The Henley Royal Regatta is one of my favourite events of the British Summer. No jokes here, please – there is something called Summer for a few days each year.
Taking place in the first week of July, this 5-day event brings many foreign visitors to town – and this year was no exception. I had my dear friend Lauren come all the way from the USA just to experience it – and the perfect way to start our little UK adventure.
Basically, it is all about the rowing – I actually find it quite an interesting spectator sport, and something that became part of my life for the past 8 years. I am no rower, but living in Henley, no one is immune to it.
The races take 5 days, from Wednesday to Sunday, and it is one of the key social events of the British summer calendar. I love attending it every year, as it is a great day out with friends and, of course, a fab excuse to wear a hat!
This year, we had 2 different HRR experiences – basically, you can get tickets (through members) for various enclosures or private members’ clubs.
We started our afternoon at Phyllis Court Club, a private members’ club located on Henley’s side of the reason. I love the mix of old and young and it is the perfect place for a civilised Afternoon Tea, which you can pre-book. The club has beautiful grounds and offers a very relaxed way of enjoying this quintessentially English event.
One thing that makes Henley Regatta unique are the strict dress codes for both men and women. Personally, I think it is a special event and they make total sense (no one is forced to attend!). Phyllis Court’s own dress code is very clear, and honestly quite “relaxed”, as you can see below:
Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels or chinos, and a tie or cravat. Jackets must be worn at all times unless at the express permission of the Club Chairman.
Ladies are required to wear dresses or skirts with a hemline on or below the knee and will NOT be admitted if wearing culottes, jeans, trousers or shorts of any kind. The wearing of hats during the day would be appreciated.” From Phyllis Court Club website.
The whole issue for ladies is about the hemlines and the showing of knees!
Part of the river is “open” to boat traffic, and it really adds to the atmosphere. A lot of people choose to enjoy the Regatta from the water, in the privacy of their own boats (obviously with Pimms and champagne!)
After a couple of hours, and a couple of jugs of Pimms & Lemonade, the “official” drink of Henley Royal Regatta, it was time to head to Stewards Enclosure, which offers a different regatta experience. In order to head to Stewards, on the opposite side of the river (you can see it from the photos above), you need to cross the Henley bridge, which gets so busy, it is quite an experience in itself.
The atmosphere and regatta experience at the Stewards Enclosure is quite different from Phyllis Court. It is busier, the age group younger and really quite lively. The “rules” are also much stricter!
Ladies must wear dresses below the knee (and every year people try to break this rule, only to be turned away at the entrance doors). Mobile phones are not allowed either and the penalties are quite serious.
“Those seen using mobile phones will be reminded of this ban by Security Guards and Regatta Officials, asked to stop and a note taken of their Badge number. This will allow identification of the responsible Member.
If the request to stop is ignored, or if the same person is caught a second time using their mobile phone, then the person will be escorted out of the Enclosure and their badge forfeited”. (from Stewards Enclosure website).
One of my favourite things about Regatta? The boys’ school blazers! It brings a lot of colour to the event and certainly adds to its unique personality. And the ladies’ hats, and the below the knee dresses!
It is all over for the year, but boy what a day out! Good thing it is all happening again next summer!