Tuesday, 03 August 2021

1,700 competitors and that last-minute rush...

THERE is a common misconception that the majority of entries for Henley Royal Regatta are received weeks or even months

THERE is a common misconception that the majority of entries for Henley Royal Regatta are received weeks or even months in advance — nothing could be further from the truth.

At least 80 per cent of the 450 to 500 entries arrive at regatta headquarters during the last four days before the entry deadline — this year 6pm on Monday, June 17.

Regatta staff work flat out for the 96 hours before this deadline and then continue working hard for the next 48 hours to be able to present the final list of entries for the committee’s approval at 5.30pm on the Wednesday evening.

Alongside the processing of the entries, other members of staff are dealing with requests from overseas crews for accommodation, transportation and boat hire. This all adds up to a massive and intense operation.

Entries in all the club, university and school events are always oversubscribed so the next task, after finalising the list of entries, is for a detailed analysis to be undertaken of each of the oversubscribed events.

The side-by-side, knockout format of the regatta allows around 320 crews to compete in the regatta proper.

An entry of 500 crews inevitably means that 180 have to be eliminated in the qualifying races today (Friday). Information is gathered from the major regattas around the country, from the crews themselves (who are prompted to provide a record of their season’s performances) and from our network of in-touch informants around the world.

On Sunday, June 23 lists of recommendations were placed before the committee identifying which crews were to be allowed straight into the regatta together with lists of those crews which were invited to row in the qualifying races.

In order to reduce the number of crews by around 180 there may be 260 crews invited to row in the qualifying races with just 80 of them going away happy at the end of the Friday racing.

On the Saturday after the qualifying races the draw takes place in the town hall at 3pm — the location of every draw since the first regatta in 1839, 174 years ago.

Once the draw has been completed the stage is set and the programme for the first day of racing on Wednesday, July 3 is published on the Sunday afternoon on the regatta website.

Activity in the boat tent area steadily increases over the next two days as more and more crews arrive in Henley.

Around 1,700 competitors will be involved over the five days of racing, all striving for success in one of the 20 different events offered at the regatta.

After the fantastic success of the British Olympic rowing team at Eton Dorney last year, their new-look squad has entered 13 crews at this year’s regatta.

Post-Olympic year is a time of rebuilding and forging new partnerships, not just in Great Britain but in all the rowing nations of the world. It will be fascinating to see how these new crews work out in the first year of the four-year cycle leading to the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

There will be Olympic medallists from a number of different nations competing at this year’s Henley Royal Regatta. Some will be racing in the same crews as last year while others will be found in new and exciting combinations.

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