Sports Listings: Plan Ahead: Henley Royal Regatta

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The Independent Online
HENLEY Royal Regatta occupies a singular position in the world of rowing as it was instituted before national or international federations were established. It is raced under its own rules, attracts an international entry and operates on a knockout basis with two boats in each heat, unlike multi- lane regattas, as the River Thames remains open to traffic. This year's Regatta is from 30 June to 4 July.

The first Regatta in 1839 was held on a single afternoon as a public attraction, but event grew competitively, so much so that a body of Stewards has organised the event since 1884. Royal patronage came in 1851 from Prince Albert and in 1986 the Regatta was extended to five days.

The Regatta is based on picturesque Henley Reach, the largest straight stretch on the River Thames, and the course is one mile 550 yards long, slightly longer than the standard international rowing distance of 2,000 metres. The knock-out system means that up to 80 or 90 races are rowed in a single day in the early stages of the Regatta. This involves a race starting before the previous one has finished. Last year there were more than 500 entries.

Five classes are contested at Henley and the Grand Challenge Cup, dating from the first Regatta, is the most prized. This year, a singles sculls event for women is being introduced, the first time women have competed over the full course at Henley.

The Stewards' Enclosure, situated on the Berkshire bank near the finish, is private and admission is available only to members and their guests. The Regatta Enclosure, adjacent to the Stewards', is open to the public at pounds 5 daily for adults and can be booked in advance. Children under-14 are admitted free. The tow path, open to the start, affords good viewing and is free. The firework display is held on Saturday evening at 9.45pm. There is ample car parking at pounds 13 per day.

Henley Royal Regatta, 30 June-4 July.

Wednesday first race 10.30am, last race 6.45; Thursday 9am, 7pm; Friday: 9am, 7.15pm; Saturday: 9am, 6.45pm; Sunday: noon, 5.45pm.

Further details: Secretary's Office, Regatta Headquarters, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 2LY (Tel: 0491-572153).

Hospitality: Payne and Gunter (081-842 2224).

Road: Junction 8/9 of M4 or M40 and A404. British Rail: London Paddington to Henley, changing at Twyford. (071-262 6767).