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Boat racing is a sport in which boats, or other types of watercraft, race on water. Boat racing powered by oars is recorded as having occurred in ancient Egypt,[1] and it is likely that people have engaged in races involving boats and other water-borne craft for as long as such watercraft have existed.

A regatta is a series of boat races. The term comes from the Venetian language, with regata meaning "contest" and typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas. A regatta often includes social and promotional activities which surround the racing event, and except in the case of boat type (or "class") championships, is usually named for the town or venue where the event takes place.

Although regattas are typically amateur competitions, they are usually formally structured events, with comprehensive rules describing the schedule and procedures of the event. Regattas may be organized as championships for a particular area or type of boat, but are often held just for the joy of competition, camaraderie, and general promotion of the sport.

One of the largest and most popular rowing regattas is the Henley Royal Regatta held on the River Thames, England. One of the largest and oldest yachting regattas in the world is Cowes Week, which is held annually by the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, England, and usually attracts over 900 sailing boats. Cowes Week is predated by the Cumberland Cup (1775), Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta (1822) and Port of Plymouth Regatta (1823). North America's oldest regatta is the Royal St. John's Regatta held on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's, Newfoundland every year since 1818.

The term "regatta" is from Venetian regata ("contention for mastery"), from regatare ("compete, haggle, sell at retail"), possibly from recatare.

There exist other traditional and centuries old boat races like Vallam kali of Kerala, India and Dragon Boat Race from China.


The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta
Rowing, by Lucien Davis, 1898.
Rowing, by Lucien Davis, 1898.

See also: Head race

World Rowing Federation championship events

North America

United States



United Kingdom

Continental Europe


Sailing race events are typically held for a single one design class and usually last more than one day. Regattas may be hosted by a yacht club, sailing association, town or school as in the case of the UK's National School Sailing Association and Interscholastic Sailing Association (high school) regattas or Intercollegiate Sailing Association (college) regattas.

The Barcolana regatta of the yacht club Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano is currently the Guinness world record holder as the "largest sailing race" with 2,689 boats and over 16,000 sailors at the starting line.[2] Currently, The Three Bridge Fiasco, conducted by the Singlehanded Sailing Society of San Francisco Bay with more than 350 competitors is the largest sailboat race in the United States.


Oldest sailing regattas

Britannia Boating Club Regatta 1895
Britannia Boating Club Regatta 1895

Current sailing regattas

School sailing regattas

University / college sailing regattas

Motorboat racing

A boat race seen from the International Space Station, 2006
A boat race seen from the International Space Station, 2006

Other notable regattas and boat races

Race format types

See also


  1. ^ Evžen Strouhal, Life of the ancient Egyptians (1992), p. 46.
  2. ^ Barcolana, the largest regatta in the world is presented in London
  3. ^ Hunts Yachting Magazine 1865
  4. ^ Leinster Express, 30 August 1834
  5. ^ Sapp, Claudette Gaudet. Sailor & Rattling Teacups: A History of the Chester Yacht Club.
  6. ^ Athlone Sentinel, 31 Aug. 1835
  7. ^ "Appledore & Instow Regatta". Archived from the original on 13 September 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Barcolana record falls, Esimit Europa 2 leads fleet of 1852 in the world's largest single start regatta". TheDailySail. Archived from the original on 2016-08-07. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
  9. ^ Archived 2013-05-04 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "FOWEY ROYAL REGATTA 2015 | RED ARROWS, CARNIVAL, FIREWORKS, GIANT PASTY & SO MUCH MORE!". Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "IYRL International Yacht Regatta Limited". Archived from the original on 2013-11-03. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  13. ^ World Professional Powerboating Association Archived May 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, UIM