Thursday, 07 July 2022

Regatta returns bigger than ever

Regatta returns bigger than ever

HENLEY Royal Regatta returns next week and it will be the biggest in the event’s 183-year history.

Thousands of visitors will descend on the town for the first six-day event, which is taking place a year later than planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A record 739 crews from 17 nations, featuring 12 gold medallists from the Olympics last year, will be competing for honours starting on Tuesday, a day earlier than usual.

Chairman Sir Steve Redgrave said the regatta had been missed after being cancelled in 2020 and being held later last year in a scaled-back format.

He said: “The stewards are delighted with the entry. We’ve missed the scale of the regatta — with a smaller one last year and the cancellation the year before — and, judging by the number of entries, it looks like the rest of the rowing world has missed it as well.”

This year will also see the return of the public regatta enclosure and other attractions along the riverbank as Henley returns to its traditional place in the summer social and sporting calendar. Daniel Grist, secretary and chief executive of the regatta, said: “We look forward to welcoming everybody back to riverbank — even the weather forecast looks promising.”

The Met Office is forecasting perfect conditions for rowing as temperatures are set to drop a little but it will remain mostly dry with the occasional shower.

Town centre traders are hoping their tills will be ringing and the extra day’s racing will bring additional footfall.

Laurence Morris, owner of Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “We expect it to be the biggest regatta ever. It’s always a busy week for us. The crews are out on the river this week so this weekend will give an indication of how it will go

“It should be a really good event and it’s good to see Henley open for business.”

Pam Edwards, manager of women’s clothing store Busby and Fox, said:“I would say it is busier than pre-pandemic regattas for this time of year.”

Hospitality venues were receiving last minute supplies in preparation for the week as bookings have been flooding in.

Lauren Redfern, manager of the Hart Street Tavern said: “We opened three weeks before the 2019 regatta. This year is a six-dayer. I have seen a massive increase in footfall this week.

“Tuesday night was really busy for walk-ins, which was lovely to see. The town is looking a lot busier.”

Rebecca Benson, owner of the Cheesy Grape in Market Place, said: “We are looking forward to the regatta.

“It’s the first six-day one so we hope it is going to be as busy as everyone is saying.”

Alan Mann, who has been manager of Henley Sports shop for 15 years, said: “It’s noticeable that there’s a lot more people, crews and their families in town.”

Henley town manager Laurie-Jane Cann, who was appointed earlier this year, said: “The regatta runs itself really, so I don’t have to be too concerned.

“A lot of athletes have arrived before the spectators come so there’s a real buzz in town. The weather has been fantastic too.”

Mayor Michelle Thomas said: “It’s such a great thing for the town.

“It is just incredible how many international businesses are here in Henley. The regatta really puts Henley on the map.”

Meanwhile, Thames Valley Police have made plans to poice the event.

Supt Colin Hudson, tactical commander for the royal regatta, said: “We expect to see a large number of visitors to Henley, which will increase traffic and congestion through the town centre.

“We ask that motorists be patient and mindful of the increased traffic and pedestrians. Remember to leave plenty of time for your journeys and to carefully follow the appropriate signs to the allocated car parks.

“The neighbourhood policing team will be an integral part of the event and will be on hand to provide support to the local community as normal.

“In order to ensure that members of the public can enjoy the regatta in a safe and secure environment, Thames Valley Police is deploying several specialist teams for this operation, with a number of security measures in place.”

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