Last year I wrote an article about the introduction of the Gentlemen’s Plate at Henley Royal. This was only a small piece of a much broader discussion and debate that has been occurring around the inclusion of more Women’s events at Henley. Even though I believe there should be more Women’s events at Henley we should take a look at the impact that this might have on surrounding events in particular Henley Women’s Regatta and Marlow Regatta.

By including more Women’s events at Henley Royal there would be an impact on Henley Women’s, those that say there would be none are living in a parallel dimension. When HRR introduced Women’s events to the regatta there was a significant reduction of high calibre crews entering Henley Women’s. This would be repeated. To give yourself the best chance of winning a red box racing a 3-day event so close to the regatta itself might not be what your crew requires. A modern example of this can be seen in the Junior Quads entries at Women’s Henley haven’t included any of the winners or top crews in the last 2 years.

You may argue that the men are racing at Marlow on the same weekend. Yes but only for 1 day. The  strain of a 3 day event is totally different. Having more women’s events at HRR could lead to a demand for women’s events at Marlow. This would be fantastic for the regatta however it would be a terrible thing for Women’s Henley.

From a recent twitter poll done by the Tideway Bulletin, it is not only the women who want more events but so do the men. We cannot deny that demand to race at HRR is growing. Last years broadcasting on YouTube was incredible. And it is only making HRR the standout regatta across the globe, the Champions League of rowing or the World Club Cup (sorry I like football). But to cater for this demand from both men and women the regatta may have to make some more dramatic and drastic changes. We saw last year their flexibility, by increasing event sizes after entries had closed. With more events this luxury would be lost.

How can the regatta incorporate all these calls for more events and please everyone. The short answer it can’t. Pleasing everyone shouldn’t be the aim but what is right for the regatta itself and the core values that drive it. I feel there should be more events at HRR but I feel there needs to be change, a lot of change of the weeks leading up to it.

Firstly Henley should add the following events at some stage in the next four years as in Tokyo 2020 there will be parity in rowing events and numbers for both men and women.

New Henley Events

  1. Women’s eights event for Club and Students (The Gentlemen’s Plate) – 8 entries growing to 16
  2. Men’s quads event for Club Quads – 8 entries growing to 16
  3. Women’s eights for Juniors event – 8 entries growing to 16.

This would cater for the demand that can be seen from both sides of the pond and leaves space for future growth if the demand is there.

Secondly there needs to be a change to the calendar leading up to the regatta.

1. Open Henley Women’s to cater for Men and Women

Henley Women’s does a great job for catering for a mix of ages and levels and if HRR includes more Women’s events some events may lose their attraction to crews. Hence why men should be included in Henley Women’s.

I am suggesting that Henley Women’s becomes an open event catering for events that are not catered for at HRR for both Juniors and Seniors. This would allow younger male athletes to experience the Henley track at an early age, whilst older athletes the ability to race on the famous track.

2. The British Open takes place the weekend of Marlow and Henley Women’s Regatta

All domestic athletes are at their peak, ready for their biggest challenges and ready to race. This would be the perfect time to host a championship rather than in October…

I am not calling it the British Championships as this should be an open event to international crews preparing for Henley, that’s why its name is Open rather than Championship. This would be a 2 day championship for both Seniors and Juniors. All athletes would be at their peak or near peak in preparation for HRR. International athletes would be available as it doesn’t clash with any World Cup (except in Olympic years). This would be a qualifying event for Henley Royal.

When you combine these changes together we would have an incredible season ending spectacle over 3 weekends.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can make the racing calendar better in the run up to Henley, just leave a comment below.

Poll

 

Update:

After seeing the draw to Henley its incredible to see the number of entries. It looks like nearly 2/3 of entries will not make it through to Henley week! The other noticeable difference between HRR and HWR is the number of entries in the comparable women’s events. Some crews may enter lower or different category events at HWR but what is clear is that many crews see the pinnacle of their season as HRR.

HRR Remenham – 18, HWR Elite Eights – 3
HRR Princess Grace – 25, HWR Elite Quads – 4
HRR Diamond Jubilee – 46, HWR Junior Quads – 23
HRR Princess Royal – 19, HWR Elite Quads – 6

Picture from Henley Royal Regatta