Thursday, 11 August 2022

Regatta booms to stay for Festival

THOUSANDS of people will be able to enjoy this year’s Henley Festival from the water after it was agreed to keep the regatta booms in place.

THOUSANDS of people will be able to enjoy this year’s Henley Festival from the water after it was agreed to keep the regatta booms in place.

Last month, the Henley Standard revealed that the booms could have been removed after this year’s Henley Royal Regatta because of safety concerns, meaning boats would have been prevented from mooring in the River Thames for the festival the following week.

The Environment Agency and the regatta organisers discussed the move due to “issues” with their use last year.

Now they have agreed that the booms marking the regatta course can stay as normal but with new safety restrictions.

Boats must not tie up more than two vessels deep, compared with three last year, and no vessel can be left unattended.

The agency will issue a harbourmaster’s notice setting out the conditions of use and making it an offence not to comply with them. Enforcement officers will carry out regular patrols to ensure boat owners are respecting the conditions and other rules of the river.

The agency, which is responsible for the river, warned that if the conditions were not adhered to, it may look at “alternative arrangements” next year.

In a joint statement, the regatta and agency said: “Henley Royal Regatta is pleased to confirm that this year the booms it uses to mark out the regatta course will again remain in place for the following week’s Henley Festival.

“However, following issues with their use last year and the impact on other river users, the regatta has worked with the Environment Agency to develop some conditions of use which will be introduced this year.

“The agency is the navigation authority for the non-tidal River Thames and is responsible for maintaining the public right of navigation. This includes enforcing the legislation in place to ensure the main navigation channel is kept open to boat traffic at all times and that no activities take place on the river which cause unacceptable risk to participants or other river users.

“As Henley Festival grows in popularity, so does the number of boats mooring against the regatta booms. Not only does this increase the risk of the booms getting damaged, it also considerably increases the tension on them, especially during high winds or if there is a strong current in the river.

“Left unchecked, this could easily see booms, or the piles to which they are attached, working themselves loose and being carried downstream, along with any boats tied to them. This in turn could result in boats and other property being damaged and boat occupants being injured.

“Henley Royal Regatta and the Environment Agency have worked together to agree some sensible precautions to reduce the risk of such an incident. These take the form of some conditions which we hope all users will find reasonable.”

Andrew Graham, the agency’s harbourmaster for the Thames said: “Henley is a fabulous place to be at any time of year but it really comes into its own during the regatta, the festival and the other river-based events that take place around the same time, some of which also make use of the booms.

“I know from personal experience how wonderful it is to enjoy these events from a vantage point on the river itself, so I’m really not surprised that more and more people are coming to town by boat.

“But things got a little bit out of hand last year and we really don’t want anybody’s trip to be ruined due to a preventable accident. That’s what these mooring conditions are all about.

“If people respect them and they work well this year, then the situation will have been improved. If not, Henley Royal Regatta and the Environment Agency might have to look at alternative arrangements.”

Charlotte Geeves, chief executive of the festival, said: “We’re really pleased that the regatta and agency came up with a solution that enables the river to continue running during the week of the festival and navigation channels to be kept clear.

“We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience during the week. The precautions they are putting in place are for the safety of everyone on the river.”

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