Henley Royal Regatta - 2006
 Henley Royal Regatta



1921 - HRH The Prince of Wales with W D Mackenzie
1921 - A Royal Visitor




History & Organisation




Henley Regatta was first held in 1839 and has been held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. Originally staged by the Mayor and people of Henley as a public attraction with a fair and other amusements, the emphasis rapidly changed so that competitive amateur rowing became its main purpose.

The 1839 Regatta took place on a single afternoon but proved so popular with oarsmen that the racing lasted for two days from 1840. In 1886 the Regatta was extended to three days and to four in 1906. Since 1928 its increased popularity meant entries exceeded the permitted numbers in several events, and so qualifying races are now held in the week before the Regatta to reduce the number of entries to the permitted maximum. In 1986 the Regatta was extended to five days, with an increase in the maximum entry for certain events. 



Royal Patronage

In 1851 H.R.H. Prince Albert became the Regatta's first Royal Patron. Since the death of The Prince Consort, the reigning Monarch has always consented to become Patron. This patronage means the Regatta can be called Henley Royal Regatta.

During the course of its history, the Regatta has often been honoured by visits of members of the Royal Family, the most recent including those  of H.R.H. The Princess Royal in 1999 and HRH The Duke of Gloucester in 2004.



H.R.H The Princess Royal during her visit in 1977


Rowing at Henley

As the Regatta was instituted long before national or international rowing federations were established, it occupies a unique position in the world of rowing. It has its own rules and is not subject to the jurisdiction either of the governing body of rowing in England (the Amateur Rowing Association) or of the International Rowing Federation (F.I.S.A.), but is proud of the distinction of being officially recognised by both these bodies.

Unlike multi-lane international regattas, Henley still operates a knock-out draw with only two boats racing in each heat. This entails the organisation of up to 100 races on some of the five days. To complete the programme by a reasonable hour, races are started at 5-minute intervals.
The length of the Course is 1 mile 550 yards, which is slightly longer than the standard international distance of 2,000 metres. It takes approximately seven minutes to cover, so that there are often two races at once on the Course for much of the day. The number of races is, of course, reduced on each successive day, leaving only the Finals to be rowed on the last day.

There are 19 events in total: 6 classes of race for Eights, 5 for Fours (3 coxless and 2 coxed), 4 for Quadruple Sculls, and races for Coxless Pairs and Double Sculls. In addition there are single sculling races for both men and women. 1993 was the first year women competed over the Course in a full Regatta event when a new event for women single scullers was inaugurated. In 2000 an open event for Womenís Eights was introduced, whilst in 2001 there were new events for Womenís and Menís Quadruple Sculls.

Last year brought crews of international quality from Canada, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, U.S.A., Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Denmark, South Africa and Great Britain. Every year Henley is visited by many crews from abroad and last year 90 crews were from overseas.

There is a magnificent array of Challenge Trophies, the most prized being the Grand Challenge Cup for Eights which dates from the first year of the Regatta. In 2003 there was the presentation of the new Princess Grace Challenge Cup for Womenís Quadruple Sculls and in 2006 Imperial College London has presented the new Prince Albert Challenge Cup for Men's Student Coxed Fours.




Since 1884 Henley Royal Regatta has been organised by a self-electing body of Stewards, at present numbering about 50, most of whom are well known and successful rowers and scullers. The Stewards' practical application of their knowledge of the sport to the actual running of the Regatta undoubtedly makes a great contribution to its success. A Committee of Management, consisting of 12 of the Stewards, is elected annually and is responsible for all planning and detailed organisation.

The Stewards' primary consideration in all their decisions is the best interests of those who are competing in the races.


The total cost of staging the five-day Regatta is now around £1.8 million a year. About 75% of this is derived from subscriptions paid by Members of the Stewards' Enclosure and their purchases of additional badges for their guests.

Membership of the Stewards' Enclosure is limited to approximately 6,500. There is a long waiting list to join from which preference is given to those who have competed at the Regatta.

The Regatta is one of the few major sporting occasions today which is run without any reliance upon commercial sponsorship or outside subsidy.

Heritage & Conservation

The Regatta owns the land on which the Enclosures and car parks are situated and some of the land on the opposite (Buckinghamshire) bank. To preserve the natural beauty of the Henley Reach of the Thames, every part of the Regatta's installations, both on land and in the river, is removed after each Regatta and then re-erected the following year so that there is no trace of the Regatta between September and March.

In 1987 the Stewards bought Temple Island, the famous landmark at the start of the Regatta Course. Extensive renovation of The Temple, built by James Wyatt in 1771, has been completed and the important wall paintings in the main room have regained their original appearance.

The Regatta has a long-term programme of conservation and tree planting notably on the downstream portion of Temple Island and also upstream on the Buckinghamshire bank. This area of water meadow has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.S.I.) and provides a managed sanctuary for flora and fauna.

In 1992 the Stewards acquired the small island, on the Buckinghamshire bank, upon which the boathouse of Fawley Court once stood.

The Stewards' Charitable Trust

This Trust was established by the governing body of Henley Royal Regatta in June 1988 and had the avowed principal intention of providing funds to encourage and support young people (still receiving education or undergoing training) to row or scull.

Since its inception the Trust has disbursed over £1.2 million in the pursuit of these aims, with an emphasis having been placed upon schemes which favour the development of the sport amongst boys and girls at the grass roots.

The Trust receives the bulk of its money from substantial annual donations made by Henley Royal Regatta and its trading arm Henley Royal Regatta Limited. However, it also benefits from the generosity of other donors, both corporate and individual, among whom have featured several Members of the Stewards' Enclosure.

Following on from a significant level of support to Project Oarsome, the Amateur Rowing Association's initiative to bring rowing to schools with no previous history of rowing, the Trust is now fully funding and supporting a Coaching Scholarship scheme. To date seven such Scholarships have been awarded with the individuals coaching Project Oarsome youngsters in seven different regions of the country.


Regatta Headquarters

The administration of the Regatta is carried out from Regatta Headquarters, immediately upstream from Henley Bridge. The building, which was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in April 1986, was designed by Terry Farrell. It provides office accommodation at road level, together with storage space at river level for all the equipment used to mark out the Course. The design of the building has been widely welcomed as a most attractive addition to this reach of the Thames.

Further information is available from
D. G. M. Grist,
Henley Royal Regatta,
RG9 2LY.


Regatta Headquarters1986

The view from inside


  © Henley Royal Regatta 1998 - 2006

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