Gig collision sparks new safety measures at Newquay Rowing Club
NEWQUAY Rowing Club is to implement a raft of new safety measures after two pilot gigs collided during a major tournament last summer, throwing one crew into the sea.
Overseen by the Cornish Pilot Gig Association (CPGA), the club's secretary, Julie Arthur, compiled an official report on the incident along with a string of recommendations.
They include ensuring coxswains know the rules about who has priority on turns, providing lifejackets, purchasing special foil blankets and improving radio communications.
Nobody was injured in the collision, which took place in the second round of the Men's County Gig Championships on September 14 last year, although crew members received precautionary first aid to prevent hypothermia.
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Ms Arthur told the Cornish Guardian: "It was a freak accident and you couldn't recreate it if you tried. But there are always things you can learn. It was no one's fault but we've used the experience to sharpen up what we are doing.
"It woke people up to what could happen. No one expected a gig to roll like that in those conditions; we've all rowed in much worse."
The remainder of the competition, hosted by Newquay Rowing Club, had to be postponed when the Atlantic gig, carrying the Cadgwith B team, capsized in good sea conditions.
The report states that the Miller's Daughter had slowed to take a turn, in the trough of a wave, when the Atlantic reared up above it at full speed.
The Atlantic then struck the rear of the Miller's Daughter as it descended, ejecting six crew members. Subsequent wave movements saw the Atlantic fully capsize before the crew was swiftly rescued and taken back to the harbour.
In her report, Ms Arthur wrote: "From reviewing the footage and interviewing the umpires and crew concerned, this appears to have been a freak accident, but it is not to say this could not happen again."
She suggested to the CPGA a series of recommendations she believes should be adopted at Newquay, as well as other Cornish rowing clubs.
The main point was to ensure coxswains, the forward-facing navigators, "anticipate situations, take avoiding action and even instruct their crew to stop rowing/hold water if necessary".
Ms Arthur also suggested coxswains should be reminded of rules regarding who has priority in a race, as the umpires had reportedly given the Miller's Daughter priority as the crew slowed down to make the turn.
But she added: "It's incredibly hard to judge sometimes as it's not a flat water sport. With the best will in the world you sometimes can't anticipate what the boat in front is going to do, or what the sea is going to do."
She also suggested coxswains should wear lifejackets, and that radio communication procedures between safety, spectator and umpire boats should be tightened up to avoid confusion during an incident.
The club will also appoint a new safety officer and form a sub-committee ahead of the championships this year.