A 32-foot Cornish Gig Vessel built by a team of injured veterans has been launched in Falmouth.
The Great Big Cornish Gig Project began last June, supported by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and The Armed Forces Community Covenant Programme. Their aim was to train wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans and serving forces personnel in boatbuilding skills and build a gig to compete in the 2016 World Pilot Gig Championships in the Scilly Isles.
Al Henderson, a former Royal Marine said: “Part of my resettlement leaving the Marines was to come down here to do the boat building course at the Marine School.” Through that Al met shipwright Brian Cumby (now deceased), who came up with the original idea for building the gig.
Al added: “Mike Selwood ran with it, and got all the funding secured. Then they asked me to come on as one of the boat builders along with Andrew Nancarrow and Dan Scully. All the other guys are volunteers; they have built the boat. They have done ninety-nine percent of the work, we’ve just been there to oversee it and break it down into manageable sections. For me it’s been a really good project.”
It took the team of around 40 volunteers eight months to build the vessel which has been named H4H Valiant. Many had no previous experience. Stevie Allan, a survival instructor currently serving in the army said: “I didn’t have any skills at all, I learned along the way.”
Prior to the launch off the slipway at the Falmouth Watersports Centre a Royal Marines Corps of Drums performed a marching parade with the uninvited support of a small dog. Reverend Botwood performed the ceremonial blessing of the boat and then decanted a bottle of rum over the boat in line with naval traditions.
The team will now tour around the South West coast to Sennen Cove in H4H Valiant between 2-8 April before heading over to the Scilly Isles to compete in the World Pilot Gig Championships later in the month.