2012 HRR: “It’s the same but it’s different”

Light shower at HRR.

HTBS’s Hélène Rémond walked around with her camera at Henley Royal Regatta looking for that particular Henley atmosphere:
“This is Henley. It’s the same but it’s different”, said Lord Mayor of London Alderman David Wootton in his speech before the prize-giving ceremony of the 163rd edition of the Henley Royal Regatta.
And it’s quite true! First held in 1839, HRR is a historic event that is anchored in tradition but it meets with changes. For instance, this year saw the introduction of the Junior Women’s Quadruple Sculls.
On one hand, this is the place where the world’s best crews race. There were 499 entries this year, 133 of which came from overseas. On the other hand it is a major sports festival where many rowing enthusiasts meet. HRR is part of the English social season which follows naturally after Royal Ascot. 250,000 spectators gather for the occasion. Henley actually succeeds in maintaining the atmosphere of an English Garden Party of the Edwardian period.
Lasting for five days, HRR has an increased popularity when the week-end approaches. Arriving by train, you witness a repeated procession of festival-goers.

Each year, at HRR, you discover a variety of elegant clothes. Especially at the Stewards’ Enclosure, a private club where only members and their guests are allowed admission. They are required to dress in conformity with long-established tradition. Men must wear lounge suits, jackets or blazers with flannels and a tie or cravat. Ladies wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee. The public cannot buy a badge to enter the Stewards’. Just opposite, at Phyllis Court, men show they have a soft spot for boaters. Behind the scene of the regatta, north of Butler’s Field – one of the car parks, the British countryside shows its treasures. In another car park, at Henley Cricket Club, visitors have decided to unpack their wicker basket for a car boot picnic.

Watching the races from the Regatta’s Enclosure is an option – this area is accessible to any member of the general public – or you can go down to the riverbank since there is a significant stretch of the rowing course which is not encompassed within any enclosure (see map of the course). The atmosphere there is not as ‘stylish’ as it is at the Stewards’. The style is more informal. There are numerous stalls and stands serving food along the course. By the way, women are allowed to wear whatever they like there. On Saturday evening, this area becomes very lively with music bands playing, people having drinks and partying – some using a fishbowl to serve a very special cocktail with drinking straws. There were additional police officers on patrol to prevent “misbehaviour” due to the consumption of alcohol. Visitors were advised that the police would take a firm approach to incidents or anti-social behaviour. Leaflets were posted at the train stations.
Of course, for the price of a boating license or for the hire of a boat, anyone can go out on the river and enjoy the spectacle from the water. There is also a variety of boats spotted (see photos of the Sebago shoe, etc.) The ceremony is also unchanged at the end of the prize-giving and everybody stands still when the national anthem is played.

For those who could not make it to HRR, the Regatta Radio was providing the listeners with some insight of both the pressures of rowing at the regatta and life in Henley. The Regatta Radio was at the prize-giving ceremony, too. “See you next year”, said Peter McConnell, who was among the ones updating the news on the Radio. HTBS is saying the same thing…

Stewards’ Badges.
Phylis Court and boaters.
Colourful blazers.
Busy river on a Saturday evening.
These young ladies will not pass the dress code.

Walking with high heels over the bridge.

Procession 1.

Procession 2.

Along the riverbank.
Car Boot Picnic.

Henley Cricket Club for Car Boot Picnic.

British countryside.
Henley Designated Public Place Order.
Police patrol.

Having fun pretending to be serious press members on the riverbank.

Anybody can go on the water.

Amphibious car.

Sebago Shoe and boat.

National anthem.

Regatta Radio with Peter McConnell.

This is the end.
(Photograph & copyright: Hélène Rémond)

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