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Henley Royal Regatta Henley Royal Regatta
by The Ovi Team
2017-03-16 09:09:18
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March 16th 1839; the first Henley Royal Regatta is held. Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. The Royal Regatta is sometimes referred to as Henley Regatta, its original name pre-dating Royal patronage. It should not be confused with the three other regattas rowed over approximately the same course (Henley Women's Regatta, Henley Veterans Regatta and Henley Town and Visitors Regatta), each of which is entirely separate. Like all the major events of the social season, the Henley Regatta has a strict dress-code which must be adhered to if you want access to certain areas of the event.
 
reggat_400The regatta lasts for 5 days (Wednesday to Sunday) 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 British Rowing (the governing body of rowing in England and Wales) and FISA (the International Federation of Rowing Associations). The regatta is organised by the Stewards, who are largely former rowers themselves. Pierre de Coubertin modelled elements of the organisation of the International Olympic Committee on the Henley Stewards.

Entries for the regatta close at six pm sixteen days before the Regatta. In order to encourage a high quality of racing, create a manageable race timetable and to ensure that most crews race only once a day, each event has a limited number of places. Qualifying races are held on the Friday before the regatta. The regatta's Committee of Management decides at its absolute discretion which crews are obliged to qualify; the Committee will examine the form and calibre of the entrants and may choose to pre-qualify some of them.

The qualifying races take the form of a timed processional race up the regatta course, with the fastest crews qualifying. Times are released for non-qualifying crews only. This does not stop an enthusiastic band of unofficial timers with synchronised watches working out how fast their first round opposition might be.

If it is apparent that there are a number of outstanding crews in an event, they may be 'selected' by the Stewards, to prevent them from meeting too early in the competition. The regatta insists that selection is not the same as seeding, the main difference being that there is no 'rank order' as is usually the case in, for example, and a tennis tournament.

The draw is a public event that takes place in the Henley town hall, normally at 3pm on the Saturday before the regatta. For each event the names of all selected crews are placed on pieces of paper which are then drawn at random from the Grand Challenge Cup. These crews are then placed on pre-determined positions on the draw chart, as far apart as possible. The remaining qualifying crews are then drawn from the cup, filling in from the top of the draw chart downwards, until all places have been filled.

Each event in the regatta takes the form of a knockout competition, with each race consisting of two crews racing side by side up the Henley course. The course is marked out by two lines of booms (wooden bars which float on the water, secured between vertical poles), which are placed along the river to form a straight course 2,112 metres long. The course is wide enough to allow two crews to race down with a few metres between them. As such it is not uncommon for inexperienced steersmen or coxswains to crash into the booms, possibly costing their crew the race.

The race begins at the downstream end of Temple Island, where the crews attach to a pair of pontoons. The race umpires will then call out the names of the two crews and start them when they are both straight and ready. Each crew is assigned to row on either the 'Bucks' (Buckinghamshire) or 'Berks' (Berkshire) side of the race course. The coxswains or steersmen are expected to keep their crew on the allocated side of the course at all times during the race, else they risk disqualification. The only exception is when a crew leads by a sizeable margin and is not deemed by the umpire to be impeding the trailing crew.

There are several progress markers along the course. Intermediate times are recorded at two of them - "the Barrier" and "Fawley", in addition to the time to the finish. The regatta has official commentary, which is announced at these points along the course. The commentary is renowned for being unemotional and factual, with the commentator only allowed to announce the rate of striking, which crew is leading, the distance between the crews, and the progress marker which the crews are passing.
At a public meeting in Henley town hall on 26 March 1839, Captain Edmund Gardiner proposed "that from the lively interest which had been manifested at the various boat races which have taken place on the Henley reach during the last few years, and the great influx of visitors on such occasions, this meeting is of the opinion that the establishing of an annual regatta, under judicious and respectable management, would not only be productive of the most beneficial results to the town of Henley, but from its peculiar attractions would also be a source of amusement and gratification to the neighbourhood, and the public in general."
 
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. As the regatta's popularity has grown it has further expanded: to three days in 1886, four days in 1906 and five days in 1986. 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.


     
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