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Henley Royal Regatta (England)

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Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the river Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. It 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.

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      07.07.2006 19:17
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      The social event of the year!

      Ah, the sun, gleaming on the Thames, Pimms o’clock from 9am, the straw boaters and the partying! Alongside Glyndebourne, Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Academy Exhibition, Ascot, Wimbledon and Cowes is Henley Royal Regatta.. Held in the usually quiet town of Henley-On Thames, this is the social event of the summer calendar! Follow my step-by-step guide and you won’t go far wrong...

      A Quick History Of Henley;
      The first Regatta was held in 1839. The original Oxford and Cambridge boat race was held in Henley in 1829 and proved extremely popular. It has since been moved down the river in the direction of London and continues to disturb and swamp Caversham, where the locals are less tolerant but happy to be financially compensated. The course you’ll see at Henley now isn’t the original – this began on the Berkshire side of Temple Island and ran as far as Henley Bridge (by The Angel). Since then, there has been another course from the Buckinghamshire side of Temple Island. This had a couple of bends in it, but rowing is so important in Henley that nature couldn’t stand in the way. These have been straightened.

      Why is it Royal?
      In 1851 Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, became the first royal patron of the regatta, granting it the right to be called the Henley Royal Regatta Since the death of Albert, every reigning monarch has agreed to be the official patron of the event, and members of the royal family frequently attend the race
      Don’t expect to see the Queen though, it’s only the ones you struggle to name that turn up.

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      GETTING TICKETS;
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      These can be bought on the website www.hrr.co.uk or by post (see the address on the website.), you can’t buy them over the phone unfortunately. To get into the Stewards Enclosure, you must be either a member or the guest of a member. And if you’re not already, forget it – the waiting list is looooong and you’ve got some sucking up to do.

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      WHERE TO STAY;
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      ***Minted?***

      In Henley;
      Phyllis Court. This sounds like an old folks home, granted. It is however a Georgian members club where the rooms have a spectacular view of the Thames. This is THE place to stay for the Regatta and is perfect in terms of location. Not as expensive as you’d think, but you’ll need some clout to get in there during the Regatta.
      < http://www.phylliscourt.co.uk/main.html>

      Rent a riverside Town House in Henley. This is a great way to entertain old and new friends at Henley. The most sought after terrace is between Friday Street and The Angel. From the patio gardens of these you have a view of the river and space for a large table and chairs and your crate of Pimms. This is the best way to spend Henley with friends. Check out <http://www.findaproperty.com/agent.aspx?agentid=7902&opt=prop&pid=663870>
      amongst other sites.

      Out of Henley;
      The Great House in Sonning is easily accessible from the river, has a gorgeous garden and had a massive hotel extension for 2006. This is the perfect little oasis of calm after all the bustle of Henley. Not being in Henley itself means that you won’t have to tolerate the screaming, shouting and all night fireworks. My personal preference (when someone else is paying), this is an absolutely stunning hotel with real wow factor – watch the video and check it out at < http://www.greathouseatsonning.co.uk/ great_house_at_sonning_rooms.html>

      ***Skinted?***

      The Catherine Wheel in Henley is a Lloyds no.1 / Wetherspoons – but not as we know it. The prices of this ‘Wetherlodge’ (how can they say that without laughing?) are slightly more than you’d expect from your dingy local Wetherspoons, but this is Henley so the staff are all little posh kids slumming it for fun and dining areas are clean. This used to be a real dump before Wetherspoons took it over – fair play to them. This is bang in the middle of Henley and spitting distance from the river. Really it’s a good location at a fair price. You can book it through laterooms.com and get an even cheaper deal see
      <http://www.laterooms.com/en/hotel-reservations/84277_catherine-wheel -hotel-henley-on-thames.aspx>
      There’s no parking, but this close to the river you don’t need a car when you can take a boat. You can always park out of town and walk in.
      <http://www.infotel.co .uk/901136.htm>

      “HELP! IT’S ALL BOOKED BECAUSE I LEFT IT TOO LATE!”
      It’s okay. I hear your plea! Although, you kind of mumbled the second half of the sentence.
      You should have booked at least 3 months in advance to avoid hearing “Sorry, it’s Regatta week” at every turn. You can always book the Holiday Inn Express at Caversham and follow my directions for a day visit. There’s a reason the Holiday Inn Express won’t be busy but by this point you shouldn’t care and at least you’re on the river. Don’t eat the continental breakfast, go to the nearby Gorge Café. There’s ample parking here and the local area has lots to see. You can go shopping in The Oracle from here too.
      <http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ex/1/en/hd/reard>
      It’s worth remembering that you’ll be right by the ferry stop!

