The first Regatta was held in 1851 the 14th year of Queen Victoria’s 63 year reign. It was also the year in which gold was discovered in Australia and the first telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel between Dover and Calais. In the next decade Britain and France declared war against Russia beginning the Crimea War and Dr. Livingstone completed his journey across Africa. In short it was a very long time ago ……..

Shanklin Regatta has survived this and a further 171 years including two World Wars. This record is even more remarkable when you consider that all the Regattas have been organised by a committee of local volunteers and funded by the sale of advertising, programmes, donations and adverts from hotels and local business people and more importantly donations into our collecting tins from the public. Without these important donations from and previous generations the Regatta would be a thing of the past – please keep them coming.


The word Regatta originated in Italy and denoted a Gondola race around the Grand Canal in Venice. It was first used in London for a boat race on the Thames in 1775. Originally there were two Regattas in Shanklin. One was held in August for the townspeople and visitors, and the other in September for longshoremen. These people, who made their living from the beaches and sea in Shanklin held a series of serious and fun events each year. Jeff Moorman reported twenty five years ago that the main race, the rowing of a single galley along the length of the seashore and back was hotly contested and much more hotly discussed and bet upon in the local pubs! He also described how Chine Avenue was illuminated with Japanese lanterns and bucket lamps, and how confetti fights took place along the avenue to the sounds of the town band playing in Tower Cottage Gardens, after the fireworks had finished.

Up to about thirty years ago Navies from around the world supported our Regattas. Ships from the British, French, Dutch and American Navies dropped anchor offshore and participated fully in the festivities. They often played cricket against Shanklin, had stokers v. seamen pillow fights and often sneaked into the `Bathing Beauty Contest’. Smaller Navies has unfortunately led to the loss of this added dimension, although it should be noted that thirty years ago, 7 ships were anchored offshore.
Over the years our Regattas have evolved into a series of fun and serious events. Sand modelling, window spotting, putting competitions and childrens fancy dress have supported rowing, sailing, swimming and fishing events. The running races were once held on the road with the Esplanade shut between the Clock Tower and Chine Hill. Nowadays these are held on the beach which is much easier on children’s’ knees!

In the last 171 years a range of weird and wonderful competitions have been held and although records of Regattas before 1885 have been destroyed here is a taster …
The bun and ginger beer race obviously won by the first child to eat, drink and run the course without being sick! Wheel Barrow Race, Egg and Spoon Race, Three Legged Race, Sack Race Potato Race, Bursting Balloon Race, and the mannequin race where various items of clothes are put on at various stages in a race along the beach – very useful practice for summer showers and fast exits to a shelter.
We had `greasy pole competitions’ in the sea where two contestants attempted to knock one another into the sea, and `Tilting the Bucket.

‘ This was an event for a man and lady team. The lady sat in a wheel barrow armed with a broom handle and was pushed by the man towards a bucket of water attached to a plank with a hole in it and hinged to a gantry. If the pole missed the hole the lady got very wet . . so much for old fashioned chivalry.