The final day of the World Pilot Gig Championships started with the Help for Heroes Men’s Open crew hoping for a top 100 finish. The crew were ready to go and keen to show the competition that they meant business.
Race number three of the open competition; the first of the day; saw those of relatively level ability race each other in each heats of 12. Still in group H, the H4H crew put up a strong fight initially leaving some behind and sitting in the middle of the field. They couldn’t hold out for the entire run though and finished in penultimate position, meaning that their final race would be rowed in group I.
A team talk followed and initial disappointment faded to reinstate the fighting spirit that is so prevalent among Help for Heroes sportsmen. Race four and the last of the weekend saw the crew manning H4H Valiant with gusto. It helped that their cox; Kate Bourn from Caradon Gig Club; had just won her race in group A with Caradon Ladies A team to be crowned World Champion. The Help for Heroes crew pushed and pushed, squeezing out others who had started ahead of them to eventually finish fourth in their group. They rowed to the best of their ability and were proud of their final placing.
Among the support team tracking the crew’s progress from a boat alongside throughout the race was Help for Heroes volunteer Jock McDonald. Jock is the charity’s only volunteer on the Isles of Scilly; appointed after he enquired about how he could assist with the overflowing collection tin in St Mary’s Airport; where he works for Paulger’s airport transfers. He had a chance to chat to some of the Gig Rowing Team and was invited out to see first-hand how his support goes towards helping the blokes.
Jock made the decision to overlook his seasickness problem (he has only been on the ferry three times in 15 years) and hop aboard. The smile on his face throughout was a tell-tale sign of recognition that the money he helps to raise is supporting the men he had just been talking to rebuilding their lives. Jock usually works on finals day; this year was the first time in his 15 years on the Isles of Scilly that he had ever been able to watch the race.
Help for Heroes provides support to our wounded. What is evident on the Isles of Scilly and among the gig rowing community is that support is offered to anyone who needs it and even those who don’t. The team have spent three days focused on working together as a team, in idyllic surroundings, with worries put to one side, at least for the duration of the races.
Rowers from the Veterans’ crew, who completed their race on Friday, answered a call by Pendeen Gig Club to fill last minute spaces in their gig throughout the weekend. Help for Heroes’ team were happy to assist and thankful of the opportunity to row again.
Recovery journeys have progressed this weekend. The Championships may have ended but the gig rowing season runs until October. Some may move on, some may return next year. For a number of the team other challenges lie ahead; Invictus Games, Tough Mudder, Big Battlefield Bike Ride; outside of gig rowing. But what they each take away individually from this weekend is key; not their final standings.
The crew of H4H Valiant received the Sportsmanship award at the presentation ceremony after the final race; unexpected but highly deserved.
But just in case you were wondering, the Help for Heroes’ Gig Rowing Team Men’s Open crew placed 84th overall of 147 gigs. And, true to their roots of friendly forces rivalry, it would be unfair not to mention that some other fully able military crews finished behind them, proving that sport really does look beyond injury.