The British summer season is well underway. In the past month alone, we’ve had the Epsom Derby, Royal Ascot, and Wimbledon. And that’s to say nothing of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But my favorite event of the summer is the annual Henley Royal Regatta, a rowing extravaganza featuring teams from all over the world.
Why is Henley (as it’s called for short) my favorite event of the summer? Because it’s the only one in which I feel that my presence as an American living in the UK is legitimized. That’s because my university’s crew teams almost always qualify to row at Henley, and for once I have a personal connection to an English event.
This year was no exception. The Brown men’s crew team alone sent the Varsity, the Junior Varsity, and Varsity Four to Henley, and I didn’t hesitate to head out to the river to see them race. On Saturday, I traveled by train to Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire to cheer for my team and have a lovely summer day.
Saturday was the semi-finals of the regatta, and one of the Brown men’s teams was racing in the afternoon. The race (or the part of it I saw, anyway) only lasted for a minute or so. Brown beat the Australian national team, and I had the rest of the day to celebrate.
As with my first and second trips to the Henley Royal Regatta, I spent the day in the Stewards’ Enclosure. My enclosure badge came thanks to a friend from college that is a member of the Leander Club, which runs it. The Stewards’ is one of the best venues from which to watch the races, as it is located right on the finish line.
It is also a great venue for people watching. Why? It attracts a wide variety of rowing alums, many of whom sport the outrageously colorful blazers that signify which university they rowed for and which boat they rowed in.
From aqua with white stripes to blue with purple stripes to navy with white piping, every color of the rainbow was overrepresented in the myriad of Henley blazers, bow ties, vests, and vintage style-hats visible in the enclosure. Every year they are out in full force, and every year I am thoroughly entertained by grown men (and some women) wearing such crazy clothing.
But the day wasn’t just about the rowing and the resulting blazers. The weather was beautiful despite predictions of rain, and I spent most of my time at the large open-air Folly Bar drinking Pimm’s with friends and trying to track down others despite the ban on mobile phone use in the enclosure.
Overall it was a great event, not least because I felt at home there with my university so well represented. At the end of the day, I hopped on the train to travel back to London with a good friend from college, both of us glad to have experienced the Henley Royal Regatta and our team’s victory.