Henley Royal Regatta

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A race taking place at Henley Regatta 2004

Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the river Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames. It lasts for 5 days (Wed to Sun) over the first weekend in July. Races are head-to-head knock out competitions, raced over a course of 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 m). The regatta regularly attracts international crews to race. The most prestigious event at the regatta is the Grand Challenge Cup for Men's Eights, which has been awarded since the regatta was first staged.

As the regatta pre-dates any national or international rowing organisation, it has its own rules and organisation, although it is recognised by both the Amateur Rowing Association (the governing body of rowing in England and Wales) and FISA (the International Rowing Federation). The regatta is organised by the Stewards, who are largely former rowers themselves.

The regatta was first staged in 1839 and proved so successful that it was expanded the next year from one day to two the next year. Further expansion to three days in the late 19th century, 4 days in 1906 and five days in 1986 are proof of the regatta's importance.

The regatta has been known as Henley Royal Regatta since 1851, when Prince Albert became the first royal patron. Since his death, every reigning monarch has agreed to be the patron.

The regatta was for male rowers only until 1993 (women had been permitted to cox for some time), when women's single sculls were introduced. Since then women's eights and women's quadruple sculls have also been added. Due to these events only being open to elite competitors, Henley Women's Regatta was formed in 1988 to accommodate intermediate level crews. Women's Henley takes place 3 weeks before Henley Royal.

During 1908 and 1948, when London hosted the Olympics, the olympic races were held on the regatta course.



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Temple Island - the start of the regatta

The racing can be viewed from a number of locations along the Berkshire side of the Thames. The other side of the river (Buckinghamshire) side is used for corporate entertainment.

Stewards' Enclosure

This is the exclusive area situated next to the finish line. It is only open to Stewards and their guests. The regatta is one of the major events in the social calendar of the upper class in England and competition for the limited number of tickets is quite high, particularly for the fifth and final day. Although preference is given to people who have previously competed at the regatta, the social position of the event means that some people in the Stewards' Enclosure (and elsewhere along the course) may have no interest in the actual rowing.

The Stewards' Enclosure is also known for a strict enforcement of its dress code. Men are required to wear a "lounge suit, blazer and flannels, or evening dress, and a tie". Women are required to wear a dress or skirt that covers their knees, and are "encouraged to wear a hat". Anyone not suitably dressed can be refused entry, no matter their prestige in rowing or elsewhere. Mobile phone use is also prohibited.

Regatta Enclosure

The Regatta Enclosure is situated next to the Steward's Enclose and further away from the finish. This enclosure is open to everyone on payment of the admission fee. Competitors gain free access to this area.

Remenham Club

Remenham Club is open only to its members and guests.

Remenham Farm

This occupies the area from the start at Temple island down to the Remenham Club. It is owned by The Copas Partnership and open to the public free of charge. There are a number of bars there, including the famous Barn Bar and Redgrave Bar, where the traditional Henley Regatta drink of Pimm's can be purchased.


To keep the quality of rowing high and so each crew only races once a day, each event has a limited number of places. Qualifying is held on the Friday before the event starts. Crews race down the course against the clock and the fastest crews qualify.

The Stewards select some crews, based on previous performances, that do not have to go to qualifying.


The following events are offered at the 2005 regatta:

  • Open Men
    • Grand Challenge Cup (8+)
    • Stewards' Challenge Cup (4-)
    • Queen Mother Challenge Cup (4x)
    • Silver Goblets & Nickalls' Challenge Cup (2-)
    • Double Sculls Challenge Cup (2x)
    • Diamond Challenge Sculls (1x)
  • Intermediate Men
    • Ladies' Challenge Plate (8+)
    • Visitors' Challenge Cup (4-)
    • Men's Quadruple Sculls (4x)
  • Club Men
    • Thames Challenge Cup (8+)
    • Wyfold Challenge Cup (4-)
    • Britannia Challenge Cup (4+)
  • Student Men
    • Temple Challenge Cup (8+)
    • Men's Student Coxed Fours (4+)
  • Junior Boys
    • Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup (8+)
    • Fawley Challenge Cup (4x)
  • Open Women
    • Remenham Challenge Cup (8+)
    • Princess Grace Challenge Cup (4x)
    • Princess Royal Challenge Cup (1x)

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