Olympians and old blazers on show at English regatta

Fri Jul 5, 2013 12:58pm EDT
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By Paul Casciato

HENLEY-ON-THAMES, England (Reuters) - It's one of England's great days out: a combination of grueling sports event and high-society picnic.

While Olympic rowers and plucky amateurs did battle along the Thames on Friday, thousands of champagne-fuelled spectators lined the banks to cheer them on at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The sun shone, the Pimms flowed freely, the ladies showed off their hats and dresses and the gentlemen squeezed into old blazers for this annual summer fixture, whose roots stretch back to a maritime past when Britannia ruled the waves.

"It's an international regatta, a national regatta, a place for reunions and anniversaries all rolled into one," said Henley Chairman Mike Sweeney.

Off the water, competitors and spectators must adhere to the strict rules that have traditionally governed the dress and comportment of the British upper classes at play.

Guests and members who are admitted to the Stewards' Enclosure, where there are grandstands, deck chairs, champagne bars and restaurants, must look the part.

"Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels, and a tie or cravat," say the instructions on Henley's website.

Many wear their old rowing club blazers: the enclosure is festooned with the tasteful dark and light blues of Oxford and Cambridge, but also a host of garish jackets in every color of the rainbow - striped, plain and patterned.   Continued...

Spectators wearing straw hats watch the rowers go past at the Henley Royal Regatta, an annual rowing event first held in 1839 in Henley-on-Thames, southern England July 5, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh