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Etiquette of Henley Royal Regatta


Thousands of visitors flock to Henley each year to watch crews from across the world compete in more than 200 races at the world-famous five-day event. A wide range of rowers, from Olympians to amateur oarsmen, race along the one-mile course while well-dressed spectators watch from the river banks, elaborate boats and the Regatta Enclosure.

There are two enclosures; The Stewards Enclosure which is situated on the Berkshire bank, opposite the Finish Line, which is reserved for Members and their Guests. Within the enclosure, racing can be viewed from the Members' Grandstand (reserved seating), the Fawley Grandstand (unreserved seating) and the Floating Grandstand (Members only). Children from the age of ten are welcome in the Stewards' Enclosure. Children under the age of ten can enjoy the event from the Regatta Enclosure. There is a ten year waiting list for membership and you must be supported by two existing members.

The second enclosure is the The Regatta Enclosure which is situated on the Berkshire bank, just downstream from the Stewards' Enclosure. It is open to competitors, supporters and the general public. The Regatta Enclosure offers seating alongside the river and in an open grandstand. There is also an excellent covered restaurant, an outside dining area and a bar.

Spectators can also view the boat racing and exclusive hospitality from the picturesque banks of Fawley Meadows or at the stunning private oasis of Temple Island and finally Riverside Chalet which is situated along the bank of Fawley Meadows.

The regatta, which began in 1839, enforces one of the strictest dress codes in the world - Trousers only for men and for ladies, hemlines must be above the knee, culottes and going tieless are all forbidden. High hemlines, trousers and shorts for women and denim jeans are just some of the banned garments, while anyone who attempts to circumvent the dress code with a thigh-high split in their skirt will find themselves being handed safety pins by stewards. Ladies are also encouraged to wear hats.

Men, meanwhile, are required to wear lounge suits or blazers and flannels and must finish their look with a tie or cravat. Unlike Ascot, where the strictest rules apply only to the Royal Enclosure, at Henley, the dress code is enforced throughout - albeit with more vigour in the Stewards' Enclosure and on Temple Island. On this point it is important to mention that only the rowers can wear their famous club blazers which must never be washed!

The other section, Fawley grandstand, allows female guests to go without a hat although wearing one is 'customary' - but jeans, shorts and culottes, no matter how well-tailored, are banned.

Henley is one of the oldest events on the British summer calendar and has been held every year since 1839, apart from during the First and Second World Wars. Originally envisaged by the mayor of Henley as regatta-funfair hybrid, the first event, which was staged over the course of a single afternoon, proved such a hit, it was extended to two days the following year.

Royal patronage came in 1851, when Prince Albert agreed to become the regatta's first royal patron. After his death, the patronage passed to Queen Victoria and then Edward VII. The current royal patron is the Queen.