Good Signs…

Members of Henley’s Stewards’ Enclosure have recently received their badges for the 2021 Regatta.

11 April 2021

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch and Daniel Walker are heading towards the light.

There is an old joke that “the light at the end of the tunnel” is sometimes just a train hurtling towards you. However, in Britain at present there is hope that the distant luminosity in the long, dark subterranean passage that is the COVID pandemic is actually a sign of better times ahead. 

Following the country’s exceptionally rapid and successful vaccine programme, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the next stage of England’s roadmap for easing Coronavirus restrictions will take place on 12 April. Non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality reopen for the first time in months and the “stay local” message will end, meaning some domestic holidays will be possible. It is hoped that by 21 June, all legal limits on social contact will be removed. All this clearly has implications for the return of regattas both big and small. 

Henley Masters 2021 will take place on its pre-COVID set dates.

The British Rowing Competition Calendar shows those regattas that are currently cancelled, rescheduled or are keeping to their original date. HTBS previously reported that Henley Women’s Regatta has been rescheduled to 2 – 4 July 2021 and that Henley Masters plans to keep to 9 – 10 July 2021. 

On 10 April, Henley Royal announced that it would not after all be going to six days this year and would keep to its Wednesday – Sunday format, 11 – 15 August. Two weeks previously, it put out a statement on the 2021 Regatta. In part summery, it said:

We will include all 26 events in the programme, including those planned to be newly introduced in 2020 and in 2021. However, the Regatta will most likely be staged with limited site infrastructure and reduced spectator attendance…

We regret that these dates in August present an insurmountable challenge to some school and university boat clubs, and in particular to athletes aspiring to international representation at the Junior World Rowing Championships, currently due to be held in the same week….

[Ultimate] feasibility will remain uncertain for some months. So the possibility remains that staging the Regatta at Henley this year may not be possible, and in the worst case scenario, the risk of outright cancellation remains.

Hammersmith Amateur Regatta (HAR) in action in a normal year.

With the cancelling of the four events that would have preceded it, on 24 April Hammersmith Amateur will be the first regatta of the truncated and peculiar 2021 season. Daniel Walker explains how HAR has been adapted to strange times:

After a long, long winter without a lot of rowing and certainly without any competitions, Hammersmith Amateur Regatta is hoping to be the first British Rowing affiliated regatta to take place in the UK as the COVID pandemic restrictions start to be eased. In the last year, there has only been a single competition on the Tideway – Pairs Head in October 2020. 

Organised by a volunteer committee drawn from the three local rowing clubs – Auriol Kensington Rowing Club, Furnivall Sculling Club and Sons of the Thames Rowing Club – since 1924 the regatta has taken place on the stretch of the Thames close by Hammersmith Bridge finishing at Auriol Kensington Rowing Club and using a course that turned with the tide.

A happy Claires Court School cox at Hammersmith 2017.

Not content with the challenges introduced by a global pandemic, the gods have also inflicted the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to test the resolve of the committee. Accordingly, this year’s regatta will be rather shorter (a half-day only) and will race on an ebb tide course starting near Chiswick Pier and finishing at the watchtower belonging to Corinthians Sailing Club and close by Sons of the Thames Rowing Club, a short distance upriver from the usual finish. The regatta will only be open to entries from crews representing British Rowing affiliated clubs in the upper Tideway area, i.e. those based above Hammersmith Bridge and who are able to row to and from the regatta course. Racing will be run on a winner stays on basis to minimise land-based activity around boating and landing. The organisers wish to actively discourage spectators and ask friends and family to stay away and that competitors disperse as soon as possible after competing.

Concerns over COVID and the integrity of Hammersmith Bridge have impacted on the 2021 Hammersmith Amateur Regatta. However, 70 years before, no one seemed concerned about young boys walking the greasy pole during the 1951 HAR. Film evidence of this health and safety violation is on the BFI site. (Unfortunately, the film cannot be viewed outside the UK.)

There are plenty of hurdles still to be crossed but here is hoping that Hammersmith is merely the first of many regattas we can look forward to this summer.

More details are on the HAR website and @HammReg. Entries close at 12:00 on Sunday 18 April 2021 or when fully subscribed. 

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