The Cornish gig Treffrey was a noteworthy entrant at the second annual Traditional Small Craft Association meet in Santa Cruz in October, 1979. She reportedly had a top hull speed of 10 knots, and had travelled around 400 miles over land for the event from Arcata, CA, with her captain and crew. Her name was borrowed from an 1838 gig, whose lines are the basis for modern racing gigs.

Gig racing has its roots in Cornwall in the Isles of Scilly, where traditional examples had a 32′ LOA and a 4′ 10″ beam. They were built as general workboats and often used to taxi pilots out to incoming vessels. Historically, the pilot on the first gig to reach the vessel in need was the one who got hired, so gig racing has its origins in financial reward.

The sport has become popular in the US, particularly in New England. Belfast, ME (near Searsport, home of Penobscot Marine Museum) launched Come Boating, a community boating program, in the early 2000s, largely to promote pilot gig rowing and racing. Three gigs have been built locally for the program–the Belle Fast, the Selkie, and the Malcolm G.