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HENLEY ROYAL REGATTA | LONDON by Norma Poindexter

Henley Royal Regatta is undoubtedly the best known and most prestigious river-based international rowing regatta in the world. The competitive pinnacle for rowing sport takes place this year August 11th - 15th along one of the few straight stretches of the River Thames in England, starting at the simply stunning Temple Island and stretching 1 mile and 500 yards or 2,112 meters along the River Thames to the Henley Bridge. While the courses have changed over the years since its start in 1839 at the town of Henley-on-Thames, the status as the highlight of the summer sporting season and the social season has not. 

Thrilled with the annual cultural spectacle along the Thames River, thousands of visitors and spectators clamor to watch both Olympic competitors and first-time race participants, as crews race side by side to claim the trophies for 23 events. The most prestigious events are the Grand Challenger Cup and the Diamonds Cup, which the actress Grace Kelley’s brother won in 1947 and 1949, and her future Olympic- champion father won in the 1920, but was famously disqualified afterwards as a controversial non- amateur. Certain restrictions over the years enforced amateur-only racing participants until 1937 and banned women athletes until 1981. With these restrictions now eliminated, a plethora of brilliant, international professional and amateur men and women athletes participate, starting with the qualification and selection process 16 days prior to the races. Racing events are broken down into Open, Intermediate, Club, Student and Junior Events. Following the Henley Royal Regatta culture that accompany the regatta races, only a dignified, unemotional broadcast of the intermediate racing times and the conclusion of the races’ progress are allowed.

And your arrangements to participate as a spectator at the highlight of the British summertime? Well, you have your choice, mostly. If you are a guest or family member of a Steward of the Regatta (many former rowers themselves), you can enjoy the Berkshire-side accommodations at the Stewards Enclosure with the immaculate prepared lawns. To apply to membership at the Club, you must be supported by two existing members and join a wait list of five to eight years. You can also mark the course along the Berkshire or Buckinghamshire side of the Thames at numerous sporting clubs, private member clubs or in rolling meadows with luxurious glamping facilities. We recommend the viewing venues at Fawley Meadows Restaurant, the Riverside Chalets, Fawley’s Club House or the stunning Temple Island situated in one of the most beautiful stretches of the Thames. To start the morning there, you can enjoy fresh brewed tea and coffee starting at 10:30 am; free-flowing Moet and Chandon champagne and canapes al fresco at 11:30; an exceptional five-course gourmet lunch with incredible wines at noon; a full High Tea with sweet and savory sandwiches and scones at 3:30; and final celebratory champagne and cocktails at 6:00 to conclude an afternoon of sensational racing entertainment.

.Strict dress codes do apply at many locations and dignify the elegant British social occasion. Gentlemen must wear a lounge suit, full-length trousers, blazers or jackets, and ties or cravats. Ladies dress for a formal occasion with their finest dresses and skirts of modest length below the knee. Hats are suggested for both men and women, and crown the beautifully styled spectators. Enjoying the sunshine, the fine British traditions and culture, world class athletic rowers and the internationally competitive victories never gets old.

Contributions from the Henley Royal Regatta benefit the Henley Royal Regatta Charitable Trust that encourages and supports young people. While delayed from June to August this year with Covid-19 restrictions, you can now enjoy one of the finest cultural events in the U.K at last. Pip, pip and cheerio.

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