Gig rowers training near Porthleven harbour dashed to the aid of a stricken family who were spotted drifting perilously close to rocks.

Six women from Porthleven Gig club, plus their coxswain Ted Blandford, performed their mercy mission last Thursday onboard the gig Lowen Mor, after seeing a red distress flare go off at around 6.15pm while rowing towards Loe Beach.

The crew, made up of Sophie Best, Becky Elston, Andrea Rigg, Lynne Drew, Sam Parker and Julia Burns – all from Porthleven or Helston – immediately set off towards a speedboat that appeared to have ground to a halt further out to sea.

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When they arrived they discovered six holidaymakers onboard, including an elderly man and three children, with the boat just metres away from being dashed against the rocks – renowned for being treacherous in that area.

Coxswain Mr Blandford, who is a paramedic with Helston Ambulance Station, said: “We found the engine wouldn’t start and they had no communications onboard. Our biggest worry was they were drifting back onto the rocks. They were very pleased to see us.”

After informing Falmouth Coastguards via VHF radio, the crew attached a line to the speedboat and then began the “arduous” task of towing it back to shore through heavy rolling sea, using manpower alone.

“It was damn good training. Towing a speed boat and rowing is very hard work,” said Mr Blandford, adding: “I think even six men would be quite pushed to tow that boat, with six people onboard – it was a heavy old tow.”

Meanwhile fisherman David Walkey, who is also a member of the gig club, had seen the rescue taking place from his crabbing boat and went to their aid.

After the ladies’ crew had towed the speedboat around 40 yards back out to sea, Mr Walkey hooked his boat up and returned the holidaymakers back into the harbour.

Here they were met by anxious family members who had been left on dry land, and who had been comforted by other gig club members during the rescue.

Pilot gigs were traditionally used as shore-based lifeboats that went to vessels in distress, but today are mainly used for sport.

Mr Blandford, who said the club had never performed a rescue in a gig before, added: “It was very nice to use the gig as it would have been back in the 1800s; to use it for what it was designed for in the first place.

“All the girls put in a superb effort and I am extremely proud of the way they rowed and conducted themselves throughout the incident.

“Members of the party onboard the boat expressed their gratitude to all of the girls and myself for coming to their aid and helping to prevent what potentially could have been a very serious incident.”

The women, who are aged between 17 and 45 years old, train Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday morning.