Cowes Week 2016 arrives on the Isle of Wight on 6 August – and the event is set to offer attractions both on and off the water.
The historic, annual regatta was first staged in 1826 and now attracts between 800 and 1,000 boats competing in up to 40 different classes.
Around 8,000 competitors regularly participate, ranging from Olympians to weekend sailors, and the event attracts more than 100,000 visitors to Cowes.
Swallows & Amazons attraction
The team behind the Swallows & Amazons remake have chosen the regatta’s Family Day on 7 August to celebrate the release of the film with fun activities, including the appearance of Swallow, the boat used in the film, on Cowes Parade.
Children can learn a range of outdoor skills with the Sea Cadets, including sailing, tying a knot, making a shelter and making a fire to cook their own dinner. Plus watch clips from the film presented by the film’s producer Nick Barton, before picking your side – are you a Swallow or an Amazon? – and battling in a tug of war competition.
All this alongside Swallows or Amazons face painting, giveaways and the chance to get a photo with the Swallow boat.
The film, which will be shown in cinemas from 19 August, brings to life the classic novel by Arthur Ransome, telling the tale of the Walker children’s summer holiday in the Lake District, sailing, camping and fishing.
The Cowes Week attraction is part of the StudioCanal and Visit England partnership celebrating The Great Swallows and Amazons Summer.
Try Cowes Week racing on the final Saturday
The final Saturday of Cowes Week is traditionally a popular sailing day for boat owners who have not raced before, or who worry about entering the cut and thrust of the full Cowes Week series for the first time.
Organisers are encouraging entries on this single day, on 16 August, to allow owners to experience sailing at the event in a less-pressured environment. First timers get a reduced entry fee of £40 for the day’s racing, irrespective of boat size.
Regatta Director Phil Hagen said: ‘If you take part in the Round the Island Race, then you will certainly enjoy Cowes Week racing in the Cruiser classes.
‘While we deliberately give the top sailors in the IRC boats courses that involve some complex manoeuvres, with the cruiser classes we set courses that are sympathetic to those with less experience. But competitors in the Cruiser classes still get all the classic elements of Cowes Week racing that make it an iconic event, including starting and finishing on the Royal Yacht Squadron line.’
As some of the IRC classes finish their series on the Friday, the last Saturday sees a reduced number of entries which makes for smaller fleet sizes and a more relaxed feel.
Although the racing may be simplified, the last day still has an array of trophies on offer.
Claire Turner, whose Beneteau First 35 Party won IRC Class 4 on the final Saturday of the regatta last year said: ‘It was fantastic winning a Cowes Week race, considering this was my first year of owning Party. Myself and the majority of the crew were previously Squib racers, so for us to win a Cowes Week race in our first year with Party was completely fabulous.’
Try sailing with UKSA
The official charity for Cowes Week, the UKSA is offering Try Sailing sessions, for a donation.
Visitors to Cowes Week will have a chance to sign up and experience sailing at the world’s biggest regatta. Although the Try Sailing sessions are aimed at those with no or little sailing experience, the UKSA is keen to welcome all comers, to set sail on one of the charity’s J/80 or Colgate keelboats.
Although details, including the suggested donation, have yet to be confirmed, it is likely the format will be similar to the previous two years, where it is possible to book a slot and enjoy an hour session on the Solent.
Now in its third year as event charity, the UKSA hopes to raise enough funds to enable disadvantaged children from areas of high deprivation the opportunity to be involved in the UKSA’s Youth Development courses.
With the £64,500 sum raised last year, the UKSA helped 100 young people – long-term unemployed, young offenders, or those at risk of offending, and those who are disengaged with education and school –experience sailing and water-based activities.
The UKSA hub, including the Try Sailing booking tent, will be located at Cowes Yacht Haven throughout the week.
Ben Willows, UKSA chief executive said: ‘We are really proud to be associated with Cowes Week as their official charity for a third year in succession, we are raising money in 2016 to enable disadvantaged children to have the same experiences as everyone else and to experience UKSA and what an on the water activity can give them. We want to include all of the race crews this year so that everyone can be part of achieving that goal. We will need everyone’s help to achieve this.’
Meet the people behind Cowes Week
Official clothing supplier to the event, Musto has taken the opportunity to pay tribute to the organisers and participants behind the Cowes Week regatta.
Sonia Mayes is deputy chairman of The Protest Committee at this year’s event. Sonia may be strict when it comes to the rules of the regatta, but looks forward to the excitement of the competition each year. Sonia’s favourite memory of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week was a mass protest of 25 people. She looks forward to seeing old friends, and being part of the buzz for another successful year.
Regatta director, Phil Hagen, loves seeing the large number of people out racing on the Solent during Cowes Week which can be up to 8,000 individual sailors. At the end of the day when all of the racers come back in and have had a good day out on the water it’s so rewarding. Each day we set off 37 class races, some classes have several races, which can mean 39 starts in a day. Each class averages 10 mark roundings per race, that’s close to 400 mark roundings happening simultaneously on the water – it’s a hell of an organisational feat.
Brother and sister, Will and Sophie Heritage can’t wait to compete at this year’s event with Will currently holding the Under-25 Skipper trophy. Will is most looking forward to competing with his father on an array of challenging courses. His sister Sophie is competing in her X-boat, ‘Myrtle’ and excited to be turning 18 and finally able to party at this year’s regatta.
Cowes Week 2016 is a huge breeding ground for young sailing talent and triplets Tom, Charlie and Harry (all 15) will be racing their Squib at this year’s regatta. They look forward to the opportunity to race in a different part of Solent as ‘it’s a great opportunity to learn from the other competitors.’
Line Officer Tod Taylor, plays a huge role in ensuring all competition runs smoothly and fairly during the regatta. He is looking forward to The Friday Night Spectacular which he watches from his house in East Cowes and says ‘the Typhoons, Red Arrows and Fireworks make the most fantastic noise. It’s a special evening.’
Last, but by no means least, is Cowes Week mascot, Bertie Lloyd. Bertie especially enjoys dropped snacks left by Cowes visitors and recalls with great fondness, the time he was bought a special doggie ice cream. He hopes the purchaser of the ice cream returns, but is a little anxious about this year’s fireworks display.
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