|Henley Regatta was first held in 1839 and has been held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. Originally staged by the Mayor and people of Henley as a public attraction with a fair and other amusements, the emphasis rapidly changed so that competitive amateur rowing became its main purpose. During the course of its history, the Regatta has often been honoured by visits of members of the Royal Family, of which the most recent was that of H.R.H. The Princess Royal in 1999.|
As the Regatta was instituted long before national or international rowing federations were established, it occupies a unique position in the world of rowing. It has its own rules and is not subject to the jurisdiction either of the governing body of rowing in England (the Amateur Rowing Association) or of the International Rowing Federation (F.I.S.A.), but is officially recognised by both these odies.
Henley Royal Regatta 2001
Photo courtesy of Henley Standard
Unlike multi-lane international regattas, Henley still operates a knock-out draw with only two boats racing in each heat. This entails the organisation of up to 100 races on some of the five days. To complete the programme by a reasonable hour, races are started at 5-minute intervals.
The length of the Course is 1 mile 550 yards, which is slightly longer than the standard international distance of 2,000 metres. It takes approximately seven minutes to cover, so that there are often two races at once on the Course for much of the day. The number of races is reduced on each successive day, leaving only the Finals to be rowed on the last day.
There are 19 events in total: 6 classes of race for Eights, 5 for Fours (3 coxless and 2 coxed), 4 for Quadruple Sculls, and races for Coxless Pairs and Double Sculls. In addition there are single sculling races for both men and women. 1993 was the first year women competed over the Course in a full Regatta event when a new event for women single scullers was inaugurated. In 2000 an open event for Women’s Eights was introduced, whilst in 2001 there were new events for Women’s and Men’s Quadruple Sculls.
The Stewards have announced an entry of 470 crews (494 in 2003) at this year’s Regatta. There are 100 overseas crews from 19 different nations. The British Olympic Team is present in force and will find some excellent competition against crews from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and South Africa.
The Henley Royal Regatta is also an important rendez-vous on the British social calendar. Lots of hats.