Cowes Week Spectator Guide

Not surprisingly, Cowes Week attracts tens of thousands of spectators who come to watch the racing from either the foreshore or aboard spectator boats. The regatta is famed for its westerly spinnaker finishes where yachts battle to the finish following a line close to the shore between Egypt Point and Cowes Green. The colourful spinnakers and champagne-like sea conditions give spectators an amazing grand stand view of all the nail-biting action.


As well as the sailing activities, the week includes a large number of onshore events including live music, cocktail parties and night clubs for party animals. Marquees are erected in the marinas serving food and drink and the crowds overflow from busy public houses and restaurants around the narrow high street - the town becomes a hive of activity into the early hours of each morning. It is genuinely a one-of-a-kind event and here’s a round-up of what to look out for in 2018.

Best Place to Watch from the Shore

Undoubtedly the best place to watch is in front of the start line at The Royal Yacht Squadron – if you can cope with the loud bangs of the start guns – and in the afternoon head down to Egypt Point to watch the fleet return home.

Best Race for Celeb Watching

The Artemis Challenge that is held on the Thursday of Cowes Week always attracts a strong list of celebrity guests. Teams competing in the race in the past have included sports stars Zara Phillips, Amy Williams, Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall and James Haskell, as well as other stars from the world of entertainment, including Ewan McGregor, Davina McCall and Bryan Adams. The race follows the classic America’s Cup route around the Isle of Wight, starting on the Royal Yacht Squadron Line.

Best Day for the Kids

Sunday is Family Day with a range of family-friendly activities and exclusive group offers. There are special free events on Cowes Parade, and family day activities at Shepherd’s Wharf and more at Northwood House above the town.

Best Way to see the Action from the Water

During the event, spectator boats go out on hour-long trips, departing from Trinity Landing on Cowes Parade and bookings can be made here. Each trip costs in the region of £14 for an adult and £9 for a child. For a 60 minute blast across the Solent book a popular RIB ride.

Best Way to Try Before You Buy

Charity, UKSA is running ‘open to all’ sailing sessions; an hour’s sailing tuition with their instructors each day between 9.30am and 6pm, for circa £5. Simply visit them at their stand on Cowes Yacht Haven. If you fancy going one step further and trying your hand at some racing action, then there a number of racing options available too.

Best Way to Keep up with the Results

Racing action is streamed live and direct from the start and finish lines with commentated footage available on the event website. In addition, EventTV, the event's dedicated broadcast channel, will be shown on screens throughout Cowes giving the action live onscreen, highlights footage and up-to-date news and the all-important results! You can also stay tuned to the event radio station, Cowes Radio, on 87.7FM.

Best Way to Get in some Apres Sail

There’s no shortage of things to see and do ashore with stalls in along the front and in the yacht haven, plus Cowes boasts a host of clothing and lifestyle shops where you can indulge in some retail therapy, as well as many art galleries and antique shops. You can enjoy a coffee or long lunch at one of the many pubs or restaurants, pay a visit to Cowes Maritime Museum on Beckford Road, or the Sir Max Aitken Museum on the High Street. Or hop on the floating bridge to East Cowes and visit Osborne House, once Queen Victoria’s holiday home.

Best Places for Live Music

Cowes Yacht Haven has the largest live music venue, with live music every night that includes a host of very good local bands and Cowes Parade also has a stage and live music from midday every day until 10.30pm.

Shephard’s Wharf is the official public site dedicated to crews, friends and family, and it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the high street (near the chain ferry) on Medina Road with live acoustic acts, delicious food and a great selection of beers and cocktails. Last year this venue hosted the 151 Club from Chelsea, and the Mount Gay Red Cap party.

The Anchor pub in the High Street has a comprehensive live music line up through the week and there will also be live music and magic from buskers in the High Street from around noon till 6pm.

My Isle of Wight Favourite

Make sure you head up to Northwood House to enjoy a drink whilst listening to some chilled out tunes in the Lawn Lounge Bar. Open between 11am and late, DJ’s play chilled Balearic-style lounge beats and there are relaxed acoustic sounds from top Island performers.

Set in the beautiful green space of Northwood Park, only a stone’s throw from all the main action, there’s a gin festival in the spacious stretch marquee bar or on the House lawn this Cowes Week with Gin and Jazz evenings , so dress to impress.

During the day you can take the kids to the traditional Victorian funfair with rides such as the carousel, mini train, chairoplane or helter skelter. Or have ago at climbing a spectacular 25 metre high Turkey Oak tree in Northwood Park with Goodleaf Tree Climbing. Book via the Goodleaf website or simply turn up and climb (subject to availability). Tree climbers must be aged 8 and over.

On Wednesday and Sunday there are outdoor film screenings from The Extraordinary Travelling Film Theatre (TBC)

Alix Robinson

27 July 2018

By Alix Robinson in Articles