The Duke of Edinburgh is due to visit Newquay on August 1, when he will meet representatives of the Newquay Rowing Club and walk around the new Treffry Centre.

The royal visit is the result of a letter to Buckingham Palace from John Cuthill, the chairman of Newquay Rowing Club, the oldest club on the gig rowing circuit, inviting the Duke to see the historic gigs owned by the club and meet the rowers and club officials who have worked so hard to make the club one of the most successful in the country.

Based at Newquay harbour, the club was formed in 1921 with three old gigs – Newquay (built in 1812), Dove (1820) and Treffry (1838).  Now a thriving club, with a strong membership of all ages, the three historic six oared pilot gigs are still in use today and are regularly rowed in races.  The club received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2005.

As well as sighted rowers, the club also has a number of blind rowers who use oars which have been modified by putting a groove in the loom end which enables them to determine the attitude of the blade in relation to the surface of the water.  The first blind rowers joined the club in January 1999 and regularly race with sighted crews and attend the World Championships in the Isles of Scilly each year, usually beating several sighted crews.

John was delighted when his invitation was accepted by the Duke and is looking forward to showing him around the historic tunnel, built by Joseph Treffry in 1844 to provide the vital link between the pack-horses delivering minerals along the tram way and Newquay harbour where the minerals would then be shipped to South Wales for smelting, and which is now used to house the club’s pilot gigs, and the club house.

“This will be wonderful day for the Rowing Club and the people of Newquay” said John.  “We are very proud of our club and look forward to showing the Duke what we have achieved over the last 93 years.

“However, although the club is continuing to thrive, we urgently need to raise funds to improve our facilities.  We want to move our historic gigs from the tunnel where the 12 degree slope and seeping water make it a hostile environment for wooden boats to a new purpose built gig store, with training room, changing room, showers, kitchen and a function room.

“We have already raised £140,000 towards our £190,000 target through a mixture of fund raising activities and grants from Sport England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Newquay Town Council, as well as other organisations, but we need to do more and hope the Duke’s visit will help to raise our profile even higher and help us reach our target”. 

The Duke will have the opportunity to look at the gigs and meet their crews, including:

Newquay – six junior rowers and their coaches  Steve Webber, Justin Philips, Danny Beckerleg
Dove – six rowers with cox Mark Morris
Treffry – six ladies ( the 2013 county champions) with cox Steve Jones and Jonathan Treffry.
Dall Lewyer – members of the Cornish Rowing Association for the Blind, six blind rowers and their escorts, cox Derek Applewhite and shore manager Dr Christine Hunter

He will then meet representatives of the Trustees of Newquay Pilot Gigs, including Chair John Bawden; Mrs Dawn Tarran, Chair of the Ladies Committee, Ted Taylor and Ms Tatia Churchill, as well as sponsors Jotun Paints Europe, North Shore, Andy Loos and Lt Col Philip Hills, Chair of Cornwall Heritage Trust.  He will also be introduced to representatives of the Cornish Pilot Gig Association, including President Norma Edwards, Chair Jason Nicholas, Deputy Chair Julie Arthur, Ann Curnow-Care and Treasurer Ted Gundry. 

The Duke will then walk to the RNLI building on the harbour where he will meet RNLI president Norman Bailey before being shown around the tunnel where a number of historic photographs of Newquay, the club and the gigs will be exhibited.  He will also be invited to unveil a slate plaque bearing the words “To commemorate the visit to Newquay Rowing Club by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT on 1 August 2014"

Following the visit to the tunnel the Duke will visit the new Treffry Centre which has been constructed by Cornwall Council following the destruction of the original building which was used as fishermen’s stores, a shop and an office in a fire in May 2009.  The new building, which was built using Seaside Towns and European Fisheries funding, has eight stores with four offices above for use by the fishing/marine industry. 

“The new building, together with a number of other initiatives including new cranes, secure working areas and improved storage facilities  will greatly assist the fishing industry working out of Newquay Harbour’ said Captain Andy Brigden, Cornwall Council’s maritime manager, who will accompany the Duke on his tour of the building. 

After being shown around the interior of the Treffry Centre the Duke will be invited to go out to the balcony area to watch the crews of four gigs go out of the harbour into the bay towards the Treffry Centre and salute by lifting their oars into the air.