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      JUST FOR THE DAY? / ARRIVING BY BOAT?
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      Get the train to Reading Station – from Reading to Henley, the trains will be unbearably crowded. You can avoid this by leaving through the back of the station (go down in some lifts and across a car park). From the grass outside the car park, looking north over the road, you will see Reading Bridge. You’ve found the Thames and your task is now an easy one. Either catch one of the ferries from the car park by this bridge to Henley,
      (Thames Rivercruise -
      <http://www.thames rivercruise.co.uk/>)

      or follow the Towpath towards Caversham Bridge. At a sign saying ‘Salters’ there is a useful timetable for the steamboats. In previous years these have run like buses – see <http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/salterssteamers/henley.htm>
      For just a couple of quid you can arrive at Henley in style without cramming in a sick-smelling carriage with hundreds of drunks. Be warned, if you do chose the train option, you often have to wait at Twyford to change trains. At all stations, you will be treated like cattle by disgruntled and overworked train staff.

      RULES OF THE BOATS;
      If you follow my advice in the above paragraph and take the boat, please remember;

      Make sure you can consume your own food and drink on board before tucking in. Boats like the Caversham Princess prefer you not to, as they have a well equipped bar.

      Customs and Excise are free to stop any boat and come aboard. They have more powers than the police when it comes to the river.

      There is always a wait between Marsh Lock and the Henley Bridge – your Captain has to radio in and await confirmation before he can pass the bridge. Please be patient, it’s only a river version of air traffic control.

      Don’t complain – There’s no point complaining about boat staff, there’s also no point complaining about one Captain to another, about the hire place to Captains, about the service on one ferry to another etc. The river between Caversham and Henley is a small community and all the boat hire people / owners / Captains / ferry staff are related. At best they’ll just laugh at you.

      It’s traditonal to go up and down the course. This is a fantastic way to view the lie of the land before exploring.

      All the way to Henley, friendly people wave at you along the river. The second you come under Henley bridge, forget it. The boats are suddenly full of stuck up posh spice wannabees who either look down on you because their boat is ‘better’ or dislike you on sight because your boat is better.


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      GENUINELY INTERESTED IN THE ROWING?
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      Well it is World Class! If this is the case, lots of the rowing starts in the week before. Get there a few days early as not only will you be able to see more rowing, the rowers are much more friendly and there are no crowds to block the best views. Most people are there for the drinking though, so please be considerate of their feelings.

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      NOT INTERESTED IN THE ROWING, BUT WOULD LIKE TO MAKE SMALL TALK?
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      Each team takes part in elimination races, two at a time. Sometimes more than one race is going on at once, don’t get confused. E.g. Don’t mistake the winners of one race for the losers of another. Races take approximately 7 minutes to complete, and starts are scheduled every 5 minutes, so there can be two races happening at the same time. If in doubt, look at the faces for disappointment or elation.

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      TIME ON YOUR HANDS?
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      Henley Festival follows hot on the heels of the Regatta – this is a great excuse to stay for a week after and enjoy the decline in hotel prices. The locals come out to party after the bread-and-butter business from the Regatta and the atmosphere is fantastic.

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      WHAT TO WEAR?
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      Suncream for a start – the river breeze is deceptive and can make you think it’s cooler than it is.
      Basically, everything you wouldn’t normally wear. Blazers, Satchels, Straw Boaters, Traditional Floral Dresses. Henley is a step back in time.

      Really, what you wear depends on where in Henley you’re going. Or where you want people to think you’ve been!
      Stewards Enclosure – Women need to wear a smart dress or skirt which must be below the knee and men must have a hat, jacket and tie. Ladies, don’t just recycle from Ascot, this is in poor taste.
      Regatta Enclosure – this is more relaxed, but along the same lines. We’re thinking Pearls, Twinsets, Hats. And there will be lots of 18 year olds dressed like this, not a hoodie in sight.
      Anywhere else – No Trainers. No Mini Skirts, No Low Cut Tops. Most people’s outfits will have cost more than the hotel, food, drink and entry for the Regatta. Anything not in keeping with the spirit of it all makes you stick out a mile and is generally frowned upon. Yes, high sandals can cause a bit of discomfort and the lack of a jumper in the evening air may well lead to hypothermia. However, unless you are a lord or lady, you must realise that properly posh people have a tolerance to cold and discomfort that comes from living in draughty old stately piles.
      No Fake Tan – Posh people are very, very pale. However fashionable this is in the real world, you will look like you’ve been tangoed at Henley.

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      WHAT TO SAY;
      **************************************************************
      Yah.
      Happy Henley.
      See you next Henley.


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      WHAT AND WHO TO WATCH FOR;.
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      The University rowing teams.

      Pincent and Redgrave. Sadly I'm not allowed to libel third parties.

      Uri Geller, George Michael, Carol Vorderman, Geri Halliwell, (used to see George Harrison, but sadly no longer. Still it would be kind of scary if you saw him now.) Rod Stewart, Brian Ferry, assorted minor Royals.

      Chloe / Michael Kors shift dresses. They’re not off ebay!

      Public School crazies leaping off the decking by The Angel On The Bridge.

      Groups of troublemakers, (usually marked out by tattoos, football shirts and a lack of money) being moved on by the police. Normally comic and rarely a serious problem. These ASBO’s ship themselves in by jumping the train and are best avoided as they like to prey on wallets and bags.

