RAIN and wind caused havoc on the opening day of this year’s 177th Henley Royal Regatta.
Spectators battled to keep hold of their umbrellas as showers fell for much of the racing on Wednesday, while others sheltered in the boat tent and café or watched the action on television.
Many paired the traditional attire of colourful dresses, ornate hats and rowing club blazers with waterproof coats and wellingtons to combat boggy conditions underfoot.
A few hardy souls sat in the deckchairs on the lawn of the stewards’ enclosure but most members and their guests watched the action from the grandstands. Only a handful of pleasure boats moored up alongside the course while river cruises had noticeably fewer guests than usual.
Conditions were not much better on the water, with several crews expressing frustration at the frequent gusts and strong currents on the 2,112m course.
The rain eased off in the late afternoon and the sun briefly emerged in the evening, with temperatures peaking at about 16C.
Further showers were forecast for today and tomorrow but clearer skies are expected for finals day on Sunday.
A record 89 races were held on the opening day after the regatta received its largest ever number of entries.
A total of 629 crews were entered, eclipsing the previous record of 552 set in 1998.
There were 165 international entries and a total of 27 countries competing, an increase on the previous records of 133 international entries in 2012 and 22 countries in 2013.
This year the regatta also welcomed its first ever female umpire.
Double world champion rower Sarah Winckless made her debut aboard the launch Herakles at 9am on Wednesday.
She was officiating Molesey Rowing Club’s B crew’s race against Sydney Rowing Club in the Thames Challenge Cup.
Crews from Henley Rowing Club, Henley’s Upper Thames Rowing Club, Shiplake College and Shiplake Vikings all chalked up wins while Reading Blue Coat School and Leander’s Star and Arrow development squad were defeated in their opening races.
Live coverage of the racing was broadcast on BT Sport for the first time and it was also streamed via YouTube.