1880s – THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BURSLEDON REGATTA
In the 1880’s, the Regatta started in the river in 3 different locations – Warsash, Hamble and Swanwick and was sponsored by the large yacht owners for their fisherman crews and families. Considered to be a very special day of the year, it was held on a weekday in September which involved closing the local schools for the day [Thursday] so that all the local children could take part.
The programme for the 1896 Regatta cost just 1d. There were 38 entrants in the singlehanded rowing race and more that 20 in the double-handed. All races were to be for ‘men of the river’ and the 1st prize in each of the first 3 races was a new mainsail from Ratsey and Lapthorn, an Isle of Wight sailmaker whose history is synonymous with that of yachting.
The Regatta committee meetings used to be held at the Bold Forester at Salisbury Green, and the Moody family served on the Committees over many years.
The local fishing boats, known as the Itchen Ferry’s, raced with great rivalry between crews, alongside smaller yachts and sailing dinghies racing in other classes as they do today. The prize money in those days and up-to the Second World War was very generous and much sought after by the sailors and those taking part in the Rowing and Swimming races. Well known racing skippers and crews competed in the regatta, many of whom raced on foreign yachts like the Kaiser’s Meteor in the Big Class.
1919 – 1939: BIG CLASS RACING IS INTRODUCED
1919. Regatta resumes in Swanwick off Moody’s Boat Yard and Swanwick Shore. Moody’s Derrick Barge was the Committee Boat and tripper boats came round from Southampton as viewing platforms for the spectators and families. Yachts would be dressed on both sides of the river. The large sailing yachts used to finish their races off at Swanwick too. A great sight of billowing spinnakers coming up stream and looking as though they wouldn’t be able to stop before Bursledon Bridge! This was the finishing line for the larger classes until the Hamble River had pile moorings in the early 1960’s.
1920 -1938 the Big Class racing in the Solent. The Classic days of the Bursledon, Swanwick and Warsash Regatta for all the crews and river workers. Moody’s employed nearly two hundred boatbuilders, joiners, riggers and other trades.
1946: THE REGATTA AFTER WWII
1946 The Regatta recommences a year before Cowes Week restarts. Monte Bradshaw from Warsash was the larger-than-life Chairman and Regatta Commentator. His boat Misty, an Itchen Ferry with an International 6 metre rig and a professional crew, was the annual winner of his class until Michael Richardson in Betty beat Misty, resulting in Monte Bradshaw having to buy the Trophy for the presentation.
The first Sailing races after the War started off from Universal Shipyard and then moved up to Swanwick and later to the School of Navigation pier at Warsash, with the dinghies starting at Lands End as they do today.
The Regatta program had many of the events that are included today plus an Outboard Class for dinghies which became too dangerous when the Regatta moved to Bursledon Pool In the late 60’s. Not helped by there being faster engines than the old British Seagull outboards. The famous sailors came from the Foulkes Family who also took part in the rowing with the yacht painter Don Smy Family, yacht skipper, Eddy Gillett and the boatbuilder and joiner, the Skinner Brothers, Bob and Buck, who were very hard to beat! The committee spent much time in meetings changing the dinghy lengths to keep them from winning everything. They just kept cutting a bit off or adding it back on.
1960’s – THE START OF FUNDRAISING EFFORTS, AND A MOVE TO BURSLEDON POOL
1964 The Regatta was fast running out of funds which had traditionally come from benefactors from around the area whose names appear on the Regatta Challenge Trophies. Some new blood joined the Regatta Committee and it was decided that a Fundraising Dance should be organised at Bursledon Village Hall. The Dance and a raffle raised enough money to keep the Regatta going and became an annual event, well supported by all the locals and patrons of the Regatta.
1968 Moody’s Marina was under construction and they could no longer host the Regatta at Swanwick. The decision was made to relocate the regatta to Bursledon Pool and the Elephant Boatyard. ‘Morwenna‘, a yacht modelled on a Cornish fishing vessel and home to Tom and Rachel Richardson became the first Committee Boat which was moored off the Jolly Sailor. The Jolly Sailor had a special licence to be open all day.