      The guy in charge of the Hog Roast. Befriend him for prior warning on when the pig will be ready. It takes 7 and ½ hours to cook and sells out in less than 30 minutes.

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      WHAT’S TO SEE?
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      The Rowing - If you like that sort of thing.

      The Fireworks -on Saturday night, starting at 10pm.

      The Regatta Ball – This is one of the social highlights and is in support of a charity each year. <http://www.cavendish-hospitality.co.uk/events/data/ Henley_Regatta_Ball.html

      The Brakspear Brewery – You’ll notice most of the pubs are Brakspear owned. The original Brakspear Brewery was in Henley and this only closed a few years ago when production moved to Witney. It has to be said, the beer doesn’t taste the same, but you’re unlikely to miss the stench of the brewing! Be sure to try a pint of this for the authentic Henley experience.

      The Live Bands – Approximately halfway down the Riverside, near the Millers Bar. The music starts early evening and there’s something for everyone. It’s nice to dance too, if your heels haven’t crippled you by this point / caused you to sink backwards into soft turf.

      Temple Island – This marks the start of the course and the architecture is based on Pompeii – stunning from the river.
      The River and Rowing Museum – new and fairly interesting. If you’re there for the rowing.

      The town of Henley itself – this has plenty of medieval buildings, including the church of St Mary. This original church dates from the 13th Century and has Victorian restoration. There is also a 14th Century Chantry house next door.

      If you fancy escaping the crowds and getting closer to nature, the Thames Trail national path passes through Henley on its route from the Cotswolds to London.



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      WHERE TO FIND;
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      All cash points are on the main square, although some of the riverside bars take switch, don’t count on it. There is usually a portable Natwest bank at the entrance to the riverside by the Leander Club. This shuts around 6pm, don’t get stranded with no money!

      The Police Station is in the top corner of the market place, next to the Town Hall.

      There are pubs everywhere. They get cheaper, the further you go from the centre.

      The Station – This is fairly close to the river. Walk along the promenade from the Angel to Hobbs boatyard and follow the signposts from there.

      An Offlicence – There’s an Oddbins in the main square by the Police Station. Due to this proximity, expect to show ID during Regatta unless you’re over 45.

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      TAKING KIDS?
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      Children under 14 have free access to most things, check with the individual event organisers though.

      Children over 14 have a little too much access at the Barn Bar, so keep a close eye on your teenager.

      It goes without saying that swimming in the river is both disgusting and dangerous. Basic water safety rules apply at all times and liquid soap is the only answer to little ones trailing their hands in the water.

      The Fireworks on Saturday night are more spectacular than your average display, real pyrotechnics and as they’re launched from the boats, the bridge by The Angel or the promenade by the boatyard are the best free viewing spots.

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      LOCAL ATTRACTIONS;
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      If you get bored or sober, the local area has plenty to offer outside Henley. These are too many to list and would only end up being a digression. A few examples are
      The Oracle, Reading - Shopping Centre.
      Medmenham / Marlow - Cute, sleepy villages populated by celebrities.
      Wylde Court, Hampstead Norreys - A Tropical Rainforest under Glass.
      Oxford University, Oxford - Home of the gleaming spires.

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      GETTING UP TO NO GOOD;
      **************************************************************
      This is dreadfully easy at the Regatta. Provided you have the right clobber on, you can anticipate no police intervention. They will be too busy chasing the wallet lifting pikies, not bothering those who are dressed like 'Daddy's a Lawyer'. Most people will stick to getting thoroughly wasted and abusing the unfortunate enclosure staff, but a little imagination goes a long way.

      There are hundreds of great regatta pastimes, the following were passed on to me as highly recommended.

      THE DECKCHAIR CHALLENGE
      Need some new garden furniture? How many chairs can you nick from Stewards without being caught.
      Record so far stands at two directors and two deck.

      HOW MUCH WEIGHT HAS SHE PUT ON!
      While away the hours spotting people wearing last year's frocks, even though they've put on 16 lbs and are bulging at the seams - extra points if you can correctly identify which day they wore it last year (make sure you make a point of asking)

      BLAZER BINGO
      Just the thing to enhance your regatta experience - make new friends, increase your blazer knowledge and win alcohol!!!
      Clicking on the link below will produce a random bingo card featuring club blazers you may run into at the Royal, simply print off several bingo cards, distribute to your friends and get hunting.
      Each time you see someone in a blazer, simply ask them which club it's from, and if the club is on your list, then cross it off... the first person to get a complete line (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) shouts "Bingo!" and eveyone else playing has to buy them a drink!
      (n.b. spotting a blazer isn't enough, you have to talk to the person wearing it to confirm that it is the one you think it is)
      There is even a link you can visit for your blazer bingo card
      http://www.twrc.rowing.org.uk/hrr/blazerbingo/


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      So, Henley Regatta is a great place for summer fun - posh or not - I hope this review inspires you to go and enjoy the Regatta, especially if it's on your doorstep and you've never been.

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