The History of Henley Royal Regatta

Temple Island Meadows/Remenham Farm has a long association with rowing - one of the earliest photos we have shows tents opposite Temple Island in 1893 and the farm buildings have been used as The Barn Bar during Henley Royal Regatta since the 1930's (although quite often the cattle were still in the beer garden too!).

The success of Henley Royal Regatta has ebbed and flowed over the years. Attendance dropped in the early 1970s, but by 1977 the event had become professionally run and experienced an increase in popularity. Hospitality became common and this success continued until 1989, when it ended with the financial crisis. We have moved with the times and now offer facilities at the Regatta for all tastes and budgets - from riverside picnics to corporate hospitality. As a result the Regatta has maintained its position in the social calendar as the 'must-do event of the English summer season.'

Henley Royal Regatta is a unique course, dependent on wind and river flow. The race is rowed upstream, against the flow of the river, which can vary because of this the Berkshire bank of the river is favoured. The Regatta is timed to perfection; in 1970 a crew from New Zealand had flown 12,000 miles to participate but were three minutes late to the start line and so were too late to race! The course was also host to the first Oxford v Cambridge race. It is one of the few courses were the competitors are cheered from end to end.

Facts about the Regatta

  • It was originally intended as a public attraction with a fair and other amusements but soon changed to become primarily a rowing event.
  • The regatta was initially held over one afternoon but by 1906 had been expanded to cover four days. Its continuing popularity meant that by 1986 the event lasted a full five days.
  • In 1851 HRH Prince Albert became the regatta’s first Royal Patron.
  • Since his death the reigning monarch has always consented to become patron meaning it can use the title Henley Royal Regatta.
  • The first overseas entrant came in 1870 when a team from Trinity College Dublin competed.
  • There have been four racecourses at Henley, the current one being finalised in 1924.
  • Part of the bank was cut away to create a straight course.
  • In 1975 the first female coxswains were permitted to take part.
  • As the regatta predates all international rowing federations it has its own unique rules.
  • Unlike most regattas, Henley operates a knock out draw system with only two boats competing in each race.
  • Races start every five minutes but as they last around seven minutes there is often two races taking place on the course at the same time.
  • Sixteen separate trophies are awarded, the most prestigious being the Grand Challenge Cup.
  • Teams compete from all over the world. The highest number of entrants came in 1998 with 552 crews.

To find out more about the history of Remenham Farm and Temple Island Meadows click here.

To find out more information about the history of Rowing and Regattas on The Henley Reach click here.


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