For over two hundred years Fowey Regatta Week has been a highlight of the annual calendar for both visitors to Fowey and residents. With fairly humble beginnings as a one day water based event, Fowey Regatta Week (or Fowey Royal Regatta Week) has evolved into a week long extravaganza both on the water and off. Read on to find out my highlights from Fowey Regatta Week 2023.
If I'm honest I both love and hate Fowey Regatta Week at the same time. I love all the bunting, I adore the Carnival (more about that below) and although I am nowhere near sufficiently Cornish to fully understand the ritual of the Fowey Town Band, I do enjoy the anticipation of how far they will push the envelope of political correctness with their chosen theme for the year.
I don't love how insanely busy it is around town, I know I chose to live in a popular tourist town but it really is crazy here in August. And then the businesses get bad reviews from visitors by people who are also visiting, the irony here is real! I don't love the annual slew of inconsiderate parking (we actually have lots of reasonably parking in Fowey with overflow parking at Fowey River Academy during weekends and school holidays but still there are people who prefer to park in a restricted zone or across someone's drive rather than pay to park ). I also don't love the way my diet absolutely falls to pieces over Regatta Week when it is perfectly permissible, indeed perhaps even expected, to live almost exclusively off Cornish pasties and Rattler. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to Fowey Regatta Week and this is why ⬇️
I love fireworks. I know they are questionable from an environmental perspective and I know that these days, they are quite the topic on community Facebook groups when it comes to pets and wildlife. Fowey Regatta Week has long been bookended with fireworks displays on the Monday evening and on the Saturday evening to close the week. I caught this year's Monday night fireworks from Readymoney Cove at low tide (after a late trip to the shop to fix an iffy webcam feed). A really different view over the water and with just my husband and I on the beach, it felt quite special.
Did I mention how much I LOVE bunting? I'll take any excuse to put strings of colourful flags up outside the shop (read here about our community bunting project during lockdown) and all the effort made across the whole community to bring Fowey Regatta Week to life really does put a smile on my face with strings of flags put up by generous volunteers and the hardworking Regatta Committee all the way through town from Lostwithiel Street to Post Office corner. This year I especially loved the latest bunting themed display on the community artwork board opposite The Safe Harbour.
Possibly the hardest working man in the town during Fowey Regatta Week our Town Crier Alan Giles takes part in the Crowning of the Regatta Royalty, leads the Flora Dance through town, helped judge this year's Traders' Carnival and led the Wednesday night Carnival. Alan does so much for this town in return for a fancy outfit and a big shiny bell and we're very lucky to have him. His dad jokes on TikTok are also worth a follow (ish....).
My Town Crier highlight for 2023 was on Traders' Carnival day, this year's theme was Musicals. We had dressed the shop with custom made bunting flags (no surprise there....) featuring the favourite musicals of each team member and Vanessa and Holly were awaiting the judges whilst serving the usual hungry crowd of customers. Suddenly Holly shouted "look at that man's pirate costume!" and it was Alan, supervising his little gang of Carnival Royalty to come and judge our entry. We didn't win but Holly's choice of Mary Poppins was the top vote from our customers that day so I guess Holly did win there!
Fowey Regatta Week wouldn't be Fowey Regatta Week without the traditional Wednesday night Carnival which is now preceded by a very popular Classic Car Show and classic vehicle parade through the streets. Like many community events the Carnival took a bit of a nose dive in the immediate post Covid years. Regatta Week didn't take place at all in 2020 and it's taken a few years for things to settle. But there's no doubt that 2023 saw the Carnival bounce back with a vengeance with an array of incredible entries. My friends always put together a great Carnival entry (last year I was Queen Victoria as part of their Horrible Histories entry) and this year's "Fowey" Story entry was just brilliant with an incredible amount of work going into their costumes.
