On the 31st May 2017 an historic race was held from Pill on the Avon out to King road, at a position just north of Avonmouth.
The race was organised by the Clevedon Pilot gig club, assisted by Bristol pilots.
The plan was to recreate a pilot race out to a ship that required a pilot; it is thought that this was last done in the early 20th century down west in Cornwall and the Scillies. On an historical point, Bristol channel pilots never boarded ships this way, as pilots in the Bristol channel used sailing pilot cutters, or skiffs and used a small punt to finally put the pilot aboard. The pilots wholeheartedly joined in with the spirit of the event and gave advice, kept the Havenmaster informed and provided 3 pilots to take part, one on each gig, and another on the safety boat.
The gigs rowed out of Bristol, and waited at Pill for the Matthew to come within striking distance. Once she was within range, the race began in earnest and the gig ‘Blackbird’ lived up to her name and flew out to the Matthew getting pilot John Freegard aboard just before being pipped by Tony Anderton on the ‘Watch & Pray”.
The event was covered by BBC radio Bristol and a crew from Points west who televised the event on that evenings news.
It is hoped that the race will be a catalyst to encourage more races in the future as pilot gig racing becomes even more popular.
In addition to the Clevedon club, there is a club in Bristol and it is hoped that another club will be formed in Portishead.