The first Regatta took place in 1906 under the auspices of the Motor Yacht Club, now the Royal Motor Yacht Club based in Poole. The Motor Yacht Club purchased an ex Admiralty Steam Paddle Yacht the Enchantress, which was converted to a floating club house and moored off Netley Hard. The Clubs first Rear Commodore was Mansfield Cumming, the founding father of MI6, known as “C”, and “M” in the James Bond books.
The Regatta was conducted from the Enchantress and included competitors such as Mr T. Thornycroft (Shipbuilding), Lord Montagu, Lord Howard de Walden, Mr J. D. Siddeley (Automobile and Aircraft) and “M” himself.
An annual regatta was held off Netley until the start of the Great War of 1914 – 1918. In 1915 the Enchantress was hit by a bomb and destroyed by the subsequent fire. The only time power boating was in the Olympics was the 1908 London games when power boat racing was held on Southampton Water, hosted by the Motor Yacht Club at Netley.
In 1909 the Motor Yacht Club asked Alfred Wesmacott to design a day sailer which was called the X Boat One Design. This fleet started racing at Netley in 1911, and the class is still active around the Solent to this day.
The modern regatta started in 2011 as a fund raising event for Netley Sea Scouts. The Group was established almost as long ago as the Motor Yacht Club in 1908 and registered in 1909. The modern event is a more modest affair for traditional fixed seat rowing vessels. There are several races over distances from a quick sprint of 0.25 miles to the longer 4 miles of the Netley Cup. There are prizes for various age Groups and a Ladies race. There are a couple of fun races for the younger competitor. The start / finish line is off Beach Lane, with the longer courses taking the form of a sausage running down to a buoy laid off Royal Victoria Country Park – Hamble Cliff House, before turning and running up towards a buoy laid off Weston Shore, then racing back to the finish line off Beach Lane. The most common participating vessel in the Regatta, is the Bursledon Gig, of which there are around 20 or so locally, mainly on the River Hamble. They are rowed by a crew of 3 or 4, with 4 blades and possibly a coxswain. These craft were adopted locally on the Hamble, and are the mainstay of the Hamble River Rowing Club based at the Horse and Jockey, Bursledon. They are also used by local Sea Scout Groups at Netley and Hamble.
In 2013 the village joined in the Regatta by resuming the village Carnival that had not been organised for several years. Last year Netley Regatta and Carnival was celebrating 150 years since the opening of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley.
The theme for the 2014 event is “Heroes” and could mean Super Heroes, Sporting Heroes etc. There will be entertainments such as bouncy castles, Punch and Judy, adult Tug of War and traditional games, with a whole host of stalls to peruse. Food and refreshments will be available. There is also the opportunity to try the sport of kayaking.
It is hoped to grow the event to include other water sports, and to include boats from further afield, such as the Cornish Pilot Gigs, which are 32 foot traditional rowing boats raced all around the world.