9 July 2020
By Daniel Walker
After the unusual diversions of a Henley Royal Regatta that never was, I have returned to my “Tideway Day of …” series of photographs that were posted on Twitter during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period. However, this time I have additionally selected from the pictures I didn’t use. Because I had no idea as to how long the complete ban on rowing would continue, I prepared considerably more images than were eventually needed.
As our minds are still on Henley, I have chosen those images that featured the Henley stretch of the Thames but, intentionally, none are from Henley Royal Regatta, rather they show scenes from some of the other competitions that happen on the same stretch of river.
The original series on Twitter ran for 52 days finishing on the day that a limited resumption of rowing (single sculling and “household” doubles only) was announced. The “unused” images run to a further 44 pictures.
This picture encapsulates the wonderful Henley Masters Regatta for me – blue skies, calm water and the burble of large marine engines – it was taken early on the morning of the first day in 2018 as the umpires were getting ready for the first race. Henley Masters Regatta takes place the week after Henley Royal, and we are lucky enough to both use the Henley Royal launches for umpiring and the course booms, which are still in place and so the feel and atmosphere is exhilarating and intimidating.
Tim Koch wrote a short piece about Henley Masters back in July 2015, including (to my delight) a picture of me about to umpire the Open Masters D eights semi-final.
The launch Bosporus is owned by Oxford University Boat Club and is thought to be the fastest of all the launches in regular use for the Henley stretch regattas, though I wonder if the two latest boats, recently acquired by the Royal Regatta (Artemisia 2019 and Boadicea 2020) might challenge that assertion – with luck and a fair wind we will find out next year.
This picture shows the umpire about to start a race at Henley Women’s Regatta in 2019. Henley Women’s Regatta uses the same start as Henley Royal but finishes at Remenham Club, which is a distance of 1500m, compared to the 2112m of the Royal.
Attempting to show the intensity of the start, this is an image I have tried to capture many times and somehow never quite achieved – more work required! This is Enniskillen Royal Boat Club’s second or third stroke off the start at Henley Women’s in 2019.
Again, we are at Henley Women’s Regatta, the race is in progress and the scullers are passing the end of the Island, a first marker on the course. The swans appear unconcerned by either the rowers ahead or the umpire’s launch bearing down on them.
The 2018 Henley Women’s Regatta was lucky enough to have two flypasts from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: on the Saturday, the Hurricane visited and on the Sunday the Lancaster. The first picture here is one of my favourites of the Lancaster circling beyond the line of trees that surround the course. I have no pictures of the Hurricane as it arrived slightly ahead of schedule and I was the race umpire on the course as it flew overhead, a spine-tingling moment I suspect I will never experience again.
These pictures were posted to Twitter on the day the BBMF made a flypast in honour of Captain (now Honorary Colonel) Tom Moore.
At the end of my umpiring shift, I cadged a lift back down the course on board the launch with the next umpire on duty. This was taken towards the end of the race with almost the whole of the course in view.
A note about the pictures:
Over the years my cameras have changed fairly often, but the majority of the pictures used here were actually taken with the camera built into my phone, usually an iPhone of some sort. I additionally use a pocket-sized point and shoot, a Canon S120, that provides slightly more flexibility than the iPhone whilst still being incredibly convenient. If I want still more control or, most likely, a longer lens, then I used first a Canon DSLR but have recently switched to a Fuji X-T20.