Haute Event: Henley Royal Regatta

Annabelle Hood, www.luxuryjournalist.com

“Wow I’ve never seen the Stewards Enclosure so buzzing,” said an old-hat Henley friend, who attends a corporate jolly at the five-day Regatta at Henley-on-Thames every July. The glorious sunshine certainly helped boost crowds at the ever-popular Fawley bar. This year queuing for a jug of Pimms meant ploughing through a three-person deep line-up (rowers’ arms being essential for carrying your booty back to your entourage).

The Leander Club enclosure was another prestigious badge to have hanging from one’s lapel, as this is a serious rowers and ex-rowers’ members-only club. For the uninitiated, the Royal Henley Regatta dress code is strictly British and fabulously old-school: Men dress in dapper stripes and straw boater hats; women must wear dresses (hem below the knee) as trousers are a no-no, as are mobile phones.

My lucky friend and I were hosted by well-known cultural and sports events organizers Keith Prowse. The corporate hospitality tent at Fawley Meadows is a self-contained area to the north-east of the river, complete with a marquee, outdoor Jacuzzis on the river bank. We walked there from the station – not recommended in heels! After a slap-up buffet lunch (oysters to start, roast lamb and chocolate-dipped strawberries for me), we stopped off by the adjoining jacuzzi before hopping on a shuttle boat across the riverbank for a walk-around.

It is quite possible to attend the Henley Regatta and not witness a single race. This is a shame because “the standard of racing has been immense, with crews from around the world making Henley part of their Olympic qualifying year plans,” said Henley Royal Regatta Chairman Mike Sweeney. Of course he’d say that, but there is a thrillingly unique atmosphere here: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, they were all there this year, with Germany stealing the honours in the Grand Challenge Cup for men’s eights. Other highlights: American Esther Lofgren of the powerful American women’s World and Olympic Champion eight, won two titles in one day, and the University of California, Berkeley’s student eight, beat a Dutch University crew.

Later on, at the Mahiki Club’s jumping enclosure (one of Prince William and Harry’s favourite London night clubs), I’m not sure how I managed to miss spotting British singer Alexandra Burke and night club co-owner Guy Pelly (a high profile friend of the royals) swanning around Mahiki Coconut’s VIP enclosure. It could have had something to do with the potency of their notoriously tropical cocktails or the kicking atmosphere, I’m not sure. But a fun end to a fabulous day.

For details of Keith Prowse rowing hospitality packages, go to www.keithprowse.co.uk


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