First Henley Regatta

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First Henley Regatta

Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire The 26th of March 1839 AD

When Captain Edmund Gardiner stood up in Henley’s Town Hall to propose a regatta, he was in fact building on a trend already at least a decade old – for example Oxford and Cambridge Universities had held races in the area.
The good Captain was no fool: his proposal noted that the event would be: “A source of amusement and gratification for the neighbourhood,”, but also: “Productive of the most beneficial results to the town of Henley.” How right he was: the first event lasted just an afternoon, the massive corporate jamboree that is the modern Royal Regatta lasts five days, with some qualifying taking place even before that, a massive boost to the local economy.
The regatta’s first course, beginning upstream of Temple Island on the Berkshire side of the Thames and finishing near Henley Bridge, ran for 1 mile 550 yards, and though the location has altered somewhat (the current course is the fourth to be used) the distance over which rowers compete today remains the same as that used in 1839.
In 1851 Prince Albert became patron of the event, a royal connection continued on his death by Queen Victoria and every monarch since, allowing the regatta to be called Henley Royal Regatta, and cementing its place as one of the major events in the glamorous whirl that is The Season, though these days those attending as spectators may be there through business connections as much as social ones.

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