WEYMOUTH is to be the venue for the first Dorset Schools Gig Rowing Championship on Friday, July 11.

It will be hosted by Weymouth Rowing Club and will take place off the old Pleasure Pier so that it will be visible to spectators on the beach and on the Stone Pier.

The initiative, supported by British Rowing and Active Dorset will involve Year Nine pupils from schools that have made links with the five Dorset gig rowing clubs – Lyme Regis, Bridport, Portland, Weymouth and Swanage.

Weymouth Rowing Club is busy training six crews of youngsters; one crew from each of All Saints’ School, Wey Valley School, Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, St Osmund’s School, Dorchester, and two crews from Budmouth College. Six learn-to-row sessions for the schools are being held through May and June.

Andrew Goss, co-founder of Weymouth Rowing Club, who has been helping to organise the sessions, said: “When the club was formed 14 years ago as a memorial to a young man who died in a boating accident – Tristan Douglas Johnson – one of its main aims was to encourage young people to take part in gig racing.

“I pay tribute to all those members of the club who have been giving up hours of time and entered so wholeheartedly into this very large commitment.”

This is a pilot project but Weymouth Rowing Club hopes that it may be the start of a regular annual event, extended, perhaps, to other school year groups.

Gareth Biddle, teacher at Budmouth, said, “This offer by Weymouth Rowing Club has been terrific.

“It is great to make this connection between the club and the schools and to help encourage the sport.

“Our students look forward to rowing every week because of the team aspect and because it’s something different.”

Martyn Bagwell, PE teacher at St Osmund’s, added: “There are not enough opportunities for students to get out on the water and when Andrew asked us to join in we jumped at the chance. Our students are loving it.

“Adding a bit of competition in as well is a complete bonus. We are so grateful to Weymouth Rowing Club and all the time these volunteers are putting in.”