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As an island nation the sea preoccupies us, and many of us enjoy the thrill of being on the water. The joy, and skill, of sailing has become enshrined in our social calendar, with historic events such as Cowes and Dartmouth Royal Regatta.
The sailing season in the UK brings with it a host of local regattas, organised by the yacht and sailing club that about in coastal communities. These tests of sailing skills originate to the early 19th century, when gentlemen of leisure began to take an active interest in yachting.
One of the most historic yachting events, and a firm fixture on the calendar of the social season, is Cowes Week, which dates back to 1826. The sailing regatta drew large crowds of 'well-dressed persons' and carriages 'filled with elegant females'. A firework display and Regatta ball completed the celebrations, and the tradition of the sailing regatta was born.
But the water is not just about the sea; there is also a venerable tradition of competitive rowing in the UK. Amateur rowing competitions date back to the end of the 18th century, when the boat clubs belonging to, for example Eton College and Westminster School, began to compete.
Rowing was seen as a suitable sport for gentlemen amateurs. In 1829 a rowing race challenge was held between teams representing Oxford and Cambridge at Henley-on-Thames. While the university boat race moved to a course nearer London in 1839, competitive rowing continued at Henley, and the Henley Royal Regatta was born.
It was seen as a major social event in the Victorian era; in 1851 Albert, the Prince Consort became the first royal patron of the regatta. Ever since, Henley has become another milestone in the English social season.