However, 2023 also saw a human rollercoaster, an enormous Hungry Caterpillar and a set of walking crayons as well as the usual entries from families dressed as the Red Arrows, the gig club in cardboard boats, groups of co-ordinating school friends in clever themes and lots of visiting royalty form surrounding towns and villages. It really was quite the spectacle. Will you take part next year??
Fowey Regatta Week runs on Rattler. I'm not a cider drinker but the outside bar at Haveners was just too tempting so I thought I'd get with the programme and try a Rattler. Verdict? Apparently it's ok if you only have one or two. I don't recommend sinking 2.5 pints as well as Quite A Lot of Wine. It doesn't do your guts any good.
Finding places to eat can be tricky during Regatta Week when everywhere is so busy but I was lucky enough to get to The Lifebuoy cafe for talented Gretchen's one night only pop-up taco takeaway featuring traditional slow-braised Mexican carnitas with homemade corn tortillas, salsa and guacamole. Yum. Always worth keeping your ear to the ground for these things (sign up to my weekly newsletter here for all the inside information).
The Fowey Regatta Week sandcastle competition went BIG this year with a whopping 50 entries! There were some truly brilliant constructions including several dolphins, a crab, traditional castles decorated with beach finds such as shells, seaweed and even dead jellyfish along with a very neatly "crimped" sand pasty, some mermaids and the whole of Bikini Bottom from Spongebob Squarepants!.
The sandcastles (or sand sculptures I guess) were judged by Fowey town mayor Lynne Simms and another outing for the Carnival Royalty during their week of duties. I didn't envy them at all, it's a thankless task choosing between so many incredible entries and weighing up all sorts of factors like did they use items found on the beach or bring things with them, was there a message behind the build (save our seas was the theme of one build) let alone taking into consideration the extent to which the construction has been carried out by an enthusiastic dad who's brought along his own garden spade for maximum digging whilst the children shout instructions. It's a minefield I tell you!
This year's winners were the children of some of Fowey Gig Club's rowers who made a gig boat out of sand with the cutest crew ever! They then spent their cash winnings on our ice cream sundaes so happy (if not rather chocolately) faces all round.
Fowey Regatta Week has long been a bit of a risk weather wise, back in the days of the Red Arrows doing their annual display across the harbour (this no longer happens due to safety concerns following the 2015 Shoreham disaster, the entire harbour would need to be cleared of boats, not a viable option during the busiest week on the water all year!) the concern was always with fog, now it seems to be more rain related.
Last year we had an actual flood! 2023 has been more of a mixed bag with some gorgeous hot & sunny days and some miserable wet days. Sadly the weather came in almost immediately after the sandcastle competition meaning that we only managed one Punch & Judy show this year because it was just far too wet. What shame, fingers crossed for 2024.
The summer of 2023 really has been a bit of a damp squib, the rain hit almost as soon as the schools broke up and other than a few lovely days, it has been very hit & miss. I do hope this horrid weather hasn't put people off visiting Cornwall in the future (my blog of things to do in Fowey when it's raining might help though!).
One of the best bits of Fowey Regatta Week is the wide variety of live music. Post Covid the Friday and Saturday night live music was moved up to the very spacious cricket field at Fowey River Academy. Personally I love the events up there, it's a big win for the Regatta Committee in terms of being able to ticket the events to raise the essential funds to run the week long event. Did you know Fowey Regatta Week costs around £40,000 to run each year and is fully funded by donations.
Regatta 2023 saw a mix of locations with some live music taking place on Town Quay as per traditional Regattas. This included shanty groups, solo artists and a disco as well as a stonking set from Oasis cover duo Live Forever. Up on the cricket field the miserable weather sadly put paid to the expected Friday night performances from the Ritzy Belles and Company B. Rocketmax's Elton tribute on the Saturday night was scuppered by illness but with tributes to Lady Gaga and Madonna plus the debut performance by local indie pop band The 506, the show really did go on, bringing a brilliant week off to a fantastic close.
What were your highlights of Fowey Regatta Week 2023? Comment below and let me know what you enjoyed the most or what you're looking forward to for 2024.