Henley Royal Regatta – Not As Good As It Was Since 1840
28 June 2022
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch looks forwards by looking backwards.
The 2022 Henley Royal Regatta starts today, Tuesday, 28 June. Last year’s COVID-affected smaller and simpler Regatta had such apparent blasphemies as big video screens where the boat tents should be and pizzas on sale in a corner of the Stewards’ Enclosure. It drew curmudgeonly remarks from a few who seemed oblivious to the fact that, in 2021, it was Henley Lite or nothing. However, complaining about Henley Regatta is nothing new and it no doubt started at the second Henley in 1840. Thankfully though, this year’s Royal is stressing “Traditional venue layout and entry” and it notes that:
After being cancelled in 2020 for the first time outside of the World Wars, and hosting an event last August constrained by COVID, the Regatta is back in its traditional place in the summer season for the first time since 2019…
Entries closed… with 739 crews from 17 nations (including Great Britain) registered, beating the previous record of 660 in 2019. There are 172 international entries, with 66 from the USA and 37 from Australia – all records too.
With a growing number of events and races, the Stewards had already decided to add an extra day to the Regatta – extending from five to six and so beginning on the Tuesday of Henley Week. Chairman Sir Steve Redgrave explained:
One of the reasons for going to six days was to ease the pressure of long racing days on our volunteers… But because of the scale of the Open entry this year, we’ve had to expand a lot of the events beyond the prescribed number we normally have, so that extra day is vital as there will still be a full schedule.
As I have stated many times before, an event like Henley must change if it is to appear to stay the same – and indeed, to survive at all. No one and nothing can hold out against sporting, social and economic developments in the wider world (though, hopefully, pizzas will not return to the Stewards’ Enclosure).
However, as the following archive pictures illustrate, however much Henley does change, it still manages to retain its special character.