Discover Henley Royal Regatta
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.
That from the lively interest which has 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.
Captain Gardiner at the inaugural meeting in the Town Hall 26th March 1839.
Rowing at Henley
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 the U.K. (British Rowing) or of the International Rowing Federation (F.I.S.A.). However, it is proud of its distinction of being officially recognised by both these bodies.
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 90 races on some of the five days. To complete the programme by a reasonable hour, races are started at 5-minute intervals.
Length of the Course & Number of Events
The length of the Course is 1 mile 550 yards, which is 112 metres longer than the standard international distance of 2,000 metres. It takes approximately seven minutes to cover, so there are often two races at once on the Course for much of the day. The number of races is, of course, reduced on each successive day, leaving only the Finals to be rowed on the last day.
There are 23 events in total: 6 classes of race for Eights, 6 for Fours (4 coxless and 2 coxed), 6 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. In 2012 a new event was introduced for Junior Women's Quadruple Sculls.
In 2004, there were significant changes to the Coxed Fours events. The top event, The Prince Philip Challenge Cup, was withdrawn due to declining interest internationally. There are now two events at the lower level – The Britannia Challenge Cup, restricted to just club crews, and The Prince Albert Challenge Cup, an event for student crews.
In 2017 three new events for women were introduced (The Women's Fours, The Women's Pairs and The Women's Double Sculls) offering equal events for men and women in the open categories.
Recent years have seen entries of international quality from Australia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Poland, the Netherlands, the USA, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine, South Africa, Slovenia, Greece, China and Great Britain.
Every year, Henley is visited by many crews from abroad.
In 2016, 165 crews were from overseas.
The total cost of staging the five-day Regatta is now near £3 million a year. About 85% of this is derived from subscriptions paid by Members of the Stewards' Enclosure and their purchases of additional badges and services for their guests.
Membership of the Stewards' Enclosure is limited to approximately 6,500. There is a long waiting list (over 1,000) to join, from which preference is given to those who have competed at the Regatta.
The Regatta is one of the few major sporting occasions today which is run without any reliance upon commercial sponsorship or outside subsidy.