St Mawes has not one but two regattas, the ‘Town’ regatta and the ‘Social Club’ regatta. The Town Regatta is by far the senior. But why ‘Town’ when St Mawes is clearly a village and it is one of the so-called village regattas? The reason is that until 1832 St Mawes was a “rotten borough” with two MPs, a mayor, and the title of ‘Town’, a title to which it clearly clung for some time after. But why two regattas?
St Mawes may be able to claim its place as the first of the local regattas. A report in the Royal Cornwall Gazette notes a boat race at St Mawes in 1838 at which a subscription was obtained towards a regatta for that town next year. The same report gives the day of this race as Monday, followed by more races on Wednesday, when sailing as well as rowing matches took place.
The subscription was evidently successful. Again, note that the regatta was held on a weekday, Tuesday.
St Mawes Regatta
This regatta took place Tuesday last. The morning being beautifully fine, and the inhabitants anticipating a gay day, tastefully decorated their little Town with flags and evergreens. Their expectations were fully realized; for during the whole of the forenoon vehicles of every description continued to come across from Falmouth, and Yachts and boats of all classes and sizes had also arrived by this time in great numbers.
The First Class boats, consisting of 5 sailing Lurkers, started at 11 o'clock. The course was from the starting point in St Mawes harbour, round the Black Rock, and from thence round a boat off St Mawes Castle, the boats going over the course twice. This race which was for two prizes was well contested, and the 1st prize won by the Nelson, 2nd ditto Snail.
The Second Class consisted of 15 sailing Punts, and was for three prizes, the course as before.
|1st prize,||Sarah,||S Vincent,|
|2nd ditto||Linnet,||W James,|
The Third Class was 3 six-oared and 1 four-oared Gigs – the prize a Silver Cup. This was a very interesting match and was won by the Idas, of Falmouth.
Fourth Class – Pilot Gigs belonging to St Mawes, for two prizes, which were won 1st J Dash, 2nd George Bickford.
Fifth Class – a similar match with four-oared boats.
After which a most amusing Gig and Punt chase. The Gig not being able to take the Punt in the given time, the prize was awarded to the latter.
The Regatta having concluded to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned, and afforded infinite gratification to the spectators, the band paraded the streets till the evening, when a grand display of fire-works took place under the able superintendence of Mr Cunnack, the celebrated Cornish Pyrotechnician. The great room at the Castle having been fitted up for a Ball, a numerous and highly respectable party assembled. Dancing was kept up with great spirit till a late hour, and all separated highly delighted with the amusement of the day. The arrangements were admirable and did great credit to the projectors.
Falmouth Express and Colonial Journal – Saturday 24 August 1839
You may wonder what a 'Lurker' is. The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has a drawing by Ernest Dade (1868–1935) of a St Ives 'seine net boat lurker' in its collection, but no image.
We next pick up the story nineteen years later, in 1858. There had apparently been a hiatus of 'upwards of sixteen years' since the previous regatta. Again, note the regatta took place on a weekday, this time a Thursday.
St Mawes Regatta
The 9th of September, 1858, will be long held in rememberance by those who were spectators of the St Mawes regatta, which took place last Thursday, for rarely has anything gone off more successfully or given greater satisfaction. After a lapse of upwards of sixteen years (the date of the last St Mawes regatta) a few gentlemen of the town, thinking there should were not reasons why St Mawes should any longer be behind its neighbours, met together, and at once set to work in a business like and energentic manner, and thanks to their perseverance and the liberality of the subscribers, the funds were forthcoming, and the project was crowned with success. The weather in the morning was very unpromising, being hazy with showers, but about eleven o'clock it suddenly cleared and nothing could be more propitious during the remainder of the day, and a good breeze springing up from the N.W. enabled the various sailing craft to test their speed. The town on the occasion presented a very gay appearance, along the quay and sea wall, opposite to which the committee vessel was placed, being tastefully decorated with flags, with several large arches covered with evergreens and flowers; and when the multitude of spectators took their places the scene became most animated. Emidy's band, from Truro, attended during the day and played in excellent style, from a large platform erected for the occasion. The arrangements for starting &c., were most excellent. The signals were given by a brass six-pounder gun. W. Barrett, Esq., R.N., of the Coast Guard, most kindly placed the Cruiser at the disposal of the committee, as the starting vessel, &c., which was enveloped in flags from the truck to the bow to the stern.
About 2 o'clock the regatta was commenced by lug-sail boats not exceeding 20 feet in length, contended for by the following, which after a most exciting race arrived as follows: –
|Red Deer||T Truscott|
Followed by the Flower of the Flock, Scoret, and Experiment.
A dispute arose (subsequent to the race) in regard to the admeasurement of the first-named boat, which, on the day following the regatta, was decided by that and the second dividing the amount of the prize.
The Lug-sail boats not exceeding 24 feet, arrived in the following order: –
|Storm King||– Tong|
Lug-sail boats not exceeding 16 feet, arriving –
|John and Louisa||J Collins|
The next prize, a silver cup, was contested by sprit-sail boatsnot exceeding 15 feet and was a capital race. They came in, past the Committee boat, in the following order
|Blue||Bill R Harden|
At the first round the Blue Bell was a tie with the Mary, but at the close of the race the Mary being a much larger boat headed her opponent and won the prize.
A very handsome silver cup was the prize for the next race, to be competed for by yachts; but most probably in consequence of the unfavourable state of the weather, at the early part of the day, only three yachts were enterted. The committee thereupon altered the regulation, wich declared that four were to start, and allowed those already entered to race upon the condition that the winner should pay a guinea to the fund. This was likewise a spirited and well-contested race, and they arrived at the winning post in the following order: –
|Flora||R F Mitchell|
There were prizes likewise for lug-sail punts, not exceeding 15 feet – 7 starting. Six-oared gigs; rowing punts by 2 men; sculling match by boys (a very good race indeed), gig and punt chase, &c., &c. ; the whole of which passed off in the best possible spirit; and on a future occasion there is no doubt a regatta at St Mawes will, if possible, be still more successful.
In the evening about 20 gentlemen sat down to an excellent dinner, provided by Mr Rickard, of the Fountain Hotel, and on the removal of the cloth, Her Most Gracious Majesty's health being given by the chairman (H. Harden, Esq.), and duly honoured, other toasts were proposed - “Sir S.Spry,” “Mr Buller,” of Downes; the “subscribers and patrons,” “ the Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer,” “the pilots of St Mawes,” with the “umpire,” and others, and altogether a most agreeable evening was spent. The band attended the dinner party. There was also illumination with variegated lamps.
It is pleasing to add, that notwithstanding the great concourse of visitors from Falmouth, Truro, and adjacent places, not a single case of drunkenness or riotous behaviour was observed: and throughout the good old Cornish motto “One and all,” seemed to be the order of the day, and was carried out to the very letter and spirit.
Royal Cornwall Gazette – September 1858