Things ain't what they used to be: HENLEY REGATTA

2-6 JULY
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The Independent Online

How it was

The grassy banks of the Thames lined with people in boaters and blazers, sipping Pimm's while oarsmen row past. What could be more civilised than the Royal Regatta, held every summer for more than 150 years?

How it is

Those heading to the riverside will be confronted by cavernous marquees bulging with cheap suits. "Henley is ghastly!" says one disillusioned veteran. "Even the smart areas are now full of lager-swilling lunatics from minor public schools getting absolutely hammered. It's entirely lacking in class."

Others aren't so sure. "That's an astonishingly, unbelievably stupid remark," responds Mike Sweeney, chairman of the organising committee. "Loutish behaviour is minimal. The problems come further along the river [from the finish], where there are unofficial bars and beer tents over which we have no control."

Vital Statistics

On a busy day, 100,000 people turn up, with most finding a spot to watch for free. For those willing to pay, the Regatta Enclosure and the Stewards' Enclosure have a joint capacity of 20,000, and there are private areas run by Gentleman's clubs, and rowing clubs.

Regatta Enclosure tickets are available to all. Entry to the posher Stewards' Enclosure is restricted to members and guests. There are 6,500 members and a waiting list of over 1,000. Lately corporate punters (whose packages cost as much as £600), can also get in, for an extra £45.