Get on board INTÉGRITÉ as the Atlantic Challenge Great Britain gig heads to Fowey

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Photograph: Atlantic Challenge Great Britain

Ever wanted to have a go on a three-masted, dipping lug, 10-oared gig? Atlantic Challenge Great Britain’s gig INTÉGRITÉ is in Fowey, Cornwall from 4-6 August for a weekend of fundraising events, including the opportunity to row and sail the Bantry Bay gig, with funds going toward ACGB’s participation in the next Atlantic Challenge International Contest of Seamanship in Belfast, Maine, US in July 2024. 

Fowey’s beautiful, sheltered harbour will be the location for three days of taster sessions on INTÉGRITÉ; a chance to try this unique design under sail and oar in return for a donation, with a quiz and BBQ held at Fowey Gallants Sailing Club on the evening of Friday 4th August.

The Atlantic Challenge Bantry Bay gigs are 38’ (11.6m) wooden boats with 10 oars, three masts and a dipping lug rig. Based on an 18th century French naval vessel captured on the shores of Bantry, Ireland, in 1796, Bantry Bay gigs have reached 6 knots under oars and up to 10 knots under sail. 

Photograph: Atlantic Challenge Great Britain

INTÉGRITÉ was built in 1992 by the late John Kerr, boatbuilder and founder of Atlantic Challenge GB. Renowned as a master of clinker – lapstrake – boatbuilding, John was instrumental in developing the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis, together with his great friend Jack Chippendale. 

It was on a research trip to the US that John met fellow boatbuilder and educator Lance Lee, who had established Atlantic Challenge back in 1984 together with Bernard Cadoret in France; building the first two Atlantic Challenge Bantry Bay gigs in Rockport, Maine, US for the inaugural International Contest in 1986 between US and French youth teams from both sides of the Atlantic. The aim, as well as fostering traditional seamanship skills, was – in Lance Lee’s words – “to nurture understanding, ties and friendship, internationally”.

John was inspired to start Atlantic Challenge GB, together with his wife Jane, who is Chair and Trustee of the ACGB today. John built INTÉGRITÉ in his workshop in Llandysul, West Wales and together they recruited a crew from around Great Britain in time to take part in the Atlantic Challenge International Contest in Douarnenez, France in 1992. Fittingly, a recent major refit of INTÉGRITÉ was completed by Gail McGarva, renowned clinker boatbuilder and one of John’s former students at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis. 

French Atlantic Challenge Bantry Bay gig TOLERANCE. Photograph: Kathy Mansfield

Since Atlantic Challenge was started almost 40 years ago, 80 Bantry Bay gigs have been built or acquired by at least 15 countries and distinctive cultural regions. The 2024 International Contest of Seamanship in Maine will bring together crews from Denmark, Belgium, the Basque Country, France, Ireland, Italy, N. Ireland, Canada and the US. ACGB will be representing Great Britain at the friendly competition, with a crew of 20 young people. Events include rowing and sailing races, ropework and navigation competitions, with social events for all crews ashore. 

The ACGB crew has just completed a training camp in Portland in preparation and team members are excited about the event next year. Atlantic Challenge GB are still accepting applications from prospective crewmembers aged 16 and over for the 2024 crew. Full details of how to apply here:  

You can read more about John Kerr and INTÉGRITÉ in W129 (May/June 2018). Back issues £7 per copy including postage to anywhere in the world: