Dating all the way back to 1826, Cowes Week is a popular sailing festival which sees approximately 8,000 keen sailors come together each year to compete. From the less experienced hobbyists to the world-class Olympic champions, the Isle of Wight welcomes sailors from all walks of life. The English Channel strait 'The Solent' with its complicated tidal patterns, double high tides and naturally sheltered harbours provides excellent sailing conditions for the races.
When is Cowes Week Sailing Regatta?
This event takes place during the first week of August every year, and typically lasts eight days. In some circumstances, the regatta may be moved back to another week in August. In 2012, for example, the dates were changed so as not to coincide with the London Olympic Games. Occasionally, Cowes Week may take place during the second week or even the third week of August due to the tides, but this information is released well in advance for entrants and spectators to plan their summer dates on the Isle of Wight.
The History of Cowes Week
Cowes Week has been around for almost 200 years, making it one of the longest-running sailing festivals not only in the UK, but in the entire world. George IV was extremely fond of sailing, and was the initial founder of this regatta. When it first began in the 19th century, there were just seven boats competing against each other for the winning title, even though a grand prize of £100 had been advertised to the entrants.
How many races take place during Cowes Week?
Cowes Week has come a long way since the first seven boats which lined up for the first race one August morning. There are now 40 different boat classes that take part in various races which take place each day of the festival, and more than 100,000 spectators watch as the various dinghies and yachts take to the water.
Entering the Regatta
There is no official criteria for sailors who wish to enter the regatta – the only rules regarding eligibility are related to the boats which are entered. The requirements for the boats depend on which classes are entered, and all the information, including rules and requirements, can be obtained from the organisers, whom are most helpful to newcomers to the regatta.
The cost of entering the regatta depends on how many days you wish to participate and at what time of the year you make your entry. The special Early Bird price can be as little as £47 for one day or £192 for the whole festival. Standard entry fees start at £59 for one day and £240 for the entire regatta, while late fees begin at £71 for a day or £288 for the whole week (prices correct as of April 2015).
For those wishing to enter the 2015 Cowes Week festival, the Early Bird discount applies up until May 26th, and standard entry fees apply to those who enter from midnight on May 26th to July 31st at noon. Any late entries after July 31st are still accepted, but will be subject to the higher entry fee (dates correct as of April 2015, dates and discounts may change in subsequent years).
Entering to compete takes place online by filling out an entry form. You'll need the details of who is sailing, which boat is being sailed, titles of classes to be entered and of course, a payment method. The skipper's name and emergency contact details can be updated after you've entered, so if you're keen to get the Early Bird discount, there's no need to put it off any longer.
Watching the Regatta - Cowes Harbour
Whether you have an interest in sailing or your trip to the Isle of Wight clashes with this exciting festival, watching the regatta is an experience you'll never forget. Its completely free to watch the races from the shore, and you can come and go as you please.
The area is full of lively restaurants, pubs and bars, making it the ideal place to stay for a few days. You can expect to see street music, live bars and other forms of entertainment taking place on a regular basis during this week.
The live broadcast on local radio will keep you up to date with who is winning the races throughout the day, so you don't need to worry about missing a thing.
Opportunities at Cowes Week
Cowes Week is more than just a sailing festival. Due to the fact that many celebrities enter the regatta each year, amateur sailors have the chance to bump into the rich, famous and the very experienced boaters. Staying in the area gives many the chance to strike up a conversation with other keen sailors, whether amateur or professional.
For those without a boat who would like to take part in Cowes Week, the Crew Wanted Forum on Cowes Week official website is the perfect place to find opportunities. Other sailors will advertise for crew members, or amateurs can take the initiative and post a quick advertisement offering their boating skills.
Those who have never sailed before are more than welcome during the festival, and if you want to try out sailing as a beginner, you can take advantage of hourly sailing lessons priced from just £5.
With media coverage from more than 300 organizations from around the world, many sailors have been fortunate enough to find sponsorship through competing during Cowes Week. Since there is not a certain standard that the sailors must meet to enter, it is the perfect opportunity to show off your sailing ability and potentially attract the attention of sponsors.
Hundreds of UK Sailing websites, businesses and companies! The UK Sail Index is here to provide a directory for all your supply, education and sailing information sources.