Henley Royal Regatta 2011

Caroline Cassidy

First held in 1839, the Henley Royal Regatta holds a special place in the hearts of the rowing community - this world famous event is not only a great sporting occasion, attracting competitors from all over the world, but is a renowned social gathering for rowing enthusiasts and interested spectators alike.

Henley Regatta 2011
Henley Regatta 2011

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Since the Regatta began before rowing federations were established, Henley is unique in that it boasts its own set of rules and regulations though its long history means it is officially recognised by both British Rowing and the International Rowing Federation.

Though steeped in history and tradition, the Royal Regatta is open to all-comers. Tickets range from £15 to £20 (though there is a charge for car parking) and the event is family-friendly, with children under 14 going free.

The Regatta Enclosure is open to non-members and, though there is no strict dress code, many visitors enter into the spirit of the occasion and don their finery for the day's racing.

Those lucky enough to get a spot in the Stewards' Enclosure (open only to members and their guests) must, however, adhere to the very strict traditions associated with the Regatta. Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or a jacket or blazer with flannels, and the essential tie or cravat - similarly, ladies must wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee (no splits allowed!) and are encouraged to wear hats. Anyone who does not meet the Henley standard will be refused entry to the enclosure.

And so to the sporting action - this year's event begins on Wednesday June 29, with the finals taking place on Sunday July 3. Throughout the five-day event, teams race against each other in a knock-out competition, covering the one mile 550 yards of the famous River Thames course.

The last day sees the final showdown as the best of the best compete to take home their prize. Men, women and amateurs take to the water but it is undoubtedly the Grand Challenge Cup, featuring the men's eights, that is the showpiece of the Regatta.

Last year it was the Ruder Club Hansa from Dortmund in Germany who crossed the line first and in the last 10 years, only one British team has taken the Grand Challenge Cup home - will the famous silverware be back in Blighty this summer?