As part of the 2011 celebrations to mark 200 years since the cob was built, on Saturday 6 August Porthmadog Rowing Club hosted an exciting race which was a re-enactment of the historic requirement to provide a pilot to the ships coming into Porthmadog Harbour.
The pilots and their crews lived in Borth y Gest and on the sight of an incoming ship would ‘race’ against other pilots to get to the ship first and thus gain the service fee. This was a race borne out of necessity, with crews sometimes risking their lives in treacherous conditions to ensure their pilot was first to board the approaching vessel.
The rowing club held a similar ‘race’ to a ship in the channel and back to Borth y Gest, although these days the participants have the luxury of fibreglass boats and full safety gear and the focus was on having fun! Eleven crews from coastal rowing clubs throughout north and mid Wales from Ynys Môn in the north to Borth in the south took part. The intention is to turn this into an annual event, The Borth y Gest Pilot Race.
All clubs and boats gathered at Madoc Yacht Club and rowed down to the beach at Borth y Gest 1pm. At 1.30pm the race was started in Borth y Gest with a hooter, when the pilots raced on foot from the old pilot house to their respective boats, which were waiting for them on the beach. They raced up the channel up to a yacht moored near buoy 6, which represented the incoming sailing boat and raced back to Borth y Gest. The first pilot to reach the finish tent was the winning crew from Ynys Mon.
After the race the winners lead the boats in convoy back to the Harbour in Porthmadog with whistles and hooters make a spectacular entrance into town. At the presentation a magnificent trophy was given together with 6 Borth y Gest pilot mugs to the winning crew. All 66 racers were given a bottle of beer from Porthmadog brewers Purple Moose, who sponsor MYC rowing club. At Madoc Yacht Club refreshments and stalls offered food and further entertainment to the crowds who were also invited into the clubhouse to peruse an exhibition of historic photographs illustrating the marine history of Porthmadog.
Porthmadog Rowing Club is very grateful to the Friends of Borth y Gest and Purple Moose Brewery for their generous support for this event.