More a Way of Life Than a Sporting Event

Article by: unknown author

Thu July 05, 2012 | 00:00 AM

Green_Lake_Crew_Junior_Men's_8_@_2007_Henley_Royal_RegattaCopyright: Tgamen (via Wikimedia Commons)

If Thurston Howell, the aristocratic character on the sitcom Gilligan’s Island, ever existed in real life, he would have been a regular at the best-known regatta in the world, a highlight of the British upper crust summer sporting calendar and social season. In college, I spent a spring quarter schooling less than ten miles from Henley-on-Thames and, thus, I had the golden opportunity as a twenty-year-old to experience English nobility at its finest.

Approaching nearly 200 years since this annual event was first held, “the Royal” (as it’s called by insiders) is frequented by English royalty, Olympic rowers, and a hodgepodge of international jetsetters and local country Brits. Fortunately, it’s not quite as stiff as it used to be, but there are definitely a few key rules to know (which, of course, as a college student I completed subverted):

  1. As the clever website “The Rabbit’s guide” suggests the dress code is “expensive” for ladies and “status” for gentlemen. That basically means women are wearing conservative summer designer dresses or skirts down to the knee and men are wearing blue blazers or the like. To have a great time, I suggest you make this into a costume party and dress the part with gusto. It’ll get you into more private parties.
  2. The drinks of choice are Pimms and Lemonade, champagne, or the ever-trusted Gin and Tonic. The Rabbit has some good suggestions of how to find cheaper alcohol and free samples.
  3. If someone suggests they’ll take you to an “Enclosure,” affirm to the positive immediately. This means you’re going to one of the private clubs along the Thames that is where the drinking and deals are being made. The pinnacle is the Stewards’ Enclosure.
  4. Additionally, seek out one of the Umpires’ Launches, the day boats that allow you to be on the river while the racing is on.

Cheerio, good chap. This is as jolly as ol’ England gets.

Photo: Tgamen via Wikimedia Commons