Time Lapse: Sail of the centuries
Saturday 31 July 1999
Back in the late 18th century, racing at Cowes consisted of little more than a handful of fishing boats and pilot cutters thrashing it out, with rumours suggesting that the fishing vessels were laden with contraband and trying to escape customs officers. The first official regatta took place in 1812, and soon established itself as a stylish affair. A dapper dress code lent a relaxed, insouciant air, as seen above with Mr P Egan at the wheel of the Candida during the 1935 regatta. Today more than 860 vessels descend on the Isle of Wight together with 6,000 competitors and 15,000 spectators, in what has become the largest yachting regatta in the world. Celebrities and royals also flock to the island for this eight- day event where the nightlife is as important as the day's races.
HRH Prince Philip and ex-King Constantine of Greece are regulars, and this year they could be rubbing shoulders with Susanne Cox, ex-Gladiator Vogue. Last year, a staggering 228,000 pints of beer were downed over the week and a glass of Pimms was knocked back every 30 seconds. Crew members presumably keep a clear head, at least until their race is run, as swaying boats (see above, Germany's Rubin in 1997) and hangovers are not a winning combination. Locals who have had their fill of the regatta tend to book their holidays, rent out their homes for a tidy sum, and return when the hoards have left.
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