The fireworks in those days were set off from a barge in the middle of the Pool by the committee and others seeking danger. Eventually this enthusiastic team was replaced by the professionals from Pains Fireworks.
1969- 1980’s Johnny Johnson’s 50ft Gaff Yawl ‘Escape’ was the Committee boat always immaculately dressed overall for the occasion. The Regatta Committees and Secretaries were drawn from the local communities to organise the Fundraising,Sailing and Afternoon Events. Bert Betts who lived in Myrtle Cottage put his life into the organisation of the Regattas as Secretary and Commentator in the years when it almost became too successful, bringing in crowds of people from outside the area. The final straw was when two rival gangs, one from Portsmouth the other Southampton, met at the Jolly Sailor on Regatta day.
1970’s: AN ANNUAL THEME FOR THE REGATTA
1970’s onwards. It was decided to have an annual theme for each year’s Regatta to give a focal point to the occasion. The first theme was The Edwardian Regatta which brought a Henley flavour to the River. At the bottom of this page are details of all the themes over the years – it’s quite a list!
Thanks to the artistic skills of Glyn Foulkes who, apart from being an evergreen and almost unbeaten competitor in the afternoon rowing events, has been responsible for the stunning artwork that appears before the Regatta each year as the backdrop for the chosen theme. The Torch Light Parade also started in the 70’s together with the lighting effects in the Pool.
It was in the 70’s that the Prizegiving Dance started annually in October at the Village Hall. A night of great revelry accompanied by a Jazz Band which changed its name to the ‘Montefiori Jazz Band’ after one of the Regattas oldest Trophies. If you could remember that evening you were not there!
1986 The 200th Anniversary of the launching of HMS ELEPHANT, Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Copenhagen. The Yard built a 50ft replica based on a barge that was launched in the middle of the Regatta by a lady chosen from the spectators. Beth Richardson dressed up as ‘Nelson’ and was on the ship as she was launched.
1999 ‘A Century of Sail Regatta’, marked the year when Bursledon Regatta was joined by the Old Gaffers fleet of over 60 boats. This marked the first year when an extra day was added to the Regatta weekend, dedicated to yacht racing on the Solent. It also marked the beginning of the Regatta Party in the marquee at the Elephant Boatyard. The Fireworks became a much bigger event with a stage setting at the Elephant and the Grand display from Lands End connected by displays from the pontoons in front of the houses in Lands End Rd, with kind permission of the owners.
2000 till now: THE HEALTH & SAFETY ERA!
2000 onwards. The Regatta Committee organised a Working Group to bring the Regatta into line with the requirements for waterborne events. The Group did an amazing job which has allowed the Regatta to continue when many others around the country have disappeared never to be resurrected. H&S is always an ongoing process but uppermost in the minds of the team is to maintain the traditional family feel and DNA of the Regatta. There have been special comments like ‘Its England as it used to be!’ ‘Wonderful to see children having so much fun!’ and ‘Just add water!
2005 The Trafalgar Regatta. This was special. The date was set for an evening tide. Two fleets of ships were built on Mirror Dinghies all bearing the names of the ships that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar. Using fireworks, smoke and sound effects from filmed battle scenes you could have been an eyewitness to the real thing! The Battle started with a Nelson ‘look alike’, who was rowed (by Glyn Foulkes) out to his command. A Most memorable occasion. Philip Meakins built a sailing replica to scale. It was a true work of art.
2020 The Covid Year – the first year in the Regatta’s history, apart from the War years, that the Regatta has been cancelled. In 1997 the Regatta was postponed for two weeks as the original date sadly coincided with Princess Diana’s Funeral. Back in the 1974 the Regatta came close to being cancelled when westerly winds exceeded force eleven. The sailing in the morning was abandoned but as it was a beautiful sunny day all the afternoon events went ahead under the lee of Lands End Road. This was the weekend when Edward Heath’s Morning Cloud was sunk off Selsey Bill.
NOTHING WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT SO MANY PEOPLE WILLING TO GIVE UP THEIR TIME …
Over the years there have been a huge number of local people on the Regatta Committee as well as helpers who have given generously of their time, keeping the Bursledon, Swanwick and Warsash Regatta as the one date in the year that is not to be missed by all age groups. Let’s hope that we can all be together again in August!