Making a Splash at Henley Royal Regatta
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
This year was the centenary year of the King's Cup at Henley and what a spectacular event it was!
My good friend Gent of Oxford and I just managed to secure tickets for the regatta enclosure a week before attending, so I strongly urge you to book sooner rather than later. You don’t need to be in an enclosure or purchase a ticket for entry to the regatta as there is plenty to do along the stretch of river towards the start line such as street food venders, merchandise stalls, mobile clubs and pubs, however, it is nice to have a place to leave your bags, return to for reasonable bathroom facilities and have reserved spectator seating by the water’s edge.
On arrival to Henley-On-Thames, a brisk train ride from London Paddington station you are met by a series of rail staff who are all eager to point you in the right direction, a short walk down the river’s edge, over the famous Henley bridge and you are there! Feast your eyes on the regatta shop, a Moet Chandon Imperial Bar, Little Lion Meadow food court and the colourful striped team blazers, ladies wearing fascinators and designer dresses and a brass band playing.
The Regatta enclosure is next in line on the river after the Steward’s enclosure. You can only gain access to this area with the use of your lapel tag, as entrance and exits are closely guarded by more than one security staff. No external food, drink or picnic matter is allowed in to the enclosure and you may occasionally get stopped for a routine bag check, all appropriate considering the size and splendour of the event. There is an option to leave your bag with a cloakroom should you wish to feel more comfortable wandering around.
The banks of the river are lined with 1 mile of white marquees from the start to the finish line. Each enclosure offering something slightly different and have varying colourful lapel tags. I walked the whole 550 yards to view the start of the race and take in the surroundings. Best done when you arrive in the morning as it is cooler and less busy.
Today I am wearing:
Traditional Olney Straw Boater Hat
Personalised Moss Bros Boating Blazer
Budd Double Cuff Cotton Shirt
Moss Bros Iced Latte Suit Trousers
Paul Costelloe Blue Striped Racing tie
Loakes Tan Brogues
The Roll-top bag is from Jack Wills
On the way back I stopped for a posh wild venison burger accompanied with a quenching double Sipsmith Gin and Tonic. A chance to relax in the sun before returning to the regatta enclosure for some deep concentrated spectating at the water’s edge. Sitting close to the water’s edge was far cooler in comparison to the large tiered seating stand, as you can imagine you do have to compete for the best spot. The daily race programme is a small printed booklet which costs £5 but very important should you want to keep up with the racing.
The regatta enclosure has its own restrooms, deli, bar, shop and restaurant. The deli provides a mix of snack food items, coffee and soft drinks, the shop has water. It’s imperative to stay hydrated so good to know where to find water.
Later in the day I had booked afternoon tea for myself and a friend, on arrival to the afternoon tea area you are met by very friendly staff from the compass catering group. We were taken to our table and supplied with water, Pimm’s and iced coffee all taken with great appreciation. The tea took a rather long time to arrive and once it did the problems started. Aproned staff walked around aimlessly but were very good at acknowledging you if you needed something, no table side pestering which is perfect. However, they were unable to answer basic questions, explain the food on the stand or know whether we were supposed to receive clotted cream with our scones, which was forgotten and soon brought out by the apologetic manager.
Considering the heat, and magnitude of the event you can’t really fault the service.
I did not feel that the afternoon tea was worth £22.50 the sandwiches were dry, scones the size and width of a beer mat and the cakes had to be divided and shared as there was only one of each. A huge disappointment when you see the image below on the website marketing in comparison to what we had.
Never mind, a poor-quality afternoon tea was not about to ruin the day. We ate, drank and laughed enjoying the quintessentially British event in all is glory.
Ladies and Gents, I urge you to grab your friends, don your striped blazers, straw boater hats and head down to the Regatta next year.
- M. Harrington