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The Remarkable History of Morladron Varthys: Our Amazing Pirate

Morladron Varthys, formerly known as Smudger, has an intriguing past that adds to her allure. Originally built by the talented hands of Brian and Andrew Pomeroy in 2013, she comes from a lineage of exceptional gigs crafted by the Pomeroys. Noteworthy creations such as Ajax, Pegasus, Double Dutch, Verbena, Whitford, and Volante bear testament to their craftsmanship.

But what makes Morladron Varthys truly special is the story behind her name. In 2012, an anonymous local benefactor left Dart Pilot Gig Club a generous sum with one condition – that a new gig be named "Smudger" after his own nickname. A dedicated spectator of gig rowing on the River Dart, he wanted his legacy to sail proudly along those waters. To honor his request without revealing his identity to all but a select few individuals connected to the club's administration.

Built by Brian Pomeroy himself in Dartmouth during 2013 and blessed on April 22nd of that year; since then Morladron Varthys (now under our ownership) has been an emblematic vessel for Dart Pilot Gig Club's participation in friendly regattas across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset,and beyond – including world championships, national championships, county championships, and notably competing at every World Pilot Gig Championships held in Scilly between 2013 and 2020.

Alongside shorter races like Three Rivers (6 miles), Head of the Dart (8 miles) between Totnes and Dartmouth, Brixham round trip, The Great London River Race, Ocean to City in Cork(2022), and rounding Teignmouth Island, Morladron Varthys has also ventured further afield. She made an impressive appearance at Muiden Pampus Muiden hosted in Holland in November 2017, which brought together rowing enthusiasts from various craft types. Immersed in a vibrant carnival atmosphere while staying on barges, it was an unforgettable experience.

However, Morladron Varthys's most remarkable feat of endurance took place in July 2018 when she embarked on a sponsored row to Guernsey and back. This incredible journey served as a fundraiser for the Children's Hospice and aimed to generate funds for the acquisition of a second gig by Dart Pilot Gig Club.

In August 2022, we had the privilege of purchasing this magnificent vessel ourselves. Given our location in Penzance, it only felt fitting to rename herMorladron Varthys– paying homage to her new pirate identity.

With her captivating history and striking colors adorning the waves, Morladron Varthys stands ready for fresh adventures withThe Penzance and Newlyn Pilot Gig Club.

Special Thanks: Bringing the Dream to Life

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the remarkable individuals who played a vital role in turning our dream into reality –Tina, Julie, and Jonny. Their unwavering dedication and unique strengths were instrumental in bringing Morladron Varthys to life.

Tina, with her expertise and invaluable contributions, played an integral part in making this endeavor possible. Her passion for rowing and commitment to excellence have been truly inspiring.

Julie's tireless efforts and unwavering support brought us closer to achieving our goals. Her determination and skills have left an indelible mark on the successful realization of our vision.

Jonny's remarkable contribution cannot be overstated. His expertise, knowledge, and exceptional dedication breathed life into Morladron Varthys.

To all those involved behind the scenes - each playing their part - we express our sincerest appreciation for your hard work and dedication that went into making this project a success.

Together as a crew, we made dreams come true by harnessing individual strengths toward one common goal.Thank you all for being instrumental in bringing Morladron Varthys from concept to existence.

Pilot Gigs: A Rich History and Thriving Sport

Pilot gigs, with their distinctive eight seats (thwarts), have a rich heritage deeply rooted in the maritime history of Cornwall. Traditionally constructed using Cornish Narrow Leaf Elm, these magnificent vessels measure 32 feet (9.8 m) in length and have a beam of four feet ten inches (1.47 m).

Originally serving as shore-based lifeboats during distress situations, pilot gigs were renowned for their capabilities in navigating treacherous waters off the Atlantic coast. The pilots from the Isles of Scilly gained a formidable reputation for being the first to board incoming vessels, securing themselves prestigious roles guiding ships into various ports across Northern Europe.

The design of pilot gigs evolved to maximize speed so that crews from different islands could reach visiting vessels swiftly – often those perilously close to running aground on rocky shores. Their agility ensured that Scilly's pilots secured lucrative opportunities by safely steering ships towards their intended destinations.

However, with advancements in modern shipping, pilot gigs gradually fell out of favor and nearly faded into obscurity. It wasn't until 1921 when a group of rowers from Newquay decided to revive the sport by racing the remaining gigs after returning from World War One.

During World War Two, gig rowing took a backseat except for training cadets; however, it regained momentum after the war ended in 1945 when Newquay resumed its gig races. In 1986, due to increasing popularity and participation across multiple clubs, the CPGA (Cornwall Pilot Gig Association) was established as the governing body for gig racing. This marked an important milestone as standardized blueprints were created based on Ralph Bird's measurements taken from Treffry - an iconic gig built in 1838 by William Peters still owned and raced by Newquay Rowing Club.

While most modern racing gigs adhere closely to Treffry's specifications, non-racing gigs have also been constructed with minor variations. These non-conforming gigs are not eligible for competitive races but continue to serve their purpose in preserving the heritage of this storied watercraft.

Today, pilot gig rowing is primarily a sport that has experienced a remarkable resurgence. With approximately 100 clubs worldwide, its stronghold remains in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. However, the sport has spread eastward across the United Kingdom and internationally to countries such as France, Netherlands, Ireland, Middle East, Faroe Islands, Australia, Bermuda,and the United States of America.

The pinnacle event of each gig season is undoubtedly the World Championships held over the May Bank Holiday weekend on the Isles of Scilly. This thrilling spectacle brings all participating gigs together for an exhilarating race where tactics and skill determine victory. Throughout warmer months, individual clubs host their own regattas leading up to significant competitions like Men's and Ladies County or National Championships held annually at Newquay in September.

With over 200 registered gigs under CPGA (excluding those from Isles of Scilly), pilot gig rowing continues to thrive as a testament to both its historical significance and enduring appeal as a vibrant sport enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world.

OVerall, Gig Rowing is fantastic, it is fun, it forges friendships in the heat of competition, and brings local communities together, whist creating an international network of Associations, Clubs, Rowers, and Spectators.


From Purchase to Launch: Moraldron Varthys in Pictures.

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