Sport on the Internet

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LAST YEAR the Web was kind to the Henley Royal Regatta. What's Going On, the event listings and almanac site, declared it "The Coolest Place on Earth" on the day the oars hit the water. Point your browser at What's Going On this Wednesday to see if the 150th regatta can make it a historic double, or if some other event pips it in the cool stakes.

The official Henley Regatta site is unlikely to win awards for coolness. No Webcams, no virtual reality tours, no Shockwave animation, no video, no audio and no Javascript mouse rollovers. Just a frames-based series of pages where text predominates and the graphics are low key. It makes a refreshing change from the over-designed pages that are becoming de rigueur.

The formality of the design and lay-out mirrors the less than flashy dress code necessary to enter the Stewards' Enclosure. Members and guests are reminded on the Website that: "Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels, and a tie or cravat. Ladies are required to wear dresses or suits with a hemline below the knee and will not be admitted wearing divided skirts, culottes or trousers of any kind."

The site is remarkably advertising free, although those with a yen for the touch of the marketing men can always drop off at the corporate entertainment pages and mutter darkly about privilege and Pimm's.

Those more interested in the sport will find the site useful. The history section explains the structure of the event with its knock-out system with two boats at a time racing, instead of the more usual six. It also explains how the course is longer than that used in standard international competitions. The extra length helps them cram in the races by having two races on the course at the same time. The archives have details of winners from 1989 and fastest times going back to 1906. Photo archives of last year's regatta are provided via a link to Henley On-line, a Web- based news and local information site provided by the publishers of the Henley Standard.

If freebies hit the spot, head for the official site's Waterline section and check out details of the offer of a magnum of champagne for the best 150-word story of the regatta that survives being read for libel.

While there is much to enlighten rowing novices on the official site, the Henley section of the WWW Virtual Library is probably more instructive. Started by Jonathan Bowen in 1994, it covers Henley comprehensively with links to a variety of unofficial and quasi-official sites.

For even more shades of opinion and background information the general rowing pages, of which it is a part, are almost frighteningly comprehensive. They look at amateur and professional rowing, the World Cup and Olympic rowing, with links to organizations and resources in 18 countries. To satisfy multimedia junkies, there are also links to MPEG movies and audio files for oarsmen.

Site Addresses

What's Going On?

Official Henley Royal Regatta

Henley On-line

WWW Virtual Library: Henley Royal Regatta

WWW Virtual Library: Rowing