ROWING: GIG rowing racers from south eastern clubs will compete at Leigh on Sunday in the town’s annual annual Pier Race.

A total of 13 boats – including craft from the Blackwater, Manningtree, Brightlingsea Rowhedge and Queenborough – will compete again four boats from the organising club, the Lowers Thames Club.

Race organiser Simon Roberts, a stalwart of the Lower Thames club at Leigh, said: “We’ve got a great Gig rowing community along the Essex coast and crews will be coming from all over to take part.

“The course is a testing one with the start just off Bell Wharf.

“Everyone will be pulling hard to get to the turning mark which is just off the pierhead. From there they will row parallel with the pier and to another buoy, roughly where the second shelter is, and then round that and try tto get back to Bell wharf as fast as possible.

“It’s potentially a tough course because the sea’s likely to be quite choppy and getting around the marks sharply and smoothly is not easy in these boats,” he added.

But the race, which starts at just under an hour before high tide, will see the four rowers and a cox craft tested.

Roberts said: “There is a good community of rowers here and competitors will include youngsters through to people in their 70s and women too.

“It’s about having a community of people who like being out on the water and enjoy testing themselves.”

The race is likely to take between an hour and two hours for crews to compete , but the finishing time will be highly dependent upon the sea state and tide strength.

The boats are much, much heavier than the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race craft (having evolved from working boats) but their crews will be just as exhausted as the skiff racers when they battle their way against the elements.

The craft will launch at Two Tree Island and the course itself encompasses five miles of relatively open water. If the sea conditions are very bad the race itself will be changed to the safer waters in of Benfleet Creek.

Top vantage points for spectators will be Two Tree Island for the launch, Bell Wharf at Leigh for the start or Southend Pierhead/second shelter.