Home to one of of the longest running and successful sailing events, year round Cowes is seen as seen as the sailing ‘mecca’ of the world among sailors and spectators alike. With the first race being held in 1826, over the years the sailing event has increased in size and popularity.
The early years saw many different sailing clubs from around the Solent area organising their own individual races and events under the regattas umbrella. It wasn’t until the suggestion of HRH Prince Phillip in 1964 to create a unified organising committee to take the event to new heights.
Now coming up to its 200th anniversary, the event would be unrecognisable to competitors or the original events. The shoreside is now adorned with bars, shops, markets and other ‘experiences’ – nowadays it’s not just about the action on the water, there’s just as much to see and do on dry land! With over 8,500 competitors in the 2018 event and in excess of 100,000 spectators, there’s a chance you may even brush shoulders with foreign royalty, celebrities or sporting personalities.
With so much to see and do both on and off the water, we’ve put together some top tips on how to make the most of your Cowes Week experience. Whether you’re already a Cowes affinado, or just finding your sea-legs for the very first time, our guide will be sure to help you make the most of Cowes Week 2019.
Getting to Cowes
If you’re travelling to Cowes from the mainland, the most direct route is via Red Funnel’s passenger and vehicle services from Southampton. Running regularly throughout the event with an extended timetable. There’s also a number of private charter services running from many mainland harbours, find more options on the Cowes Week website.
Already on the Island? Then getting to Cowes couldn’t be simpler, just make sure you don’t attempt to venture into the town centre to find a parking space. Cowes is already tight on parking, and 100,000+ spectators doesn’t help make the quest for the perfect parking spot any easier. Save yourself the hassle and make use of park and ride at Somerton running regular connecting buses into the town centre.
Alternatively, support a local charity and park in the grounds of Northwood House, all proceeds go towards the restoration of the stunning stately home in the centre of Cowes. When parking at Northwood you’re just a short stroll from either the parade seafront or town centre bars and shops.
Or just leave the car at home and make the most of Southern Vectis’ bus services during the event and their weekly rover tickets. During the fireworks night we highly recommend making the most of the bus service as traffic delays are common in and out of the town.
Staying up to date
Want to stay up to date with the very latest scores and competitor information? Save the official Cowes Week website into your bookmarks for the latest competitor information and scores. If you’re competing in the event you can even download the official Cowes Week app from the iOS App Store, make sure you have your registration ID ready to access the app!
Looking for something a little more old-school? Cowes Radio provides live, continuous on the water commentary of sailing, giving minute-by-minute information to competitors, spectators and regatta followers, live from their commentary boat on the water. Listen live on 87.9FM or stream online at their website.
Best places to watch
The Cowes parade and the green on Queens Road (just past the yacht squadron towards Gurnard) are two of the most sought after spots to be right at the heart of the action. There are also quieter spots you can find further along towards Gurnard, as well as the seafront at East Cowes, which is just a short walk through the town and over the floating bridge.
Looking for a view a little closer to the action? Jump on board an official spectator boat, or enjoy a thrilling 60 minute high-speed blast around the Solent on one of the event’s official RIB rides provided by event partner, Solent Events.
Exploring shoreside and town
If you need a break from all the action on the water there’s also no shortage of things to see and do ashore both in the town and at the various event venues. The parade located right on the seafront is is abuzz with activity, with bars, shops and a perfect view of the competitors on the water.
Shepards Wharf just a short walk through the town towards East Cowes, home to more bars and shops, and is often a little quieter than other areas around Cowes. With no direct view of the water it’s more focused on unwinding than keeping up with the sporting action.
Cowes Yacht Haven has long been seen as the entertainment capital of Cowes Week, with live music, DJ’s and more scheduled throughout the week. Being just a short walk from the main competitors berths this venue is always full of life and energy.
A recent addition to the Cowes Week roster of things to do during the week is Northwood House. In recent years Northwood House has become home to the now famous Lawn Lounge Bar and Isle of Wight Gin Festival from 12 noon each day, with socialising and parties carrying on into the early hours on many nights with the Club Balearia Night Club. The House also offers afternoon teas on the St Mary’s lawn for those seeking something more sedate on a sunny afternoon.
Exploring more of the Island
If you’re visiting the Isle of Wight specifically for Cowes Week, then why not extend your stay or return to enjoy a short break on the Isle of Wight? Beautiful the whole year round, whatever the weather, you can really enjoy the fabulous scenery the Island has to offer.
When the sun is shining, the Island is jam-packed with things to see and do and even if the weather takes the odd dip, with the Island’s many attractions, you won’t be short on ideas. The Island boasts miles of stunning coastline views and beaches, make sure to look at our beach guide. If the weather’s not so kind, discover a wealth of history and heritage or maybe visit a family-favourite such as The Needles or Sandown Pier.
Photo credits: cowesweek.co.uk