HRR 2020: Henley at Home

In 1936, “Punch” magazine published this idea of how to enjoy the Boat Race from your armchair.

4 July 2020

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch suggests how, what should have been the semi-final and finals days at Henley, can be enjoyed at home.

The Henley Stewards have not been idle during lockdown and have recently announced:

This year we might not be able to enjoy the Regatta from the banks of the Thames but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience the Henley we all know and love. Dust off your blazer, get dressed up Henley style and join us for ‘Henley at Home’. 

The HRR YouTube channel will bring you the best of the race coverage from the last five years alongside interviews with Henley legends past and present…. There will be a total of ten hours of content streamed ‘as live’ on our YouTube channel over what would have been the Regatta weekend. The action will get underway at midday on Saturday, 4th July….

On the weekend itself we would love the Henley family from around the world to share photos of their garden parties, outfits and picnic celebrations. Share your photos at #HenleyAtHome.

Click here to view the digital programme for Saturday and Sunday, here to download a pdf copy and here to view the Regatta’s YouTube Channel.

Get a taster from the Henley at Home promo video below:

Of course, it is not only the Henley of 2019 that can be revisited on YouTube. Below are a few of the most watchable films and videos of regattas past that are on this the most popular of the video-sharing platforms.

Remarkably, there is one minute of film online showing the 1899 Regatta. In a continuous static camera shot, two scullers cross the finish line and their wake is immediately swamped with skiffs, punts and canoes. Booms had been introduced in that year to stop this intrusion, but they were only placed over part of the course. The picture shows the final of the Grand in 1902 when Third Trinity beat Leander.
A two-minute cinema newsreel of the 1957 Regatta shows the finals of the Silver Goblets (won by Leander’s Chris Davidge and Tony Leadley), of the Diamond Sculls (between two greats – and old rivals – Sam Mackenzie of Australia and Vyacheslav Ivanov of the USSR, pictured above), and of the Grand Challenge Cup (between two American crews, Cornell University and Yale University).
The three-minute newsreel for 1964 is most notable for its coverage of the row-past by the 1914 Harvard Junior Varsity crew who won the Grand 50 years before. Famously, the sub for 1914 still did not get to row in 1964. The picture shows a crew reunion in 1949.
A 50-minute 1973 BBC documentary in the ‘Man Alive’ series titled ‘Jolly Boating Weather’   could (save for some very 1970s fashions and hair styles) come from any of the post-war years. It is proof, were it needed, what a rubbish decade the 1970s was and how far we have come in social, economic and rowing terms since then. The picture is from 1972 and could be titled ‘Oriel meets Carnaby Street’.
It is always interesting to ‘see ourselves as others see us’ and a 1978 American film follows the fortunes of the ‘Syracuse University Crew Teams’ entered in the Ladies’ and the Grand. Allowing for ad breaks, there is Part 1 and Part 2. The picture shows the Syracuse crew that won the Varsity Openweight Eights at the 1978 Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s championship and who went on to compete in the Grand at Henley.
Things had improved from the 1970s by the time Channel 4 made a 50-minute documentary on the 1989 ‘Sesquicentenary’ Regatta, though the event had still not yet reached the high standards expected on and off the water today. It starts off with the usual things aimed at a non-rowing audience but, at about eight minutes in, it does some nice historical stuff. Also, it is always worth seeing the late Chairman (pictured) in full ‘Coni mode’.
To mark the 2011 HTBS ‘Staff Outing’ to Henley, I made a ten-minute video of the occasion. Pictured is, from the left, HTBS founder and editor, Göran Buckhorn, myself in the centre and veteran journalist and author, Chris Dodd, on the right. Photo: Hélène Rémond.
Finally, some light relief, if required. In 2013, the controversial British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen (right in the picture), visited Henley with a camera crew.

Baron Cohen, a Cambridge graduate, was in his guise as ‘Borat’, a fictitious Kazakh journalist interviewing and interacting with real people who believe that he is a confused foreigner with little or no understanding of British customs. He sets the tone with his introductory piece-to-camera: ‘I come to Henley Regatta where old English gentlemen look at young muscly boy in a boat shaped like a man’s hràng. This is most special event of Summer Season. I come to find out why.’

Although crude and puerile, if the viewer is in on the joke and the interviewee is not, it is difficult not to laugh.


  1. I enjoyed the YouTube film of your visit to Henley, but am wondering why it is set up as “unlisted” rather than “public” as this makes it impossible to find again in any searches?

    • Teresa, the HTBS video from 2011 has now been uploaded on the HTBS YouTube channel and made public.

  2. I think it’s possible to identify the two scullers in the 1899 clip. My stop watch gives the winning margin as about 5½ seconds. Looking at the results of the races in the 1899 Diamonds, the only one that seems to fit is the quarter-final in which Harry Blackstaffe of Vesta beat Charles Fox of Pembroke College Oxford by “just over two lengths” (according to the HRR record book) or “two and a half lengths” (The Times).

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