Cowes Week 2023: The Ultimate Guide

By Bella Lewis

10 months ago

Can you believe we're already sailing through August?


Cowes Week is back for 2023, bringing thrilling sailing action to the Isle of Wight once again. Whether you’re planning on heading down or you’re just keen to learn more, here’s everything you need to know about this seaside extravaganza.

Cowes Week 2023: The Ultimate Guide

Lendy Cowes Week

What Is Cowes Week?

A week of first class sailing and vibrant entertainment, Cowes Week is a well regarded event showcasing exciting competitive sailing in Cowes, just off the coast of the Isle of Wight. Attracting 8,500 competititors on 1,000 boats, world class and weekend sailors mix and mingle making Cowes Week a staple in England’s social sporting calendar and one worth making a staycation of.

Cowes Week was created in 1826, making it one of the UK’s longest running sporting events. Though it’s over 190 years old, the event schedule keeps evolving, such as last year’s introduction of a new racing class; the GRP Classic Class, celebrating how sailing boat design has evolved so rapidly since 1974, the year in which flat bottom designs took off. The introduction of this new aspect of the event means those classic boats will be able to race alongside like minded boats and owners, who might not have the opportunity to do so previously. Spectators are invited to watch from the shore, where a host of hospitality activities will be ongoing.

Traditionally, Cowes Week takes place after Glorious Goodwood and before the Glorious Twelfth (the first day of the grouse shooting season). Occasionally, the traditional dates are changed to ensure optimum racing, taking account of the tides. The regatta has evolved since 1826: now between 800 and 1,000 boats in up to forty different handicap, one-design and multihull classes race every day for eight days. It is this complete mixture of classic and ultra-modern designs that gives the regatta its uniqueness. Several classes that raced more than 50 years ago are still racing today: Dragons, Flying Fifteens, Redwings, Sea View Mermaids, Solent Sunbeams, Swallows, Victories and X-one-designs. New classes are also introduced as they increase in popularity.

Cowes Week

Racing is supposed to start every day at 10am, with the bang of an old school cannon. Cowes Week scheduling is contingent on weather conditions, so it might be a little later; find the most up to date start times, course conditions and stats online. From then on, there is constant commentary on Cowes Radio, live streamed from a boat which follows the action, and making spectators feel as if they’re racing alongside the competitors. For those who want to get even closer to the action, book a spot on a spectator boat which means you can watch from the water on one of the hour-long trips. Adventurous spectators can book themselves onto a Rib Ride, which will take you as close to the action as possible without actually racing.

Cowes Week also presents the perfect excuse to explore the beautiful Isle of Wight; walking along the sandy beaches, dining at seafront restaurants, perusing Cowes’ abundance of boutique shops and soaking up the festival atmosphere that spreads across the island.

Lendy Cowes Week

Spectators

One of the best locations to watch the starts ashore each morning is the area between the Castle of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the cannons – don’t mind loud bangs, do you? You can also hear the race officers giving their countdowns and calling the starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron battlements. In the afternoon, head along the Green towards Egypt Point to watch the fleet as they finish.

For those wanting to watch from the water, there are a number of spectator boat options, offering trips to watch the racing action up close. Trips are an hour-long and depart 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm from Trinity Landing on Cowes Parade. RIB rides are also available throughout the week with departures at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm. The 60 minute blast across the yacht-filled Solent take spectators as close as they can get to the action.

When Is Cowes Week 2023?

29 July–4 August 2023.

How To Visit

The event is free – unless, of course, you are entering your own boat in the Regatta – however, spectator boats are available for £12.50 per adult and £8 per child. Rib Rides cost £37 for an adult and £25 for a child.

Lendy Cowes Week

Getting There

There are regular ferries to and from the Island and, even during Cowes Week, there is no need to book as a foot passenger. If you plan to bring a car to the Island, remember that parking in Cowes is very limited and bookings are essential.

Car Ferry

Red Funnel Ferries, Terminal 1, Dock Gate 7 off Town Quay Road, SO14 2AL

The car ferry runs from Southampton to East Cowes. The journey takes 55 minutes and departures are every hour in the summer. The terminal in Southampton is very easy to get to, just follow the A303/A36 or A35/A31 from the West, the M3/A34/M40 from the North or M27/A27/A3 from the East. A floating bridge for both foot passengers and vehicles connects East and West Cowes across the River Medina

Red Jet Hi-Speed Service

Terminal 2, Town Quay, SO14 2AQ

The Red Jet runs from Southampton to West Cowes. There are sailings every 30 minutes at peak times including Saturdays and every 60 minutes at off-peak times. The crossing takes under 25 minutes at speeds up to 40 knots!

Parking

If you do decide to bring your car across to the Island for the regatta, or if you are planning on driving across to Cowes from another Island location, then parking is provided in the grassed areas at Northwood House (off Ward Avenue), courtesy of the Northwood House Trustees and Cowes Carnival. All proceeds go to the restoration of Northwood House.