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Sunday, 25 August 2019
HENLEY Royal Regatta could be extended to six days to provide more opportunities for women and girls.
The regatta has made a licensing application to the Public Protection Partnership to run from Tuesday to Sunday from next year in order to include more races for female rowers and crews.
It says the extra day would also allow it to leave longer gaps between races and reduce congestion in the racing programme.
The annual regatta currently attracts around 2,800 athletes from schools, clubs, universities and national teams who take on the 2,112m course across 23 events.
Three new events for women were introduced in 2017, taking the total to seven, but the regatta now wants to add more.
Annamarie Phelps, a steward for Henley Royal Regatta, said: “With the significant growth of female rowing in the UK and internationally in recent years, there is now a more even balance between men and women taking part in the sport.
“As a globally recognised event at the pinnacle of rowing, Henley Royal Regatta is committed to greater inclusion and to introduce more opportunities for women to participate at the regatta.”
The event, which was founded in 1839, started as a one-day regatta before being expanded the following year to two and then to three days in 1886, four days in 1906 and five days in 1986.
It has been known as Henley Royal Regatta since 1851 when Prince Albert became the first royal patron.
The application says: “Over the years, the regatta has become more and more popular and the regatta wishes to be able to build in greater space between races, along with integrating more women/junior women crews/
“The significant benefit that would be achieved by the extension of this prestigious rowing event — namely allowing for more women’s racing to start to be integrated into the regatta — is unquestionable and indeed any objection to the principle that taking steps to start to address gender imbalance at the event would be inherently wrong.”
The regatta says it has received “significant” support from Henley Women’s Regatta, British Rowing, Rowing Australia, international stewards, the head women’s coach for the US Olympic team, the National Schools’ Regatta and Henley Rowing Club.
In a letter to regatta secretary Daniel Grist, Henley Women’s Regatta chairwoman Miriam Luke said she supported the inclusion of more women’s and girls’ events.
She said: “Henley Women’s Regatta was originally set up over 30 years ago to enable women to compete over the iconic Henley rowing course since no events were then offered at the royal regatta.
“Gradually, women’s events have started to be included and now Henley Royal Regatta offers the full spectrum of events for championship and international standard crews.
“This enables only a very few women to compete at Henley Royal Regatta.
“However, the majority of national level women at UK clubs, universities and schools do not have this opportunity.
“Henley Women’s Regatta therefore supports the addition of more women’s and girl’s events into Henley Royal Regatta so that they have the same opportunity to race at the pinnacle event for rowing in the UK as the men and boys at their club, university and school.”
Mrs Luke said the regatta had the “expertise” to deliver the extra day’s racing.
She added: “We look forward to our continued partnership and supporting you in this proposal to extend the regatta to provide this equality of opportunity for women and girls who row in the UK.”
However, the proposal is opposed by John Halsall, the new leader of Wokingham Borough Council who is also vice-chairman of Remenham Parish Council.
He said: “We’re very much against it. It’s event ‘creep’.
“If they wanted to put more rowing on they could use the tea breaks and lunch break and they could start earlier and end later.
“I know the regatta really wants to go to six days, the women’s regatta wants to expand and the Rewind festival wants to expand.”
Councillor Halsall said that the period from May to September had almost become an “entire event season”.
“Sadly, none of these events puts anything in for the residents’ benefit,” said Cllr Halsall.
“The regatta will argue that all the stuff that happens around the regatta is not their responsibility but that’s not true because if there wasn’t a regatta there wouldn’t be any peripheral activities.
“They should be paying for the police, they should be paying for the management scheme of the traffic and there should be some benefit for the residents.
“Pretty much everybody in Remenham has to put their lives on hold while the royal regatta is going on. Effectively you’re locked in your house for that period — there is massive disruption.”
A decision on the application will be made later this month by the partnership, which considers licensing applications for Wokingham, Bracknell and West Berkshire councils.
• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email email@example.com
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