The history of Cowes Football Club can be traced back to 1881, when the club was originally formed, although competitive action did not arrive until 1886 in the shape of the Hants and Dorset Junior Cup.
The club joined the newly formed Hampshire League in 1895 and the following spring Cowes were confirmed as its first-ever champions. That season the club also won the Hampshire Senior Cup to complete the double.
In 1898/99, Cowes won the South West Division 2 of the Southern League and, as a limited company, ventured in to the Southern League alongside the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, Bristol City and Swindon.
However, financial difficulties and a string of poor results prompted the withdrawal from the league midway through the season and the winding up of the club.
In 1903 the club was resurrected and nine years later celebrated moving to current home Westwood Park by winning the Hampshire Senior Cup for the second time.
By the mid 1920s the club had become a formidable force in Hampshire football and between 1926 and 1937 Cowes won the Hampshire League on four occasions and added three more Hampshire Senior Cup triumphs.
In 1932 the club lost the final of the Hants Senior Cup to local rivals Newport at The Dell, Southampton. But the day will be remembered more for the incredible crowd of 21,000 – a record gate for such a final to this day.
With four figure crowds regularly being attracted to Westwood Park, the main stand was erected in just 24 hours – before a local derby with Newport – by a force of workers from one of the many shipyards in the town. Extensive renovation work has helped ensure that it remains one of the largest in non-league football in the South.
After the war, the club continued to pick up county honours and in 1963 enjoyed a run to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. Giant-killers Yeovil ended hopes of a first round proper appearance with a 1-0 victory at Westwood.
By the mid-1960s the club was a spent force and, after winning the Hampshire Senior Cup in 1967, Cowes dipped into Division 2 of the county set-up for the first time. The 1970s were a barren spell marked only by the Division 2 title in 1975.
The 1980s heralded a rebuilding period for the club and, in a bid to attract more local players to Westwood Park, Cowes merged with Whites Sports. By this time the newly named Cowes Sports FC was once more a Division 2 side.
The club finally regained its place in the top flight of county football in 1989 after an exciting battle for promotion alongside the now-defunct Ryde Sports and AC Delco. Consolidation followed and with improving finances and a strong committee, Cowes Sports FC once again became a force to be reckoned with.
The 1993 season brought the first silverware to the club in nearly 20 years when the Hampshire League Cup was secured at Cam Alders – with more than 120 ecstatic Cowes supporters cheering the team on to a 2-0 over New Street.
Events the following season were even more exciting, with Cowes and Blackfield enjoying a dogfight for the Hampshire League title. Blackfield held the advantage as the final stage of the season approached, but a splendid run of results saw Cowes claim the title. During the summer, the club was accepted into the Wessex League.
The club achieved a respectable mid-table position in its debut season of 1994/95 and the year was capped with the first Isle of Wight Senior Cup victory in 30 years. A thrilling 4-3 victory over Newport at Smallbrook preceded a 3-2 win against Binstead in the final.
Two more steady league campaigns followed before 1997/98 saw the club enjoy another exciting season. After a poor start, Cowes steadily climbed the table and could have claimed a top three spot were it not for another poor run at the season’s close. Nonetheless, the final finish of sixth place was highly creditable.
But the season will be remembered more for the wonderful run to the fourth round proper of the FA Vase. Here Cowes faced 1997 runners-up North Ferriby, who grabbed a replay victory on Humberside after coming within 10 minutes of defeat at a packed Westwood Park.
The 1998/99 season saw the side finish seventh in the Wessex League, but the campaign was crowned with a splendid victory over champions Lymington in the Wessex League Cup final.
Two seasons later the club exceeded all expectations by reaching the last 16 of the FA Vase, losing to Taunton Town in the fifth round in front of almost 1,000 fans at Westwood Park.
The last – and most valuable – trophy to be won by the Yachtsmen came at the end of 2001/02 season with a thrilling 2-1 final victory over the island’s Dr Marten League outfit Newport FC in the Isle of Wight Senior (Gold) Cup.
In 2003/04 The Yachtsmen finished 14th in the league, but the Reserves brought silver to the Club by winning the the Wessex Combination Cup, beating Eastleigh Reserves in the final.
In 2004/05 the Under-18s won a Hampshire cup double – the Hampshire Youth League Cup and the County Youth Cup.
The Under 18s repeated their winning form for the 2005/06 season, again winning the Hampshire Youth League Cup and County Youth Cup, but also adding the Hampshire Youth League Division 1 title, thus completing a unique treble.
2006/2007 saw the Saturday sides get back to winning ways as the 1st team again defeated Newport(IoW) 2-1 to win the Isle of Wight Senior(Gold) Cup at Whippingham. Not to be out done, the ‘A’ Team won the Isle of Wight ‘Challenge’ Cup as they defeated Newport(IoW) Reserves 2-0 in the final. Unfortunately the Reserves could not complete a ‘cup’ treble as they were defeated in the Combination Cup Final by AFC Totton Reserves after extra time.
2007/2008 once again saw the 1st Team and ‘A’ Team complete a cup ‘double’ for the club. The 1st Team retained the Isle of Wight Senior(Gold) Cup with a hard fought extra time victory over near neighbours East Cowes Vics, whilst the ‘A’ Team had a comfortable 2-0 win against Oakfield FC in the Final of the Isle of Wight ‘Memorial’ Cup.
An injury plagued 2008/2009 season saw the 1st team finish a disappointing 13th but remain unbeaten against their Island rivals (v Newport 1-1 draws home and away, v Brading two wins 2-0 at home and 3-1 away). The Reserves finished a disappointing 11th in what would be their final year in Wessex Combination as it was decided to drop them back into the Island League for 09/10 because of the financial downturn. Meanwhile the ‘A’ team avoided finishing in the bottom two with two excellent victories in their final four matches against the top two sides, second placed Oakfield (4-2) and Champions West Wight (2-1).
2009/2010 finished with the 1st team being relegated from the Premier Division after losing their final game 5 – 4 to Bournemouth Poppies whilst Laverstock picked up a point the same evening to condemn Cowes to Division 1 for the 10/11 season. The Reserve team were also fighting relegation but managed to win their last game at St Helens to keep themselves in Division 1 of the Island League.
2010/2011 saw the Yachtsmen play in Div 1 for the first time with several new grounds to visit, following a terrible start the side recovered to finish mid table. The Reserves also finished mid table whilst the newly formed ‘A’ team just missed out on promotion from Comb 2 and were runners up in the Junior B cup.
2011/2012 Cowes’ second season in the 1st Div saw a sixth place finish, but a decent run in the FA Vase beating Totton & Eling(3-2 away), US Portsmouth(1-0 home), Gillingham(3-0 home), Egham(1-0 away) before bowing out at Reading Town(1-0). Further glory for the Yachtsmen in the GOLD CUP beating East Cowes Vics 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw aet. Both the Reserves and the ‘A’ team had good seasons although will be looking to improve in 12/13.