The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Boating History

Boating for pleasure is as nearly as old as boating itself. As early as 3,000 BC, Egyptian pharaohs were buried alongside elegant and slender oared barges intended to carry them through the heavens in the afterlife.  However, it wasn't until the late 1500's that water-borne recreation became the province of the people with the transformation taking place in maritime countries like the UK.  During the 17th century, yachting began to flourish with vessels of all kinds commissioned as yachts to the wealthy and powerful, from diminutive open boats to small frigates. Yachts were instrumental in discovering new lands and defending vital waterways. They served both as pleasure craft and as working ships, carrying people and messages swiftly and comfortably from shore to shore.  Originally, the term yacht (often spelled jacht or jagt) referred to any small, fast craft being derived from the Dutch word jagen, to hunt or chase. The Dutch invented yachting. 

Cowes originally became a centre for yachting as people used yachts to move goods swiftly to evade pirates and it is now widely acknowledged as an international centre for yachting.  The first offical regatta took place in Cowes in 1812, then 14 years later, in August of 1826, the Royal Yacht Squadron formally organised three days of racing in the waters of the Solent.   The 'week', which now runs for eight days, sees around 40 starts a day from the Royal Yacht Squadron, with around 1,000 racing boats taking part crewed by some 8,500 competitors.  The regatta is also a huge social high spot, and still holds the same traditions over 180 years on - with yacht club balls, dinners, cocktail parties and concerts throughout the week.