Guide to the Scillies

New to the whole idea of the Scillies? Here’s a handy guide which may or may not tell you everything you need to know. But we’ve done our best.

What’s it all about?


Taking place on the Isles of Scilly each year is the annual World Pilot Gig Championships. Yes, this is your chance to be in a World Championship! Ilfracombe has taken part for as long as anyone can remember – and our crews often do very well!


It all happens on the first bank holiday weekend in May. 


The Vets (40+) and Supervets (50+) competitions are on Friday and finish on Saturday morning. With the open competition (everyone) being held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Prize-giving (a huge amount of shouting and cheering - it doesn’t really matter whether you were in a winning crew or not) is held at 5pm on Sunday on St Mary’s, on the Green.


On the stage! 

Getting there


You have two choices:

Flying is quick (around 20 minutes) but expensive and fog regularly threatens to make everyone late for everything. The plane is so small you can lean forward and tickle the pilot’s ear (not recommended).


The ferry (The Scillonian) is slow (around 2½ hours) but cheaper and sometimes you see dolphins.


The Scillonian goes from Penzance twice a day. The Skybus (the plane) goes several times each day from Land’s End.


Both the ferry and the plane can be booked here: Codes are being issued for each gig club which should give you a discount if you give it when you book.


Several long-stay park and ride car parks are available in Penzance.




St Agnes is one of the islands of the Isles of Scilly and is traditionally where most Ilfracombe Gig Club members stay. Beautiful and quiet, it has one pub (The famous Turk's Head) and a shop. There is a campsite – TroyTown - and several houses and flats are put up for rent to rowers each year (these get booked up quickly so don’t hang about).

The campsite could not be any closer to the sea so is exposed to weather but you can hear cuckoos and see lovely sunsets. It has hot showers, and mobile phone charging points amd th shop selling porridge and hot coffee is just next door.


Campsite website


To get to the racing each day, you will need to get on a ferry (a weekend ticket is available to buy on the boat) to St Mary's each day. Last ferry back to St Agnes is usually around 8.30pm.


The other option is to stay on St Marys – the main island of the Scillies. There are lots of pubs, places to eat, parties and rowers here. Again, there are houses and flats available for rent to rowers each year, There is also a large campsite (The Garrison) which is sheltered and offers great views of the harbour on the walk down to the racing.

The Garrison can be found at For the gig weekend, they only take bookings by phone 01720 422670 and it usually gets booked up by November.

Troytown campsite is quite close to the sea...



We set up camp on the main beach (there’s a couple of beaches with all the boats lined up on them) and sit about in the sunshine (see note on weather below) waiting for the next race.


Racing consists of four rounds. The first is the long race (basically we row out to a star line near
St Agnes and race back in). It is incredible to see all the boats lined up – an amazing spectacle!  Then there are three shorter races. The time you do for long race determines which group you are in – 'A' being the fastest and, depending on how many boats have entered 'L', 'M' or even 'N' could be the slowest. In each short race, the fastest two in each section move up a section, the slowest two go down a section. There are prizes for the winners of each section.


The better a club does, the more chance we have of getting a second boat (meaning that the B crews can race too) in next year’s Scillies.

For the last race, the slowest sections row first and, as they finish, everyone lines up by the finish line. We fish out the bottle of port (or can of lager, cup of Fanta orange, whatever floats your boat) you have put under your seat while we await winners to cross the line. 

Footage of the 2018 championships

Watching races finish.




You will be responsible for paying your own accommodation and travel, food, beer, Deep Heat etc. and, additionally, there will be cost per person to pay the Club which covers the cost of transporting the boat (or boats) down to Penzance – usually around £20 or £30 depending on how many people are going.


Additionally, Ilfracombe has a celebratory club meal in the Turk’s Head on Sunday evening which we each pay for on the evening. Because of the whole ferry situation, this is only for people staying on St Agnes.




Your guess is as good as mine. It can be absolutely gorgeous, but it can also be terrible. Come prepared for massive rain, big wind, sudden fog, hot sun... and you might as well throw in a couple of snow shoes for good measure.