IT was a weekend of two halves as sailors and visitors to Cowes Week were faced with radically changing weather conditions.

The 183rd regatta started on Saturday under downpours and overcast conditions before yesterday’s dazzling sunshine.

Thousands turned up to witness the start despite damp conditions and a touch of royalty was added on Sunday with the arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

But the rain did not disrupt the many entertainments, parties and dinners laid on for the tens of thousands of spectators and competitors who have made their annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight.

The week began in earnest on Saturday with 80 competitors taking part in the 98-year-old XOD class won by 65-year veteran Stuart Jardine aboard Lone Star.

Symbolising that Cowes is for sailors of all ages Stuart was in the same race as 17-year-old Anna Bailey, taking part for her third successive year.

She said: “I love the class because it’s really fun, competitive, one design and is a relatively cheap class to get into which makes it a very attractive class for young sailors.”

Saturday also saw the 41-mile challenge, the Queens Cup, with Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone’s TP52 Rio leading the 16 yachts around the course finishing eight minutes clear of his nearest competitor.

Sunday’s improved weather brought with it better wind which helped the 60-strong fleet taking part in the Laser SB3 class.

Spectators were given a good view of the Victory Class, as a number of the 20 boats taking part started near the shore vying for the best start position.

The race was won by Clive Cokayne’s Zara.

The weekend also saw the start of the three-day iShares Cup, with Olympians and world champions wowing the crowds ashore with close combat over short courses.

There was high drama when a private spectator RIB collided with one of the catamarans leaving 67-year-old Dorothy Haslam with a suspected fractured thighbone and bruising.

The impact of the collision left the RIB semi-submerged while Dorothy was rescued by the RNLI and taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Newport.

On the water the Extreme 40 races were dominated by the Oman Sail teams with Peter Cumming and his crew onboard Masirah leading Oman Sail Renaissance on the leader-board.

Cowes Week 2009 will see some 8,500 competitors from amateur to professional, watched by crowds expected to reach 100,000.