Cowes Week, when is it and what to expect

Decorative canons point out to sea at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Sailing boat in the distance.

The countdown is on. In 2023, Cowes Week takes place from 29th July to 4th August. Most of the regatta participants will be ready and planning for their events, although there is late entry from 11th July. With on average 5,000 competitors, the action on the water will be an impressive sight. However, it’s the 60,000 spectators which make this event such a vibrant highlight to the sailing calendar. So what should you expect if you’re heading to the Isle of Wight for this event?

Festival Feels

Although this year heralds an end to the opening night fireworks and Red Arrows display, there’s still a lot going on. Opening night festivities start at 5pm on Friday and continue in several locations across the week. Make sure you have access to the venue map so you don’t miss anything!


There’s live music, theatre, DJs, outside bars, pop up restaurants, and a tea garden in locations around town. The High Street will be buzzing with street entertainment and face painting all day long. So whenever you’re not spectating the regatta, there will be entertainment available morning into night.

Taking Part

Cowes Week is an incredibly inclusive event, with opportunities to participate even if you’re not an Olympic standard sailor! However, for those wanting a taster there are also experience sessions run by UKSA available to book on shore.

Weekend Warriors Cup

New for 2023 within the Club Cruiser division, this three day mini-series runs from Saturday 29th to Monday 31st July. There’s a separate trophy for these three days, with the idea being that this is a more accessible competition.

Prize Giving

All competitors are welcome to attend the prize giving event at the end of the week. There’s still heaps going on across the regatta locations so even if you’re not competing, there’s no missing out on the fun!


Hopefully the sun will shine, and the pretty town of Cowes is wonderful to simply wander around. However, with so much activity going on, spectators have to be organised and know where to go and what to expect.  


The easiest way to keep track of what’s going on when is by downloading the official Cowes Week app. There will be a full programme timetable and also a venue map so that you can plan what to spectate when. 

On Shore

Head to the area around the HQ of the Royal Yacht Squadron (‘The Castle’) for the start / finish line. It’s advised to head to Egypt Point to see the fleet as they come back in. 

By Boat

There are three launches a day for spectator boat trips. Departure is from Trinity Landing and the trips are 1 hour long. This is a great idea if you want to watch the action at closer quarters. 

Special Days

At the centre of Cowes Week are the dedicated days giving focus to specific areas in the sailing community. 

Family Day

The first Sunday of Cowes Week is dedicated to family fun! There will be all sorts of activities both on and off the water to entertain families of all ages. 

Women’s Day 

Tuesday sees Women’s Day at Cowes Week. Whilst nowhere near as unusual as in the past, female crews and helms are celebrated and encouraged on this day. Around 40% of competitors are now female, so this competition is really making headway in gender equity and inclusion. 

Youth Day 

Fostering the future in sailing, the Wednesday of Cowes Week celebrates young sailors under the age of 25. Indeed, the official charity for 2023 is Tall Ships Youth Trust. This is a youth development outdoor learning charity, supporting disadvantaged young people to gain maritime experience and qualifications. 

Clearly, if you’re a keen sailing spectator with a less than keen family or partner, Cowes Week is the ideal way to dovetail everyone’s interests. And perhaps it’ll foster a new passion or hobby!

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