HRR 2020: Plus ça change

A sign that normally hangs from Henley Bridge during the Regatta. Sadly, this year there really are ‘no rowing craft’.

1 July 2020

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch marks the fact that today should have been the first day of Henley 2020.

A not unexpected press release was issued by Henley Royal Regatta on 24 March:

With much sadness and regret, the Committee of Management has unanimously agreed that the 2020 Regatta must be cancelled. We have also ruled out the possibility of staging the Regatta at a future stage this year.

All this adds to the feeling that the entire year has been cancelled. However, the Regatta has survived two World Wars and numerous economic depressions and it will survive this. Referring to the next regatta in 2021, Henley ended its announcement by saying:

The grass in the Enclosures will be as green as ever, the racing as excellent as ever and with your support, the event as strong as ever.

To paraphrase a quote commonly attributed to Gustav Mahler, ‘Tradition should be used, not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame.’ This ‘transfer of fire’ is something that Henley Royal Regatta, in many ways the epitome of tradition, does very well. Henley manages to be both an Edwardian Garden Party and a relevant 21st century sporting event. Admittedly, in many of the 191 years since its inception, HRR has not always responded quickly or well to social, economic and sporting changes. Sometimes it was cussed for the sake of it, sometimes it yielded to conservative voices that had agendas other than sporting ones. Things began to change during the years that Peter Coni was Chairman and today the thriving event is run by young(ish) and innovative men and women who recognise that the only way for an institution such as Henley to appear to be unchanging is to constantly evolve. Were proof needed of this, the following pictures show that the more that Henley Royal Regatta changes, the more it stays the same.

Below Henley Bridge


Checking the boat


Going afloat

2019, Lawrenceville School, New Jersey, USA, were competitors in the Princess Elizabeth.

Visitors from Connecticut

Yale University, contestants in the Temple in 2018, pass the former Hobbs’ Boathouse and the former White Hart Hotel.
Kent School, winners of the Thames Cup in 1933, pass Hobbs’ and the White Hart.

Young Ladies

2017, Oxford Brookes.

Signs of the times


Swan upping

The ‘Geese Police’ from the charity ‘Swan Lifeline’, 2012.



Picnicking 1

In a car park, 2018.
In a carriage park, c.1911.

Picnicking 2

On the river, 2013.
On the river, 1920s.

Police presence


On the start

2017 – Staines and Thames.
1893 – Thames and Trinity Hall.

Last few strokes

2019, Monmouth School and Kent School in the Princess Elizabeth.
1934, Trinity College, Dublin, and Jesus College, Cambridge, in the Ladies’ Plate.

Celebrating a good year

2018: Oxford Brookes proves both crews for the final of the Ladies.
1953: The RAF wins both the Wyfolds and the Thames.

Going for silver

2015: Western Rowing Club, Canada, collect the Remenham Challenge Cup.
From a time when ladies could give – but not receive – Henley silverware.


  1. The heavy security detail protecting the silverware in the cabinet is 1919. The trophy top centre is the King’s Cup.

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