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Boat Regattas; a Time-Honoured Tradition

The word Regatta is derived from the Venetian language (a dialect of Italian), in which it simply means ‘contest.’ In modern parlance, however, it has come to refer to a series of waterborne races involving rowboats, sailboats, or powerboats.

In addition to boat racing, modern regattas are also typically accompanied by social activities, such as fundraising events for charitable causes. Today, Britain’s best known annual regattas include the Henley Royal Regatta, a rowboat race on the River Thames, and Cowes Week, which features dozens of races involving hundreds of sailboats of all types and sizes.

Drawing Crowds since 1775

In the UK, regattas have enjoyed enormous popularity since 1775, when the Cumberland Cup, the first event of its kind, was organised by the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

In the almost 250 years since, regattas have proliferated, especially in Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand. Barcelona, for example, currently hosts the world’s largest annual sailing regatta, typically drawing more than 2,000 competitors from across the globe.

Social Events

Regattas, however, are more than mere boat tournaments. They are also highly-anticipated social events, where spectators enjoy excellent food, drink and live entertainment while hobnobbing with likeminded peers. And although they are governed by strict rules, regattas differ from professional boat-racing events (like, for example, the America’s Cup) in that they are generally intended for amateur sailors.

Since they first became popular in the late 1700s, these exciting events have been held mainly for the camaraderie and thrills enjoyed by competitors and the good times afforded to spectators on shore.