AROUND 8,500 sailors, 1,000 boats from 40 classes and 100,000 visitors will descend on Cowes this weekend for the world's oldest and most famous regatta.

Cowes Week came from humble beginnings – a race around the Isle of Wight for rich yacht owners in 1826.

Since then it has forged a reputation as the world's premier regatta - and a whole week of action is set to kick off in the Solent once more on Saturday.

Cowes Week is not just for professional sailors – amateurs will compete against Olympic medallists and world champions as equals.

On the water, the Solent will become packed with yachts going head-to-head in a series of races throughout the week.

One of the highlights of the week will be a duel between Britain’s America’s Cup crew Team Origin and the current holders of the Cup, America’s BMW ORACLE Racing.

Team Origin, led by Hampshire sailing star and triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, will look to upset BMW ORACLE Racing in a series of races which will culminate in a sprint around the Isle of Wight.

The finale to their battle will celebrate the first ever America’s Cup race, held in 1851, which the Americans won.

Cowes Week has long been known as a playground for celebrities and this year is no different.

The Artemis Challenge will see some of the country’s best known faces team up with top skippers for a race around the Isle of Wight in aid of charity. This year’s celebs include skeleton bob gold medallist Amy Williams and former England rugby star Martin Bayfield.

n Britain’s bid to win the America’s Cup, received a boost yesterday Sir Keith Mills, the team principal of Team Origin, the British outfit set up to compete in the event, announced that Jaguar cars will be its first commercial sponsor.