The Henley Royal Regatta: Tips and Tricks 

The Henley Royal Regatta, one of the most prestigious rowing events in the world, is not just a showcase of athleticism and teamwork but also a highlight of the British social calendar. Steeped in tradition since its inception in 1839, the event draws rowing enthusiasts, socialites, and royals alike. If you’re planning to attend, understanding the etiquette is key to fully enjoying the experience. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the regatta with grace and style.

Dress Code

If you’re wearing a dress:

The dress code is smart and sophisticated. Dresses or skirts should be of modest length, falling just above the knee or longer. While trouser suits are also accepted, they should be elegant and tailored. Hats or fascinators are not mandatory but are a popular choice for adding a touch of glamor.

If you’re wearing trousers and a blazer:

The traditional attire for many race goers is to wear a blazer and tie. Rowing blazers, often in bright colors and stripes, are a common sight. A classic pair of chinos or tailored trousers completes the look (don’t be afraid to play with color such as a yellow, pink or even white pair of trousers). Hats are also common and can be a stylish addition when wearing either a Panama Jack style hat or a boat hat which typically has a ribbon of the team’s colors you may represent. 


Comfortable but stylish footwear is necessary as you’ll be on your feet for much of the day. Opt for wedges or flats over high heels, as the event involves walking on grass so there is no sinking into grassy patches. Many race goers may wish to consider polished loafers or brogues. Use caution when wearing suede, as rain and mud are common on the Henley river banks! 

Conduct and Conversation

The regatta is a social event as much as it is a sporting one. You can expect to mix and mingle at one of the many river side pop up bars, restaurants (most of which you need reservations and tickets well in advance to dine at) and music areas. Engage in polite conversation and network with fellow attendees, but remember that overly loud or boisterous behavior is frowned upon. Topics of conversation can range from the races to current events, but it’s wise to steer clear of controversial subjects such as politics or talking negatively about another team or racer. 

Watching the Races

When the races are underway, showing respect for the competitors is very important. Cheering and applause are encouraged, but save your loudest cheers for the finish line. Avoid obstructing the view of others and follow any instructions given by marshals or officials. 


Picnicking is a beloved tradition at Henley. Many attendees bring elaborate hampers filled with gourmet foods and fine wines. If you’re planning a picnic, ensure your setting is neat and that you dispose of waste properly. There are also numerous hospitality areas offering refreshments, ranging from traditional afternoon tea to champagne bars.

Clubs and Enclosures

Different areas of the regatta have their own specific rules and dress codes. The Stewards’ Enclosure, for example, has the strictest dress code and is open only to members and their guests. The Regatta Enclosure is more relaxed but still requires smart attire. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the enclosure you’re attending to ensure you meet the expectations. Be sure to check out the many shops, stands and pop up vans lining the area selling foods, desserts, hats, clothing and souvenirs! 

Photography and Mobile Phones

While photography is generally allowed, it’s courteous to avoid using flash, as it can distract competitors. Mobile phones should be kept on silent mode, and phone conversations should be brief and discreet. There are designated areas for making calls, so consider stepping away if you need to take or make an important call.


As the day draws to a close, it’s polite to leave the grounds promptly at the designated closing time. If you’ve made new acquaintances, exchanging contact information or business cards can be a thoughtful way to maintain connections.

Attending the Henley Royal Regatta is a chance to be part of a historic and glamorous event. By adhering to the etiquette and traditions, you’ll ensure a memorable experience that honors the spirit of this esteemed occasion. Enjoy the races, the company, and the atmosphere that makes Henley so special.

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