Henley Regatta by Mortimer Menpes, R.I.. Watercolor. Source: The Thames, facing 100. Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Toronto and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Of all the river regattas Henley is by far the greatest, and comes even before the Boat Race in the estimation of some people. The races used to end at the bridge, and so the lawn of the Red Lion was in the position of a favoured grand-stand, but now the winning post is a quarter of a mile short of this, opposite the last villa on the left bank. The starting point is near Temple or Regatta Island, and the reach certainly makes a fine one for the purpose. The course is railed off by piles and booms, and all the hundreds of craft which gather to the scene have to cram themselves in somehow, so as not to cause obstruction. It is well not to select an outrigged boat for such an occasion. The best and most commonly seen craft are punts, worked by means of canoe paddles; for the punts are too solid to collapse easily in the pressure that may be put upon them, and the paddles, requiring little room to work, are less dangerous to one's neighbours than poles. But all kinds of skiffs and canoes appear, and some are even bold enough to tempt fate in Canadian canoes. On a brilliant day, when the light sparkles on the water, and there is enough wind to set the pennons and streamers flying, the scene is undeniably gay and pretty. All the luncheon tents on the green lawns near form a bright adjunct. Salter and Talboys, from Oxford, and other boat-builders, have landing-stages for the week, and the various clubs entertain largely. Chief among these is the Leander, whose fine club-house is on the right bank not far from the bridge; it also has a lawn further down. Not far off are the grand-stand, the Grosvenor, and the New Oxford and Cambridge Clubs, and one large lawn is taken as a clubland pied-à-terre for the use of any members of London clubs in general. But beside these there are the Isthmian, Sports, and Bath Clubs on the left bank, and Phyllis Court, with smooth lawns; and then a long line of house-boats begins, continuing past Fawley Court on to Temple Island, with just one break for the lawns of the Court. Bands play, luncheons are consumed, flags flutter; everyone is gay and lively, and the scene is one that can hardly be described justly in mere word painting. At noon the first race is rowed. A bell is rung to clear the course. All sorts of boats and canoes have slipped out between the openings left for them, and they must hurry back and crush into the already tightly wedged mass; in a moment everything else is forgotten in the excitement of the special event. On the last evening of the regatta there is a grand firework display and a procession of illuminated boats; and, as may very well be guessed, the real success of Henley depends greatly upon the weather, which, even in the first week of July, when it takes place, is not always kind. [101-102]

References

Menpes, Mortimer, R.I., and G[eraldine]. E[dith]. Mitton. The Thames. London: A. & C. Black, 1906. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 18 April 2012.


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