Henley Royal Regatta is a highlight on the summer sporting calendar and British social season. Undoubtedly the best known regatta in the world, the five day event attracts Olympians and rowing enthusiasts from across the world to the two-kilometre stretch of the River Thames. Henley Regatta was first held in 1839 and has been held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. In 1851 H.R.H. Prince Albert became the Regatta’s first Royal Patron. Since the death of The Prince Consort, the reigning Monarch has always consented to become Patron. This patronage means the Regatta can be called Henley Royal Regatta.

This year, Henley Royal Regatta received a record high of 629 entrants, with international entries having also defied previous records with 165 crews entered from Singapore, China, New Zealand, Canada and the USA amongst others with over 27 nations competing for honours. As many of you know, my lovely lady is an experienced rower herself and has not only coxed for Oxford University during her first degree but has also coxed boats for Cambridge and London. Although more well known for her involvement in University coaching, rowers she’s worked with or coached have been in featured in crews at Henley Royal Regatta over the years.

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As the Regatta was instituted long before national or international rowing federations were established, it occupies a unique position in the world of rowing. It has its own rules and is not subject to the jurisdiction either of British Rowing or the International Rowing Federation, but is officially recognised by both these bodies.

Unlike multi-lane international regattas, Henley still operates a knock-out draw with only two boats racing in each heat. This results in up to 90 races having to be organised on some of the five days. The length of the Course is 1 mile 550 yards, which is 112 metres longer than the standard international distance of 2,000 metres. It takes approximately seven minutes to cover, so there are often two races at once on the Course for much of the day. The number of races is, of course, reduced on each successive day, leaving only the Finals to be rowed on the last day.

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This year, the Dutch Olympic men’s squad sent a contingent to Henley, including their men’s eight who were winners of the World Cup Regatta in Lucerne and Hollandia Roeiclub went on to win the Grand Challenge Cup for Eights – the most prized Challenge Trophy of the 2016 Regatta.

For the first time, live coverage of the Regatta appeared on BT Sport which helped widen the reach of the World’s most prestigious regatta to an even greater audience in addition to those who already followed the live broadcast of the whole event streamed on the Regatta’s Official YouTube Channel.

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Ahead of last year’s regatta, we caught up with Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, and his fellow Olympic gold medalist Sir Matthew Pinsent. Sir Steve Redgrave is the only British athlete ever to win five consecutive Olympic gold medals and is one of this country’s most inspiring sporting legends so we were very grateful that he made time to speak to us and pose for the camera with my lady and Pinsent.

Those familiar with the Mr Sloan blog will already know I’m into extreme sports and enjoy a sense of adventure, so it was not surprising when my conversation with Sir Steve Redgrave turned to the subject of the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race. The race with its 125-mile route from Devizes in Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament is considered to be one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges and even Sir Steve was forced to retire from the race in 2012 due to fatigue. Upon hearing my interest in entering the race, Sir Steve advised me to give 2016 a miss to avoid his prediction of unfavourable weather conditions… I’m glad I listened to him as DW2016 saw crews endure incredible conditions with severe weather and safety concerns forcing organisers to stop the race after day 3.

The regatta attracts thousands of visitors who were thrilled by over 200 races of an international standard over the 5-day event. My lady and I were delighted to be invited to take in the ambience whilst enjoying the facilities within the Temple Island enclosure as guests of Smart Group which meant no deck chairs for us!

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The Henley Royal Regatta is a standard bearer in excellence and continues to showcase the best of British. The Temple Island Enclosure is widely regarded as one of the finest hospitality facilities on the course, in which to entertain during the regatta and is prominently located moments away from the start. As guests of Smart Group, we enjoyed an delicious four course lunch and afternoon tea prepared onsite by Smart Hospitality under the watchful eye of Head Chef Richard Hawthorn.

Hospitality specialists Smart Experiences offers premium packages to private and corporate groups at some of the UK’s most prestigious and sought after sporting events such as; Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and The Henley Royal Regatta. Smart Experiences tailors each hospitality package to meet the high expectations and demands of their guests.

Smart Group is a dynamic collection of hospitality, catering and event management businesses with over 20 years’ experience; founded and led by CEO, Greg Lawson. The company consists of Smart Hospitality; Smart Live, Smart Experiences, Smart by Angela Hartnett; Smart Christmas Parties, Battersea Evolution and Moving Venue by Smart. Quality, passion and integrity drive all the brands at Smart Group, providing the ultimate experiences across events and hospitality. Their staff are friendly and courteous, this young chap was routing for his old school Radley to win their race. I was tempted but held back in making a quip about the fact they should have the Radley dog as their mascot as for one I am not sure how I know so much about handbags and two we are not in the US and no giant furry animal was seen on the banks, sadly no cheerleaders either.

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The bar was positioned so beautifully with the river as it’s backdrop.

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A quick hop to the tow path and you can see the action, you have to love it when the winning crew are the crew that matches the colours in your tie – well chosen but sadly not my crew!
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The action is intense with the umpire boat following closely behind.

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Back across the white picket fence to our enclosure to hear the beautiful sounds of the band…

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Then it is time for my tastebuds to be tantalised…

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Apart from some very well dressed people at my table this is my view…

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As is this!
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Lunch began with a starter of salad of rare beef, papaya, crisp vegetables, lemongrass and a muscovado dressing.

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However as I have an allergy to beef they kindly brought out this vegetarian creation for me.

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Starters were followed by roast hake fillet and crab cannelloni, spinach, cherry vine tomatoes and buttered new potatoes for main course.

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Dessert consisted of a cassis parfait roulade with blackberry yoghurt sorbet.

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Interested in how Smart Hospitality had everything working so efficiently I had to ask for a quick tour behind the scenes. Have you ever wondered what goes on… well here is a sneak peek.

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Every plate so perfect…

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Guests outside enjoy the Regatta not always realising how much effort, preparation and planning goes in to running such a tight ship!

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So while we get to watch the rowers against the glorious backdrop of Temple Island…

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And enjoy the sunshine gently caressing our whiskers…

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Smart Hospitality is hard at work prepping for afternoon tea.

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Quite a few more to go.

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Back to the action outside and time to take a quick stroll by the river to the shopping village before our river trip.

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The skies may be appearing grey but the weather is kindly holding out for the crews and as you can see everyone is having a jolly…

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Shopping here is akin to a small CLA game fair for rowers!

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How majestic!

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The crew’s too of course!

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For those who want to know a little more about the course here is a map, we were stationed on the far right opposite Temple Island but the shopping village is more towards the centre.

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A simpler sign in case you get lost.
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Which helps me back to the marque.

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The umpire is looking rather serious.

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and the filming crew is close by, as my lady explains to me about the form and technique of the crews flying by us.

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Time for the boat trip and you can see the river from a totally different perspective. What is this I spy in my Maui Jims! Could it be Sloan!

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Waving to the spectators as we go by.

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Navigating our way through the river.

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We saw a fabulously British sight.


Then it was time to return to base. We were treated to traditional river cruise as part of our Henley Regatta Smart Experience. Later we returned to the Temple Island Enclosure for an lovely afternoon tea.

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Everything delightfully high in sugar content and flavour.

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Fresh fruit too in preparation for Wimbledon – bring out the strawberries.

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A fabulous time was had by all. A little bit of post prandial dip to accompany my sugar overload and I was ready to take my lady to our next adventure.

Smart Hospitality caters many more events not just Henley, they covered Royal Ascot and are looking after Wimbledon to name just a couple. Look out for them on your travels as their hospitality makes for a special day.