The RMA Gig Club

The idea of a gig club within the RMA was first raised in February 2019. A plastic gig, ‘Trafalgar,’ and two sets of oars were leant to the newly established club by RM Tamar, and safe storage was allocated by Stonehouse Barracks.

Although their set-up was simple, and conditions were not perfect, the club began to grow and establish itself amongst the community. They were invited to take part in the interservice regatta at 47 Commando which gave them a clear indication of the standard of the competition.

The Club had entered a few regattas and had become more confident, up against well-established clubs they knew they still had work to do, but their enthusiasm and growth were undeniable.

In February 2020, the RMA Pilot Gig Club became a specialist branch of the RMA.

The newly formed branch had found a traditional wooden plot gig for sale called the ‘Merthen.’

The Branch secured corporate sponsorship from Andrew Skipsey of Giganet; they went on to receive substantial donations from Mark Bresnahan of Marine Fire Safety, RMA Plymouth Branch and they secured a grant from Magic Little Grant.

Although the Branch was working hard when they could fundraise, the country was in national lockdown making traditional avenues of fundraising impossible. They adapted and moved online, hosting a virtual bingo evening and utilised online marketplaces to try to reach their £15,000 goal.

In August, the Branch gained its first Ambassador, Lee Spencer BEM, The Rowing Marine.

When lockdown lifted the Branch returned to rowing and were able to increase their fundraising activities. Their JustGiving page had reached over £6,500, but they were still some way off their target.

In recognition of the stellar fundraising effort, community ethos, and determination to establish a grass-roots Branch the RMA Pilot Gig Club was awarded a grant from RMA – The Royal Marines Charity to enable them to realise their aspirations of owning a traditional wooden pilot gig.

The purchase of the ‘Merthen’ would allow the RMA Pilot Gig Club to join the Cornish Pilot Gig Association and further establish the RMA.

The ‘Merthen’ was re-named the ‘Cockleshell’.

The Club relocated to the Mount Batten Water sports Centre, Plymstock in time for the arrival of ‘Cockleshell.’  It was a momentous occasion attended by Phil Gilby MBE on behalf of RMA – The Royal Marines Charity, and Mick Shannon on behalf of RMA Plymouth Branch.

To mark the occasion ‘Cockleshell’ was launched for a short row after being out of the water for so long.

Using the Plymouth Council fund matching scheme, the Club started fundraising to get a new set of oars. Again, they had to turn to online events due to the second national lockdown. They achieved their target with the support of generous donors.

The popular new Branch has had lots of applicants, and word is spreading throughout the rowing community.

The annual running costs of the club mean that they are constantly trying to find ways to fundraise and would like to become completely self-sufficient in the future.

RMA – The Royal Marines Charity recognise that the Clubs’ executive and extended committee, along with its members have worked tirelessly to get to the stage where it is truly established and now has a prosperous future.

On Saturday 17 April, the Club was invited by Mick Shannon and RMA Plymouth to take part in a memorial service to honour HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh. The invite was accepted, and Cockleshell was anchored on Plymouth Sound, South of the Royal Marines Memorial. It was an honour and a privilege to represent the RMA- The Royal Marines Charity with a traditional salute by raising our oars during the minute’s silence.

The Club is also taking part in the 75 for the 75th fundraising campaign and aim to raise £750 by rowing 750km in time for the Corps Birthday.

More recently, the branch created its very own sea-shanty to raise funds for the charity. The song is a buoyant, catchy, animated and perky tune, expressing the exhilaration and determination of a pilot gig racing start.

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