Henley 2021: The Same But Different

30 July 2021

By Tim Koch

At this year’s Henley Royal Regatta, Tim Koch hopes that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Recent emails, press releases and guidance given on the official website have made it clear what changes will be made at Henley Royal Regatta 2021 as a result of the extraordinary times.

As the second half of my recent post, Good Friday, indicated, off the water Henley will be a smaller and simpler affair. Competitors, members and ticketed supporters such as friends and family will each be kept in separate zones, all subject to Coronavirus restrictions.

In the Stewards’ Enclosure, there will be no bandstand, less grandstand seating, the left luggage facility will not operate and there will be no collection point at the Badge Office.

The land usually taken by the public Regatta Enclosure has been re-allocated to the Stewards’ Enclosure to provide some extra space and an additional area for refreshments. However, there will be a new enclosure, The Supporters’ Lawn, on the traditional footprint of the boat tent, next to Leander Club. The intention is that this area will provide the friends and families of competitors a base from where they can cheer on their crews. Currently these tickets have been offered to those clubs that have entered the regatta, but they will soon go on general sale.

The boat tent area will be on the town side on Fawley Meadows and it will be open to competitors only.

More general changes are that no celebratory row pasts will take place and the traditional Regatta Church Service will not be held. Those competitors who will be required to qualify will race on Dorney Lake on Saturday, 7 August – not on the regatta course – and no spectators may attend. The draw will take place on Sunday, 8 August at headquarters and will be live streamed. This is the first time that the draw has not been witnessed in person by competitors in Henley Town Hall.

The site plan for this year’s Henley. “1” is usually the Regatta Enclosure, “16 – 18” is usually the boat tent area. Graphic: hrr.co.uk

Those intending to go into the Stewards’ Enclosure will need to be familiar with the Spectator Covid Code of Conduct that they agreed to when they got their tickets. Notably, they must:

Provide evidence of COVID status showing proof of: full vaccinations, or a negative lateral flow test, or natural immunity.

Have tickets either printed out or on a smartphone (a member’s badge alone is not enough and there are no guest badges). Wristbands will be issued.

There is no change in the dress code for men.

The dress code has been carefully updated to allow women to wear trousers:

Whilst the Dress Code does not specify a required length, trousers are expected to be in keeping with the overarching formal requirements of the Dress Code. No one will be admitted to the Stewards’ Enclosure wearing shorts and therefore trousers must clearly fall below the knee and be full or near to full length…

(Jumpsuits) are welcome in the Stewards’ Enclosure provided they are in accordance with the Dress Code for those wearing trousers. For example, jumpsuits should fall below the knee and be full or near to full length as shorts are not permitted… Also, as a reminder, jeans, leggings and tracksuits are not permitted in the Stewards’ Enclosure… 

(Culottes or divided skirts are permitted) provided they are in accordance with the Dress Code for those wearing trousers. As shorts are not permitted, they must clearly fall below the knee and be full or near to full length… 

Style should still be the rule.

Official guidance now says that those who identify as gender non-binary should wear “any outfit that (they) feel comfortable in that adheres to the dress code…” Those who have a condition that means that are unable to comply with the dress code – or would like further advice – are advised to contact the regatta in advance at email@hrr.co.uk  (making an email address generally known is a fairly new departure for Henley, for years it encouraged communication by telephone and by post – though it still lists its fax number).

The list of entries posted in traditional style. A more legible version is here.

Entries are now closed with 481 crews from nine nations, including 41 from overseas, due to compete at the 2021 Regatta. The nine nations are the UK, Netherlands, USA, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Canada and Saudi Arabia. The last Henley in 2019 saw 660 crews (501 home, 159 overseas) and 2018 had 565 crews (454 home, 111 overseas).

All this may sound rather negative, but a press release put out on 28 July sets a positive scene:

The Regatta continues to reflect the strength of rowing programmes in Britain and internationally, with three new events in 2021 – all for women’s eights. The introduction of the Wargrave Challenge Cup (Club), Island Challenge Cup (Student) and Junior Women’s Eights brings the total number of events to 26… 

For obvious reasons, the number of international crews is down from the record of 159 that came in 2019. But, fresh from the Olympic Regatta in Tokyo this week, where they race in the Lightweight men’s doubles sculls, Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan and Finbarr McCarthy will have their work cut out as they tackle the open class event in the Double Sculls Challenge Cup. O’Donovan was a finalist in the event with his brother, Gary, in their first Regatta in 2018.

Cork Men Float. Lightweights Paul and Gary O’Donovan beat shocked Romanian heavyweights, Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache, at Henley in 2018.

British Olympians returning from Tokyo will be hopping into their club boats. Graeme Thomas… fourth at the Olympics in Tokyo with John Collins, has entered the Diamond Challenge Sculls. 

Olympic silver medallists in the quadruple sculls, Harry Leask, Tom Barras and Jack Beaumont, will join a teammate from Leander in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup.

With the next Olympics – Paris 2024 – just three years away there is no time to lose for the many pressing for selection.

No one knows that better than Jess Leyden, who will be racing with Georgie Brayshaw in the Stonor Challenge Trophy for women’s double sculls. Leyden was in the British women’s quadruple scull but sadly contracted COVID-19 and didn’t make the team. 

The Stonor has one of the highest quality fields and also features Britain’s Saskia Budgett and Holly Nixon, who have plenty of their own motivation after just missing out on selection to race in Tokyo. Saskia, daughter of Richard Budgett, Henley Steward, Chief Medical Officer for the IOC and 1984 Olympic gold medallist, is in Tokyo as a reserve.

Balanced Budgetts. Dad Richard (second left) at Los Angeles in 1984, daughter Saskia (third left) at Henley in 2019.

In the Remenham Challenge Cup, the event for Open women’s eights, the Dutch national women’s eight, Hollandia Roeiclub, Netherlands, will not hold back after also missing out on selection for the Olympics by one place at the last Olympic qualifying regatta in Lucerne in mid-May.

In the Stewards’ Challenge Cup, the men’s coxless fours, the next generation of British and Dutch rowers look likely to battle it out…

Domestically, a very strong entry across a number of events including Oxford Brookes University who will be looking for their best ever Regatta. The junior events will not disappoint either as the entries have remained relatively high and we are expecting some great races. A school crew from St Joseph’s U.S.A. is looking to rattle the cage of Eton College and St Paul’s in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup…

Henley Royal Regatta runs from Wednesday, 11 August to Sunday, 15 August. Racing will be streamed live on the regatta’s YouTube channel.

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