Friday, 30 July 2021

From town hall to regatta catwalk

HENLEY town councillor Sam Evans says she has seen the royal regatta from every angle over the

HENLEY town councillor Sam Evans says she has seen the royal regatta from every angle over the past two decades.

When she moved to the town from London in 1998, she quickly made friends in the right places and was able to enter the stewards’ enclosure as a guest that summer.

Since then, she’s also watched the racing from friends’ boats, the grounds of Phyllis Court Club and the private enclosures on the Remenham bank of the Thames.

The 49-year-old, who lives in Reading Road, says she was “hooked” on the event from the start.

Ms Evans, who runs a luxury goods and events company called Humphreys of Henley, said: “It’s a hugely special event and a quintessential showcase of Englishness at its best.

“I love the aura of royalty that surrounds the athletes. You see former rowers in their old, worn blazers and getting the respect they rightly deserve, even though they aren’t wearing the latest and most expensive jacket.

“The traditions are wonderful — throw in a load of friends and some good champagne and you’ve got everything you need for a fabulous day.”

Ms Evans says the regatta is one of few social events that puts greater emphasis on how men dress.

She said: “It’s a chance to go a bit more over the top than usual. You see the chaps all trying to outdo each other in these huge, colourful blazers. It’s great fun and all part of the tradition.

“I’ve got some old favourite outfits that I wear to Henley, though it’s nice to buy something new occasionally. It’s one of the few occasions when I wear wedge shoes so that I don’t fall over on the grass!

“It’s wonderful to see everyone making an effort, young and old.”

Mrs Evans said she had most enjoyed trying on the hats as part of our photoshoot.

“Some of them are absolutely stunning and to die for,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard to go home without taking one or two!”

Leander Club rower Matt Rossiter first visited the regatta as a 14-year-old pupil at Abingdon School.

He’d only just taken up rowing and was spectating alongside his mother Kate and father Tom, a former rower who once represented Cambridge in the Boat Race.

Mr Rossiter, now 26, went on to row for his school in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup in 2007 and 2008.

He continued rowing at Durham University but gave up after a time because of back problems.

However, after seeing the GB rowing team win nine medals at the 2012 Olympics, including four golds, he was inspired to get back into the sport.

He joined Leander Club 18 months ago and now lives in Bell Street, Henley.

Mr Rossiter rowed for the club in the Ladies’ Challenge Plate last year but his crew was knocked out in the semi-finals by Yale, who went on to win. He said: “I remember my first regatta was an amazing spectacle.

“ I was struck by the huge diversity of visitors, from people in colourful blazers and trousers to those who had plonked themselves on the riverbank in shorts.

“Fashion is a very important aspect of it. My girlfriend is coming with her parents this year and her mum’s really concerned about meeting the dress code for the stewards’ enclosure.

“It’s like Ascot in that it’s a chance to dress up but as a man you can only really wear a suit at Ascot. At Henley the focus is more on the men. They compete to wear the most outrageous attire and show off a bit.

“When I’m not on the water I’ll be wearing my Abingdon blazer even though it makes you look like an ice-cream man with its pink and white stripes.

“Most Leander rowers still take a lot of pride in their original clubs because that’s where they learned their trade. Leander helps enormously with the finishing touches but they want to stay in touch with their roots.”

• Special thanks to Aida Dellal for the use of her Fawley Court estate, our models, photographer  Kathryn Fell and clothing and hat suppliers, Laurence Menswear, First Edition,  Liz Felix Millinery and Louise Claire Millinery.

More News:

POLL: Have your say