Home of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes is the birthplace of the America’s Cup and hosts the oldest annual regatta, Cowes Week, during which the UK Act of the Extreme Sailing Series will take place once again this year.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 in Cowes, Isle of Wight in UK – 6th untill 12th August 2011
The building of an 80-ton vessel for Queen Elizabeth in 1589 is believed to have initiated the town’s shipbuilding tradition, and its reputation in that field quickly grew to an international level.
Recreational sailing became a trademark with King George IV, who arguably gave Cowes its “Yachting Capital of the World” status. In 1826, the first edition of what was to become Cowes Week was organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron, and the tricky emerald green waters of the Solent soon became a playground of choice for yachtsmen.
The town’s preserved charm and welcoming facilities are a coveted haven for visiting crews, and numerous spots along the seafront close to Cowes Castle, home of the Squadron, offer spectators a good view of the action. In Cowes, everything is about sailing and no less than 9 yacht clubs are to be found despite the town’s modest size – the population usually doubles (from 16,000 to more than 30,000 people) during the sailing week in early August!
World-class racing and great onshore entertainment definitely are on the menu, with more than 1000 boats on the various race courses.
Getting to Cowes
Cowes and East Cowes are situated on the Isle of Wight which is centrally located on the south coast of England. Cowes is directly across the Solent from the city of Southampton. If you are arriving in Cowes on your own boat then please refer to the navigation guide on our sister site at Cowes Harbour Commission.
Arriving on the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel
Red Funnel operates a high-speed passenger service and a passenger vehicle ferry to the Isle of Wight from Southampton which is the quickest way to arrive in Cowes from the mainland.
Passenger Vehicle Ferry Service
Southampton <> East Cowes, Isle of Wight
The Red Funnel Car Ferry service operates an hourly crossing between Southampton and East Cowes, Isle of Wight. The RoRo ferries can carry over 200 vehicles and upto 800 passengers, and offer comfortable seating, hot food, bar service and the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely cruise down Southampton water and across the Solent.
Red Jet Hi-Speed Passenger Service
Southampton <> West Cowes, Isle of Wight
The Red Jet Hi-Speed ferry service operates half-hourly between Southampton Town Quay and West Cowes, Isle of Wight. The catamarans carry foot-passengers only, and the crossing takes about 23 mins. An at-seat refreshment service is available onboard.
Arriving by car on the Isle of Wight
If you are on the Isle of Wight then Cowes and East Cowes can both be reached easily via the Island’s capital town of Newport and Ryde to the East.
For Cowes take the A3054 west out of Ryde sign-posted to Newport. From Newport follow the A3020 Medina Way north signposted Cowes. For East Cowes take the A3054 west from Ryde signposted Newport but turn north after leaving the town of Wootton Bridge taking the A3021 signposted to East Cowes.
There is good car parking available in both towns which are also connected by the floating bridge, a chain ferry that operates 365 days a year and is in service to convey passengers and vehicles on the short crossing between Cowes and East Cowes. The ferry only takes a couple of minutes, across the fast flowing tides in the narrow mouth of the River Medina estuary. It is in operation for approx 18 hours each day.
Arriving by public transport
The Isle of Wight’s bus company Southern Vectis operates a regular sevice to Cowes and East Cowes from various parts of the Island. It’s also a great way to see more of the Island if you have arrived in Cowes or East Cowes. Visit the Southern Vectis website for service and timetable information.
Air Travel to Cowes
Southampton International airport is only 50 minutes away from the Island and offers a range of services to the UK and world-wide.
Cowes is also reached easily via the international airports at Bournemouth, Gatwick and Heathrow. All airports are served by excellent rail, coach and taxi services from the Isle of Wight.