Royal Escape; History of the race

The pursuit of the routed Royalist army through the narrow streets of Worcester by Cromwells Roundheads on the afternoon of September 3rd 1651 brought the Civil War to a final and bloody conclusion. Charles II had succeeded his father when Charles I had nobly stepped to his death on the scaffold at Whitehall eighteen months previously, but his return from exile to lead a Scots army against Parliament ended in disaster at Worcester. His supporters dispersed and he was obliged to move in great secrecy from one place of hiding to another. Had he been captured he almost certainly would have forfeited his own life on the block.
After an adventurous flight, he evaded the detachment of troops blocking the bridge at Bramber and made his way in the company of Lord Wilmost and a Colonel Gounter to the fishing village of Brighthelmstone. The party took rooms at the George Inn in West Street.
Colonel Gounter arranged through his acquaintance, a French merchant, whereby Nicholas Tattersell, captain of a coaster named the Surprise, carrying a cargo of coal from Newcastle to Poole and for the moment beached at Shoreham, was to take Charles to France. On the morning of 16th October, they set sail for the Isle of Wight then changed course and sailed on through the night towards the French coast. Charles and Wilmot were landed on Fecamp beach in the cock-boat.
Following his return from exile, Charles had no sooner settled into his Thameside Palace at Whitehall than the Surprise, appeared, moored on the opposite side of the river decorated in such a way as to leave no doubt that this was the modest little vessel in which Charles had made his escape ten years previously, and that it was to Captain Tattersell that the King was indebted.
His reward was a commission in the Navy, the Surprise was commissioned as a fifth rate renamed the Royal Escape and in addition, the gallant Captain was given an annuity. With his newfound wealth, Tattersell purchased the Ship Tavern in Brighton. Original documents showing the agreement between Charles II and Tattersell and the purchase of the Ship Tavern hang in Tattersells bar at the Old Ship Hotel.
In 1976, Connor Francis, then Commodore of the Sussex Yacht Club, told Tony Boysons that Miss Linda Morgan, a public relations officer for the Old Ship Hotel wanted to stage a cross channel race from Shoreham to Fecamp to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee Year of 1977.
That first race was very much a Club event, 40 yachts in all, comprising mostly Club members, and was won by Harold Wilson in Wendy Caroline. The first race was such a success that the Old Ship and Sussex Yacht Club agreed to run a repeat in 1978, and capturing the imagination of all Sussex based yachtsmen have continued to do so every year since, with around a hundred entrants.