Training and racing at Henley is a vastly different experience than the ordinary away race. The whole town opens its doors to the visitors, hosting visiting teams or spectators in their spare bedrooms or family rooms. We are living with a family just a few minutes walk from the Thames. We eat our very-European breakfast of yogurt and museli or toast and Nutella (yum!) before heading to the course for our early-morning practice session.
We also go out for a quick row during the noontime lunch break. But between the numerous practicing crews, and the dozens of slightly-tipsy pleasure boaters and party barges puttering along the narrow waterway, navigating these lunchtime rows can turn into quite the carnival! Huge kudos to Mary, who never lets the lunchtime craziness disrupt her calm and capable coxing!
This regatta is considered part of the English social season, thus a formal dress code is strictly enforced. In order to gain access to the prestigious Stewards’ Enclosure, men are required to required to wear a “lounge suit, blazer and flannels, or evening dress, and a tie”, while ladies must wear a below-the-knee dress and “strongly recommended to wear a hat”. No matter your importance in either British social circles or your success on the race course, if the Stewards can see your knees, they will refuse you entry. [Yesterday, I finally caved and bought a headpiece: a little floral-and-feathered “fascinator” that pins into your hair. I didn’t want to be the only woman in the enclosure with an unadorned head!]
Gentlemen spectators, particularly former rowers, select and wear their blazers with pride. Striped, with piping, and often garishly colored, these blazers can be seen throughout the regatta enclosures, as the gentlemen relive their glory days in the Enclosure Bar with their former teammates.
Even outside of the Stewards’ Enclosure, spectators are dressed to the nines, and watch the rowers while sipping champagne and nibbling cheese and crackers at their linen-covered picnic tables, or others toast to a happy summer while lounging on their private wooden pleasure boats moored along course. In fact, the social nature of the whole weekend means that many of spectators probably have no interest in the actual rowing! haha!
We’re heading back down to the race course in about two hours two warm-up for our first race. So excited! We line up at 5:30pm against Princeton University. You can check out the results at http://www.hrr.co.uk/results/. Wish us luck!