MERSEA Week is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a host of racing and activities on and off the water.

The event, organised by West Mersea Yacht Club and Dabchicks Sailing Club, is now one of the biggest Regatta Weeks on the East Coast, attracting sailors both locally and from up and down the coast.

The week starts this Sunday and finishes the following Friday, August 23, with the West Mersea Town Regatta racing on Saturday, water sports in the afternoon and a firework display at dusk.

Entry costs are no higher this year, and new attractions have been added to please spectators and families, as well as yachtsmen.

Chairman of Mersea Week, Greg Dunn said: “The 40th anniversary of Mersea Week is a real cause to celebrate.

“The anniversary was verified by our local historian, who produced the 1973 West Mersea Town Regatta programme, showing the Yacht Club and Sailing Club regattas and the Town Regatta running sequentially for the first time.”

Classes that will be racing during the week include IRC, Local Handicap and White Sail Cruisers, Classic Yachts and Gaffers, Smacks, Winkle Brigs and Bumpkins, Dinghies Fast, Medium and Slow.

Perhaps the most unique and exciting event to take place during the week is the challenge meeting of Crusader and Italia, the splendid 12 metre class yachts built to race for the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle, Australia, for Britain and Italy respectively.

These two well matched yachts will race together three times daily throughout the week, providing thrilling opportunities for spectators – even those who are shore-based – as their final race of each day will bring them to the area of the Nass, which will will mean the two 65 foot boats can be viewed from the beach while they are racing at close quarters.

On board Crusader, with owner Richard Matthews, will be her original skipper, internationally famous yacht racing skipper, Olympian and former yachtsman of the year, Harold Cudmore.

One of the highlights of the week for the sailors and spectators alike is the Round The Island race, which takes place on Wednesday, August 21, as competitors battle to win the Coconut Trophy.

Competitors have the choice to sail either way around the island but have to get their boats out of the water to cross the causeway, known as the Strood, to be able complete the race.

The event always attracts crowds along the Strood to watch as sailors struggle to get their boats out of the water and across.

Another event which is being celebrated is the centenary of the East Coast One Designs, elegant boats designed for these waters, and first launched in 1913.

It is hoped that as many as ten of these graceful yachts will be racing in their own class in Mersea Week.

The week sponsors for the event are Adnams Southwold and Hempel Paints, along with day sponsorship from West Mersea Oyster Bar, Gowen Ocean Sailmakers Ltd/Dolphin Sails, Fenn Wright, Softview Windows and West Mersea Marine.