Close racing in the Solent
Cowes Week History
Find out how the famous waters of the Solent came to host the world's longest running annual yachting regatta and social gathering.
Cowes Week originated in the 19th century and, with its many traditions, has been part of the British summer social season since then.
The first official regatta was held in 1812, then 14 years later, on August 10th in 1826, the Royal Yacht Squadron formally organised three days of racing in the waters of the Solent.
The event became the Cowes Regatta when King George IV presented a gold cup worth £100 to mark the occasion.
The 'week', which runs for eight days, sees around 40 starts a day from the Royal Yacht Squadron, with around 1,000 racing boats taking part crewed by some 8,500 competitors.
Each class is made up using the IRC (International Rating System) which ranks the yachts' individual measurements. Class Zero has the biggest boats (up to 30 metres long) and Class Seven, the smallest.
Watching the racing from the Green
All the races take place on the Solent - making for some challenging and unusual conditions for the competitors. The sheltered waters and irregular ties, along with the hundreds of boats can tax even the most skilled sailor.
2005 was the largest ever event with over 1036 entries. Racing now includes starts from committee boat lines in the Solent as well as from the Royal Yacht Squadron.
If watching rather than participating is more your thing, Princes Green is a popular spot to watch the yachts battle it out to the finish line.
The fireworks display lights up the sky
The regatta is also a huge social high spot, and still holds the same traditions over 180 years on - with yacht club balls, dinners, cocktail parties and concerts throughout the week.
The highlight of the week's evening activities is the famous fireworks display. Held on the final Friday, the spectacle attracts an audience of over 100,000 people who watch the display from the water and both sides of the Solent.
last updated: 01/08/2008 at 12:30
Delve into Hampshire's amazing past.
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