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Criccieth – The Regatta.
Races between sailing boats have always been carried out, mostly by the gentry but often between fishermen, pilots and boatmen. The first mention of a regatta at Criccieth can be found in “Hunt’s Yachting Magazine” of 1857. The article starts “ On August the 20th, the aquatic revels were held in the beautiful bay, and we feel great pleasure in submitting to our yacht owners particularly, the following description .... “. There follows a wonderfully flowery description of the town and the Bay. Of the regatta itself it states: “The arrangements were most satisfactory, reflecting the highest credit on E.W Mathew esq of Wern, the steward. The lifeboat “Dauntless” was stationed off the castle as the flag boat where all the signals were made”. The main race was for a purse of 15 sovereigns, divided between the first three boats, the “Gwylan”, “Flirt” and “Daniel”. In the 1980s a silver rose bowl, engraved “Criccieth Regatta Flirt”, was discovered in the Beddgelert area.
The regatta was held, not annually but regularly, over the remainder of the century. The races were divided between, pleasure boats, registered fishing boats and boats not exceeding 25 foot keel. There were also rowing and canoe racing. By 1900 the event had grown with yachts coming from Porthmadog, Pwllheli, Abersoch and Milford, even from Ireland. All sorts of sporting events also took place: swimming, three-legged and egg and spoon races and intriguingly “Tortoise” or Slow bicycle races!
There appears to have been a hiatus over the next few years including during the Great War. The regatta was held on occasions during the 1920s. It was revived in 1935 and was held annually up to 1939 when it ceased with the outbreak of the Second World War. Amongst the prizes awarded during this period were a silver cup for the open handicap race, the Brynawelon cup for “half raters” and the Margaret Leslie cup for boats 14’6” to 18’. The flag vessel was the “Euronomy” owned by Captain Bob Williams, Wenallt (1). The last regatta of this period was on August 16th 1939, three weeks before the war started. Once again there was also a programme of “Aquatic Sports” which included all sorts of competitions that seem unusual today -see programme – image no 2.
The regatta resumed after the war on 17th August 1953 when eight trophies were competed for. There was also a race for boats with outboard motors. This time no sports are mentioned in the programme -see image no 3. The flag boat was the “Mary Louise” owned by Mr O.H.Clarke of Morfa Bychan. The regattas from this period are still well remembered. The big yachts would race from Abersoch and Pwllheli, downwind with their spinnaker sails set, passing close to the castle point. The winning post was a line between the end of the pier and the flag boat. A small cannon was fired when the winner crossed. The dinghies would then race and there would be other races for the big yachts. In later years, the “Breda” owned by Sam Beer was the flag boat. It was a very enjoyable day but sadly came to an end in 1974 despite several efforts by Messers Herbie Hart and Llew Jones to revive it.

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