Thursday, March 27, 2008

Henley--British Summer Season Starts With Thames Regatta


The season’s social calendar launches with the Henley Royal Regatta, which has been held on the 27th weekend of every year since 1839 (except during the two World Wars). This year, the regatta begins on Wednesday 4 July, come rain or shine, and will be held on the Berkshire bank of the Thames, near the town of Henley-On-Thames.

One of the most unusual rowing events you’ll find in the country, this race is a puzzling 1 mile and 550 yards long. Unlike other regattas, only two boats compete in each race and up to 100 races take place over the course of five days. To make things even more challenging, the teams have to row upstream against the currents.

This year, 467 crews will be competing, with 114 overseas crews coming from 18 different countries. The Brits will be facing stiff competition from the likes of New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, Belgium and the United States.

The chairman of the Committee of Management, Mr Mike Sweeney, says of the 2007 Regatta, “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to attract such a high quality entry for this year’s Regatta. Despite the pressure of this being the Olympic Qualification year, the Regatta will host many of the top stars from the sport of rowing – there will be some classic races!”

For visiting Anglophiles, the river’s banks offer the best viewing ground to see the country’s high society in all their eccentric finery, performing their yearly socializing ritual. For many, the Regatta is less about the world-class rowing and more about seeing and being seen. Socialites mingle happily and sip champagne with their backs to the river, while true sports enthusiasts line the banks to cheer on their favorites from members-only areas known as the Enclosures.

The Stewards’ Enclosure, the equivalent of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, is the hottest ticket. Naturally, it’s only open to members of the Enclosure and their guests. It has a number of great watering holes, each with its own unique atmosphere and people-watching prospects.

Alternatively, try and wrangle a ride in one of the 50-foot day boats used for umpiring the regatta. These boats are the most beautiful and expensive you’ll see on the Thames. Not only will you get a close-up view of the races but you’ll also witness how the atmosphere changes through the different enclosures as the race moves down the Thames.

The Remenham Club – a social club run by members of seven English rowing organizations known as the ‘Founding Clubs’ – is also a good place to catch up with other ASW members. It’s the only location where you’ll hear the famed ‘Remenham Roar’, the most unique cheer of the regatta, while enjoying the serious partying that is as much a part of Henley as the rowing.
— Anne-Sophie Sabouret

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