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A sign that summer is coming. Members of the Stewards’ Enclosure have recently received their badges for the 2015 Henley Royal Regatta, 1 – 5 July.

Tim Koch writes:

A large part of the non-rowing world probably thinks that Henley Royal Regatta is run by a lot of old gentlemen whose most recent contact with technology was trying to tune a wireless into the BBC Home Service. Even some oarsmen suspect that the Regatta suffers from ‘technofear’ when they discover that it cannot generally be communicated with by e-mail. However, like most things that have been around for a long time and appear to be the same as they always were, Henley survives by slowly and subtly changing, adopting reforms only when they are certain that they are not part of some passing fashion. Traditionally, the Stewards, who run the Regatta, take delight in being a little ‘cussed’ and behind the times but ultimately they will act in the best interests of the event and adapt to a changing world. After a late, long and slow introduction, women’s rowing is now an integral part of Henley and any new events are likely to be for women. In this pioneering spirit, the Stewards have now decided to recognise that both the internet and moving pictures are probably here to stay. An e-mail recently sent to members of the Stewards’ Enclosure announced:

After a break of more than 30 years, the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta are excited to announce that live coverage of all five days of racing at the 2015 Regatta will be produced in High Definition and streamed online, globally.

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The start.

The Regatta website had this Frequently Asked Questions section about the innovation:

What is happening?
The Committee of Management of Henley Royal Regatta has contracted Sunset+Vine, a leading international television production company, to produce, in High Definition, live coverage of the racing on all five days of the 2015 Regatta. The pictures will be streamed on the HRR website, on the HRR Official YouTube channel and to screens that will be in the Fawley, Members and Floating Grandstands. Sunset+Vine will be using cameras of an international television broadcast standard, to cover the whole of the race course as well as the atmosphere off the water.

Where can I watch?
The live stream will be on the HRR website and the HRR Official YouTube Channel. This will be free to view, and streamed wherever in the world that YouTube is available. Members and their guests attending the Regatta itself will be able to watch the live racing in the Stewards Enclosures whilst in the Grandstands.

Can I watch it on my mobile/tablet when elsewhere at the Regatta?
This is really a question for mobile service providers as data delivery capacity is not within the control of the Regatta. However, we expect that due to the limitations of mobile network coverage in Henley during the Regatta, watching on handheld devices is unlikely to be possible in either the Enclosures or the car parks.

Will every race be covered in full?
From Wednesday up to Friday lunchtime most of the races are at five-minute intervals, whereas the average length of a race is approximately seven minutes. Each race will therefore be quickly edited to show the start and a clip from early stages before joining the race live for the second half of the course. From Friday lunchtime onwards when the Regatta moves to 10-minute intervals it is our intention that every race will be streamed live from start to finish.

The finish.

Can I watch races after they have gone out live?
All the races will be edited individually and posted on the HRR Official YouTube Channel and put into playlists by event and day in 1080p High Definition. There will be a 20-minute round up highlights programme that will be available on demand within an hour of the end of each day’s racing.

Will there be commentary?
The Stewards’ Enclosure commentary will remain unchanged. On the live stream there will be a different commentary team and they will cover every race. The pictures in the grandstands will be shown without sound.

As a competitor can I watch the coverage anywhere on site?
Work is ongoing to assess the feasibility of the installation of a screen on which competitors can watch the racing live without risk of overcrowding. Space in the boat tents, changing rooms, rest room and warm up areas is already fully utilised, but the Stewards hope to find a practical solution.

Why are the Stewards doing this?
When asked in the Membership survey in 2010, more than half of the Members of the Stewards’ Enclosure expressed an interest in seeing live coverage of the Regatta produced. The Regatta has been broadcast before. Pathé, the BBC and ITV have all produced coverage of the event. The last Regatta covered live was in 1968, and the last Regatta from which highlights were broadcast was in 1976. In fact much of this footage is already on YouTube. Advances in production technology since the 1970s (including for example the development of cameras which transmit pictures over radio frequencies rather than cables) mean that the Regatta can now produce live coverage more efficiently. The Committee of Management believes it to be important that we enhance the experience of the Regatta enjoyed by our Members and their guests, by providing live coverage of the racing in the Stewards’ Enclosure. The Committee of Management also believes it to be important, in a digital age, to provide the opportunity for Members and their guests, as well as competitors and a wider audience, to enjoy the opportunity to view the racing away from the Regatta both during the event and afterwards. In order to maximise the opportunity for as wide an audience as possible to enjoy the racing at the Regatta, including the many rowing fans around the world who cannot visit Henley in person, the decision has therefore been taken to broadcast the coverage on YouTube, the world’s largest video platform.

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Smile, you’re on TV!

This is a bold but carefully thought out move by the Regatta. I am particularly pleased that the Stewards’ Enclosure commentary will be unchanged and that the grandstand pictures will be shown without sound. Most importantly, within the Stewards’ Enclosure, screens will only be installed in the grandstands. One of the clever aspects of the Enclosure is that members and their guests can watch racing or eat and drink – but not both at the same time. If screens were put in the bars and restaurants, the interruptions would spoil what the Stewards call ‘the unique social atmosphere’. Those clever people who run Henley Royal Regatta may have found a way of successfully maintaining an Edwardian Garden Party in a Digital Age.

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