IT was time to batten down the hatches as soggy sailors and soaking spectators braved dismal weather at Cowes Week .

Dozens of disappointed crew members were left high and dry as gusts of up to 35 knots caused the cancellation of more than half of the races scheduled in yesterday’s regatta programme.

But hundreds still lined the shore to soak up the carnival atmosphere gripping the Isle of Wight town.

And it did at least prove an authentic British summer experience for the many international crews who have descended on the Island for the eight-day event, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management.

Teams from as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong and Antigua were in Cowes for the popular New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup, which was introduced to encourage overseas participation in the annual sailing extravaganza.

The international fleet also included representatives from the United States, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain.

Brollies and rain coats were out in force, but, although the bars, eateries and live music performances were in full swing on dry land, the weather played havoc with the racing schedule.

All 16 races in the ‘white group’ of smaller boats were axed.

And four classes of larger boats were also told to stay moored up with rain and wind whipping up the waves in The Solent with just 14 due to go under starter’s orders.

But it was a brighter situation in the late afternoon as the sun finally shone for the aprèssailing festivities.

Forecasters warned that conditions would again be far from ideal today but organisers say the popular Artemis Challenge will still go ahead.

The Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips will today sound the cannon for the epic race while Olympic sailor Nick Dempsey will take part.

In the past the event has also featured actor Ewan McGregor, television presenter Davina McCall and rock star Bryan Adams.

Ladies Day takes place throughout the day celebrating the triumphs of women in sailing.

And revellers will be partying into the night at Cowes Parade with live music from Madonna tribute act MDNA.