The Henley Royal Regatta is an exciting and stylish boat-racing event held annually in Henley-on-Thames. Attended by thousands of spectators every year, it attracts competitors from all over the world. This year it is being held from June 29th through July 3rd.
History of The Henley Royal Regatta
Established in 1839, the regatta became known as The Henley Royal Regatta in 1851 when Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert became its first Royal Patron. It quickly established itself as a major event in the iconic London ‘season’ and is even more popular today.
You can watch the Henley Royal Regatta at various points along the River Thames as well as from aboard boats that run up and down the river. There are also more exclusive venues like the Steward’s Enclosure and the Regattta Enclosure to watch the action from. Across the river there is a private member’s club called Phyllis Court from which there is an excellent view of the racing.
Some of the places from where you can watch the Henley Royal Regatta, such as the Stewards Enclosure and Phyllis Court, have very strict traditional dress codes. Ladies must wear dresses or skirts with a hem below the knee and hats are encouraged. Gentlemen must wear suits, or chinos or flannels with blazers. Many men also wear traditional Panama hats, giving the regatta a real vintage flavour.
The Regatta Experience
My family and I attend the Henley Royal Regatta at Phyllis Court (where we are members) at least one day every year, often taking friends along as guests. The races start early so we normally arrive by 10.30am. There’s plenty to see and do and it’s lots of fun cheering on the various teams that are racing. I love watching the private boats and launches sail up and down the river, their passengers getting a great view of the action. From canoes to yachts, the boats range from the gorgeous to the quirky. People watching and fashion spotting is also a popular pastime!
Food and Drink at the Henley Royal Regatta
Like so many of the events of the British summer season, food and drink play an important role in the celebrations at the regatta. Well dressed ladies and gentlemen share pitchers of Pimms, a gin based cocktail served with fruit and mint, one of the most popular tipples. There’s a break in the racing at both lunchtime and teatime. In the more formal venues, lunch is generally a three or four course affair and with high tea served only a few hours later, you definitely never feel hungry at the Henley Royal Regatta!
Whether you are a fan of boat racing or not, it’s hard not to be caught up in the atmosphere of this iconic event. Although the world is a very different place today than it was in 1839, for a few days each year The Henley Royal Regatta takes you back in time in style.