A BRIEF HISTORY
The Henley Reach has been known for rowing races since 1829 when the first University Boat Race was held between Oxford and Cambridge. The success of this led to the setting up of a regatta in 1839 after the Boat Race moved to London. In 1851 it became known as Henley Royal Regatta after His Royal Highness Prince Albert became the first Royal Patron.Henley Town and Visitors’ Regatta developed from the Henley Rowing Club Boat Races, which started in the late 1850's. Its name changed to Henley Town Regatta in 1887 and the word Visitor was later added to show that the Regatta had been opened to competitors from clubs not based in Henley.
The Regatta offered its first trophy in 1889 for non-amateur handicap sculls. A second trophy, offered for coxed fours in 1891, was in fact a trophy belonging to Henley Royal Regatta and dating from the original 1839 regatta. This trophy, called the Town Challenge Cup (see picture), is still awarded today for the Regatta’s highest-ranking fours event.
The Regatta experienced financial difficulties when it tried to re-establish itself after the Great War and wasn’t able to start again until 1922. However, its popularity was then quickly restored and by 1928 it had become so successful that the Regatta was divided into skiffing and rowing sections, each having its own Regatta on different days. Initially the Skiff Regatta was the more popular of the two, but interest had fallen away by the mid-1930's and the skiffing event was discontinued in 1938.
After the Second World War the Regatta started again and, following the success of multi-lane racing on the Henley Reach at the 1948 Olympic Games, expanded to offer three-abreast racing in all events.
When the August Bank Holiday was moved from the beginning to the end of August in 1965, the Regatta, traditionally at that time the last Thames regatta of the season, had to move to a Saturday. It is now established on the fourth Saturday after the Royal Regatta.
The Committee has always prided itself on being able to produce a Programme recording the names of all competing oarsmen and women and is now one of the few one-day Regattas which manages to continue this custom.
The Regatta owns more than 30 trophies and, although the trophies are always on display each year and presented to the winner of each event, like most other regattas it does not allow them to be taken away by the winning crews. Instead, each crew member receives a special commemorative tankard.
The Regatta has always had a President and, since 1928, has adopted the policy of electing its President for a one year term only, usually someone with strong connections to the town of Henley and/or the sport of rowing. The President is elected at the Annual General Meeting which usually takes place in March.