
In the men's long race Looe eased across the finish line first by several lengths, followed by defending champions Falmouth and Roseland.