Gorey Regatta is one of the oldest regattas in the world. Today it offers local and visiting yachtsmen an annual opportunity to compete against each other in a range of classes, but its origins lie in Gorey’s oyster fishing industry in the middle of the 19th century.
Today’s organising committee place the date of the first regatta in 1857, although other sources suggest that it may have been five years earlier. Racing was initially confined to working oyster dredgers and their crews, competing for prizes offered by the merchants associated with their industry. It was an annual opportunity for hard-working men to let their hair down.
Apart from the war years the regatta has been held annually ever since. The original competitors were both hard-working and hard-drinking and it is said that almost every house on Gorey Pier and around sold gin at 1d a glass.
Racing was highly competitive and dirty tricks quite common, so much so that crews guarded their vessels overnight before the racing. In addition to the serious events the regatta also offered all the fun of the fair, with pillow fights on greasy poles, hunting of live ducks and rowing and sculling races.
Gradually additional classes were added and the regatta attracted competitors from all over the island, and in the years between the World Wars French yachtsmen were regular participants in their own special classes.
St Martin Jersey, The Story of an Island Parish, Chris Blackstone and Katie Le Quesne, editors