Friday, 20 July 2018

History made at 175th Royal Regatta

GLORIOUS sunshine and multiple victories for home town clubs helped to make the 175th Henley Royal Regatta a huge success.

About 85,000 people bought tickets for the five-day event and tens of thousands more had picnics and watched the racing from the banks of the Thames.

Click here to view our gallery of photographs from this years regatta.

Upper Thames Rowing Club claimed two titles during Sunday’s finals, the first time the Henley club has won at the regatta since it was founded more than 50 years ago.

The achievements earned the club the biggest cheers from the crowd during the presentation ceremony later in the day.

Leander Club athletes notched up six victories, including winning the Prince of Wales Cup for the fifth year in a row.

Apart from on Saturday, which was overcast with spells of rain, visitors spent four of the five days basking in sunshine and temperatures of up to 23C.

Regatta chairman Mike Sweeney, who is stepping down after 22 years, drew laughter from the crowd at the presentation ceremony when he said: “Hallelujah, what a regatta!”

He said this year’s event was “fantastic”, especially after the site of the enclosures was flooded for two months earlier in the year.

“We have enjoyed a wonderful regatta,” said Mr Sweeney. “How we have managed with the weather…somebody has been incredibly kind to us. When the lightning threatened 10 days ago for the qualifiers we were apprehensive. We thought this could be a difficult regatta. It might look dry, it might look green, but I can tell you the water table is not far below your feet.”

Mr Sweeney talked about how the event began with a meeting in Henley town hall in 1839 and developed from a one-day event to two days in 1840, three in 1886, four in 1906 and moved to the present format of five days in 1986. He said: “We have had a great celebration of our 175th anniversary. We’ve had a great international entry. Crews from 20 different countries came to compete in over 20 different events at Henley Royal Regatta.”

The trophies were presented by Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor in history with four gold medals.

Sir Ben said he was honoured to have been invited, especially by his all-time Olympic hero Sir Steve Redgrave, who won five rowing golds.

He said: “The training that we do in sailing is, I think, comparable with the physicality of rowing, going on the ergometers trying to match the 2,000m courses.

“Anyone who has experienced that realises what a tough sport it is, how physical it is and how much determination you need.

“Witnessing the Windsor boys win that final race and seeing what it meant to them, the passion that was there, it was impressive to see.”

Sir Ben thanked Mr Sweeney for his “incredible efforts” as chairman, adding: “I should just say on behalf of everyone involved in the event, this is Mike’s 22nd year as chairman and by all accounts he can even manage to control the weather!”

At that moment, Sir Steve, who is expected to take over as chairman next year, stood up to applaud.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Sweeney said: “It has been a great privilege to be chairman and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

To mark the 175th anniversary, special teas were served in the luncheon tent each including glasses of Kir Royale or bucks fizz.

There were row pasts by Henley Rowing Club on Saturday to mark its 175th anniversary and by Leander Club’s 1989 winners of the Britannia Challenge Cup on Thursday.

On Saturday, Sir Steve’s coxed four of 1984 rowed the full course to mark the 30th anniversary of their victory at the Los Angeles Olympics with their coach taking the place of the late Andy Holmes.

There was also a fly-past by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The aircraft were flown by Sdn Ldr Duncan Mason and Wg Cdr Justin Helliwell, who were en route to RAF Waddington International Airshow in Lincolnshire.

The royal barge Gloriana, commissioned by Lord Sterling for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, was moored at the boat tent throughout the regatta.

After the last race on Sunday, boys from Westminster School rowed her along the course to mark the 200th anniversary of the school’s rowing club.

Sir Matthew Pinsent signed copies of a new book, Henley Royal Regatta: A Celebration In Photographs, in the regatta shop on Friday.

He wrote the introduction to the book, which was published to mark the regatta’s 175th anniversary.

The shop sold out of Emma Bridgewater 175th anniversary mugs as well as the regatta teddy bears, Benjy, Monty and Smidge.

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