We had a wonderful catch-up with Jane Wright, Sponsorship Coordinator of the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association to find out all about Falmouth Sailing Week. What is taking place, what to expect and why you don’t want to miss it (we certainly don’t). Here is what she had to say…
Hi Jane, can you tell us all about Falmouth Sailing Week, what is it all about?
Falmouth Sailing Week is run by the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association (POFSA). We are the organising body tasked by the six yacht and sailing clubs, the individual class sailing associations and village regattas to organise, run and promote sailing in Falmouth. Falmouth Sailing Week is a world class 7-day sailing event taking place this year between 6-12 August 2023. It was previously known as Falmouth Week, but needed rebranding as the sailing is such a big part of the week and organised separately to the shoreside events. These run in parallel to Falmouth Sailing Week so there’s lots to do on and off of the water. It’s become the most famous week for the town and draws visitors from near and far. There’s daytime and evening entertainment, the well-recognised Pink Wig event, and a firework display over the harbour on the Friday. Over 100,000 people visit the town for the week!
Falmouth Sailing Week (or Falmouth Regatta as it was), has been run annually since the end of the second world war in the 1940s with its origin going back to around the 1880s. It has run every single year, even through the covid years. In 2020 when everything was shut down, we reduced the format, kept it compliant and made sure that the (sailing) show must go on! This was the year we won the Event of the Year in the British Yachting Awards which was phenomenal.
What sort of boats enter?
On average we have around 150 boats enter. We have two racing fleets throughout the week: the Bay Fleet with the IRC yacht classes and the Carrick Fleet, with racing for keelboats, traditional craft and dinghies. In the middle of the week, we have a standalone long-distance race, the Ancasta Champagne Race. (The history of this goes back to 1951 when there was a challenge by Lord Shawcross who challenged Jack Silley (the then owner of Falmouth Docks) to a race between their own yachts, for the prize of a crate of Champagne. The Champagne Race was born. 1955 was the first official Champagne Race held by Falmouth Town in Regatta Week, instigated by Phillip Fox, then Commodore of The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. It has continued ever since and is a long arduous race! In the Carrick Fleet, we now have the Mainbrace Rum Race which again is a standalone race for bottles of rum.
We also have our Gaffer Class (G), a friendly, and not too serious class in which to enter the racing in the port. We have up to 37 Gaffers registered. These are boats of under 23 foot, predominantly gaff, cutter and sloop dayboats. Often traditionally built wooden boats, usually varying between 50-100 years in age. They differ to the Falmouth Working Boats (which would have trawled for oysters) because they are non-working, and considered a menagerie class. They are also individually handicapped so each has a chance to win! What’s particularly exciting is that this is the first time the Gaffers have been sponsored and wonderful that they have now been sponsored by Heather & Lay.
How long does it take to organise the event? It looks like quite an event to pull off!
Oh yes, we start planning in September and it’s live the following August, it takes a lot of time and effort by a big team of people. We are fortunate to have about 40 volunteers who help during the week. I’ve personally been a part of this event for 5 years but one of our team who calls out the race starts on the radio has done the job for 53 years (She did start when she was only 14!) and rightfully received the RYA Volunteer Community Award from Princess Anne earlier this year.
It's quite an event to put together. Each of our yacht and sailing clubs host one of the regatta days – we start with Helford Sailing Club then Mylor Yacht Club, then Restronguet Sailing Club. This is followed by the Champagne and Rum races then the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club and St Mawes Sailing Club then the prize giving on the final day is hosted by Flushing Sailing Club. It’s wonderful that the entire week celebrates everything these individual clubs offers.
Are there other events that are organised and run by The Port of Falmouth Sailing Association?
Yes, we coordinate many sailing events annually in the Fal and Helford estuaries including eight Village Regattas, club racing and national class championships. It is our job to ensure that the traditions and cultures are nurtured and maintained, and we are proud to welcome existing local sailors as well as newcomers and visitors to our fantastic, vibrant and eclectic port.
Can anyone come along to Falmouth Sailing Week?
Yes, it’s a family regatta and people come from all over the country for it. Non-sailing members of the family can enjoy the activities shoreside while the rest of the family are out racing every day. It’s very much a community event and that’s what I enjoy, getting out to meet the local businesses who support us each year. We have an incredible cast of sponsors including headline sponsors Mylor Yacht Club, Ancasta Yacht Brokers, Mainbrace Rum who sponsor the Carrick Rum Race, Dynamite Valley Brewing, Falmouth Town Council, Super Yacht Services, Falmouth, Mylor Chandlery and Rigging and The Flip Flop Shop – our sponsors are varied and many sponsor year after year. Despite many being marine related, we also have more corporate sponsors such as Hine Downing Solicitors and of course, now Heather & Lay. It’s a wonderful line-up.
Wow, there is so much to learn about the event and I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface! To find out more about Falmouth Sailing Week and how to enter the regatta, visit www.falmouthweek.co.uk/sailing-week or follow @falmouthsailing on Instagram and Facebook. The event will run from 6-12 August 2023 when final prize giving takes place. Thank you so much for your time Jane, and we’ll see you to cheer on the Gaffers!