‘Well what a day Saturday 25th March 2017 was for Exmouth Gig Club!

A proud, proud moment for all the current and outgoing committee members and their friends and family, plus all of the clubs members on coming together to bless and name our new Wooden gig  ‘Shelly Maid’ !!

We were also joined by the Mayor of Exmouth Brian Cole, who spoke about what a delight it was for Exmouth’s community to have such a legacy available for all to use in the future.

The Vicar, David Arnold, blessed our boat and is a member of The Exmouth Shanty Men who also attended and made it a real poignant moment as they sung us off when we launched all 3 boats, Rodney Bey, Avocet and Shelly Maid from Shelly Beach !

It was a real pleasure to take Louis Hunkin, who built “Shelly Maid” with his father Maurices’ help,  the Vicar David Arnold and Adam Walker from The OneFamily foundation – more about how awesome they are in a bit, out in the pilot seats of each of the Gig’s and show them the joys of gig rowing on the Exe Estuary and  along Exmouth sea front !

I think I am right in saying that Carrie and Ben didn’t realise that in just under 3 years after buying the wooden Gig “Helford” and blessing and renaming it in 2014 as ‘Rodney Bey’ thus providing the local community of Exmouth and surrounding areas its first Pilot gig rowing club, that in March 2017 the club would have had a Brand spanking new wooden Gig commissioned and built for them by the highly experienced boat builders from Fowey -Louis and Maurice Hunkin.

So how did a such a young, new club raise the £25000 required to commission and build a brand new gig boat, to CPGA standard and supply it with all the essentials to get it on the water such as oars, seats and a trailer to transport it?

Well, the story goes,  Mr Mark/Max/Champs Champion who was brought on board when Carrie and Ben started the club popped over to the Price household one day in the summer of 2014 and chatted about this great new rowing club that we should go and have a try of ! First 3 sessions free – you get the picture!

Greg went along to his first session and loved it whilst I watched on from the beach, trying to control the children but feeling a little envious of Greg but a tad too scared to go in a boat on the water!!

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 when both Greg and I now have what’s known as “gig rowing addiction”! The club is growing and regattas are an awesome experience in Rodney Bey!

We had just blessed and named our new GRP training gig ‘Avocet’  and were thinking about how to raise funding for another boat.

I had received a leaflet in the latest statement of our child Trust Fund account. This leaflet explained that the organisation – ‘The OneFamily’ – that managed the trust fund had set up a foundation in 2014 with a pledge to help as many of the OneFamily customers, their families and the communities in which they live and work in by providing personal grants and community awards. One family customers could nominate a project and if the project was approved it would go to a public vote to decide which projects would win.

So  Mark/Max/Champs and I put together an nomination for Exmouth Pilot Gig Club to win a community award of £25000!!! The nomination was approved and we were then entered among 100s of other projects into the public vote. We needed to rally together friends and family and other gig clubs and get them to register on the OneFamily website and vote for us. If we were in the top 5 projects for votes then we would win the funding!

After a valiant effort but a vast underestimation of the support we would need to come top 5, we were gutted, to say the least, that we didn’t win.

Other gig clubs had been supportive in voting for us and in doing this word spread amongst the gig rowing community as to what was on offer if you were a customer of One Family !  Newquay gig rowing club went on to gain a successful nomination in the September after our bid in the spring and actually win £25000 of funding !!

We were really pleased for them but it made our loss feel even worse!

But we all know that to be a gig rower you need determination and perseverance and I wasn’t prepared to give up. So after chatting with the committee and several club members we decided to apply again and this time put together a highly organised plan of attack! We contacted Newquay as well as other project winners to glean information about what they did and how they did it. We put Ben on the radio, we had Matt and Tanya of “crew creative” produce flyers and several members post them out ! We pestered other gig clubs at regattas and via Facebook! Matt got gig rower to share our story, Bob and Shirley got their pals at the dragon boat club to vote for us, Adrian Colston shared how to vote for us with all of his Dartmoor National Trust chums and that’s to name but a few – for all of the rest of you who did such a fabulous job,  and I could list you all but it would be a very long read, Thank you so much to all of you. BECAUSE WE WON!!!

What I mean to say is that it wouldn’t have happened without the help and support from all of our members at the time and their friends and family. It was with all of your help that we managed to secure top spot in our category with over 1200 votes !

Now that was outstanding!

But not as outstanding as seeing “Shelly Maid” in all of her glory on Shelly Beach on Saturday.

So we really have to thank the OneFamily Foundation for their generosity. They aspire to have made £5 million available to their customers by 2019.

It all seemed like a dream and not quite real when we had our celebration at the beachcomber back in August of last year and Ben and I were presented with our community award winners plaque by David Herd from OneFamily!

It still didn’t seem quite real on Saturday listening to the Vicars lovely words and blessing for our new boat and us launching the boats whilst the shanty men sang us off.

But I tell you what did feel real – when we drove those new oars through the water and “Shelly Maid” flew back to the quay! What a feeling!!

Here’s to the season ahead starting with Dart regatta where everyone who’s attending will get to feel how fantastic our new boat is!!

Nicola Price.

“One Family” customer. Exmouth Gig Club member.