Skandia Life Cowes Week is more than a sailing event; a week-long festival of racing afloat, and sinking a few ashore

With only three weeks to go, the entries for this year’s Skandia Life Cowes Week regatta are at their highest ever in the history of the event – standing at 918 and the organisers confidently expect this number to rise to over 1,000 by the start on Saturday 4 August.

Amongst the 20 ‘Class 0’ entries are Skandia Life Leopard, Cap Gemini (previously Rothmans and a competitor in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race) and Australia II – most famous as the first challenger to wrest the America’s Cup from the Americans in 1983.

At least two of the 12 Metres for the America’s Cup Jubilee will be racing in Class II. While because of the rating band changes this year, Class III will be the biggest with at least 55 boats.

The One Design class entries are very positive this year with, for example, 73 X-boats, 41 Hunter 707s, 15 Farr 40s and six Thames Barges.

This year however, the organisers have dropped the two IRM classes whose starts were originally scheduled in the Notice of Race. Race Director Stuart Quarrie explains: “Following results from the Round the Island Race, the majority of IRM owners realised that their places would have been higher under IRC. A number of them have put in requests to us at the Cowes Combined Clubs to race under both certificates.”

Because of this, the IRM-rated boats will still race under their own rules (including crew weigh-ins) as well as in the appropriate CHS divisions. It is anticipated that there will be at least 25 boats taking part in the week with both certificates.

Entries will be eligible not only to win prizes for IRM results but also for the major trophies available under IRC (The Queen’s Cup, The Britannia Cup and The New York Yacht Club Challenge Trophy).

Final checks are being made to the Skandia Life Cowes Week results service in readiness for the first day of racing on Saturday 4 August. This year the system has to handle an anticipated 8,000 finishers over the eight-day event – the largest number ever. With the prospect of over 1,000 boats racing on each day, the task of converting around 17,000 sail numbers, finishing times, protest results, declarations, retirements and disqualifications into a set of results that is instantly available around the world, is a challenging one.

To mark this year’s Skandia Life Cowes Week and the 150th America’s Cup Jubilee, the Isle of Wight Council’s Museums Service and Newport’s Classic Boat Museum are mounting an exhibition charting the contribution made by Cowes to the history of yachting. The displays will focus on the acclaimed social side of Cowes Week, local boat designers, and the growth of Cowes Harbour. There will also be some rarely seen photographs of the 1930s J Class yachts by William Kirk, who operated as a photographer in the town between 1880 and 1945.

ybw will be reporting live from the water to bring you the latest news and results, and at the end of each day, will add the best of the pictures from the day’s racing to a special Cowes Week photo archive. From here you can download pictures of your stunning start and fantastic finish for free; you could even send a picture of your transom to your arch-rival with the caption, “Cowes Week from a losers perspective!”

If you can’t make it to Cowes, there’s no need to miss out on a bit of action. Check out our new Skandia Life Cowes Week Caper game, where you can make a dash for the IOW whilst trying to avoid the shipping lane scrum – it’s almost as life threatening as the real thing.