History / About Us


The Henley Reach has been known for rowing races since 1829 when the first University Boat Race was held between Oxford and Cambridge universities. The success of this, together with the extension of the Great Western Railway to Reading, led to the setting up of a regatta in 1839. It was an immediate success and, in 1851, it became known as Henley Royal Regatta after His Royal Highness Prince Albert became the first Royal Patron. More recently we've seen the development of Henley Women's Regatta (1988) and Henley Masters Regatta (1994), offering the Henley experience to a wider range of competitors.

Henley Town and Visitors’ Regatta developed from the Henley Rowing Club Boat Races, which started in the late 1850s. Its name changed to Henley Town Regatta in 1887 and the word Visitor was later added to show that the Regatta was open 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, belonged to Henley Royal Regatta and dates 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. This is a different trophy to the new Town Challenge Cup commissioned in 2018 by Henley Royal Regatta for its Women's Fours event.

The Regatta experienced financial difficulties when it tried to re-establish itself after the Great War and didn't 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-1930s 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 lost its traditional Bank Holiday Monday slot. It is now established on the fourth Saturday after the Royal Regatta.

The Regatta owns a large collection of wonderful trophies, just some of which can be seen here. All of the crew members of the winning boat in each event receive a presentation tankard to take home with them. Although the trophies are always on display each year and presented to the winner of each event, like most other regattas we do not allow them to be taken away by the winning crews.

Since 1928 the Regatta has elected its President for a one-year term only: this is 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 in March.