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Henley Royal Regatta

The Henley Royal Regatta is a five-day event, which is an important part of the British social calendar. It runs from Wednesday to Sunday over the first weekend in July and is hosted by pretty Henley-on-Thames, 37 miles west of London.

History of the Henley Regatta

Henley was always popular for boating and in 1839 Captain Edmund Gardiner proposed the first regatta. It attracted so many visitors it became an annual event, expanding over several days as time went by.

Another Race (c) Alice Heywood via Flickr
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The word "Royal" was added to the title after 1851, when Prince Albert became the first royal patron of the event. Successive monarchs have held the patronage since.

Today it attracts boat teams from around the world, as well as thousands of spectators who line the towpath on the south side of the river.

Henley Regatta Race Information

No Title (c) AndyG via Flickr
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The Henley Royal Regatta currently takes place over a 2000-metre (1.24-mile) course on a relatively straight stretch of the River Thames called "Henley Reach". There are several events, the most prestigious being the Grand Challenge Cup race for Men's Eights.

Each race is a knock-out event between two teams. Prior to the regatta, contestants must compete in qualifying races. The successful teams are then placed in a draw and compete against each other in pairs to elicit an overall winner. The course starts downstream at Temple Island and finishes at Henley Bridge.

The best view of the races is from the Stewards' Enclosure which is only available to members and their guests. It holds 5, 000 guests, but such is the demand for membership that the waiting list is now several years long!

No Title (c) AndyG via Flickr
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The public Regatta Enclosure is just downstream from the Stewards' Enclosure, and everyone is welcome on payment of an admission fee. No dress code is enforced in this public area and you can meet and mingle with the competitors.

Etiquette and Dress Code at the Henley Royal Regatta

The Henley Royal Regatta is one of the British social events that officially make up the "London Season". Events such as Royal Ascot, Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, Cowes Week, Chelsea Flower Show and the Henley Regatta are traditionally attended by royalty and high-end society.

At Henley, the Stewards' Enclosure is THE place to see and be seen. It is where the prize giving takes place and a marquee, bars and a grandstand are set up for post-race entertainment.

Henley Royal Regatta (c) David Barrie via Flickr
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Like Royal Ascot, the Henley Royal Regatta has its own formal dress code which is strictly enforced in the Stewards' Enclosure with miniskirts and trouser suits being considered inappropriate. Men must wear a blazer and flannels or lounge suit and a tie. Women must wear a skirt or dress that falls below knee length, and preferably wear a hat. Mobile phones are prohibited.

Champagne, gin and tonic and Pimms are the alcoholic drinks associated with the regatta and most visitors enjoy a gourmet picnic on the banks of the river. Wicker hampers packed with hummus and crudites, quiche, coronation chicken, stilton, salad and strawberries and cream for dessert can be obtained locally or packed from home, so come prepared to feast!

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