It comes as a surprise to few that this year’s Henley Royal Regatta has been cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the news crashing the HRR website at the time of writing. While the decision is clearly the correct one to make given the UK’s growing number of cases and forecast, and with the recent strict advice given by the government, the confirmation is still a harsh blow for all athletes.
The Regatta stated:
“With much sadness and regret, the Committee of Management of Henley Royal Regatta has agreed that the 2020 Regatta must be cancelled. We have also ruled out the possibility of staging the Regatta at a future date this year. It has weighed heavily on the Committee of Management that in its 181 year history, the Regatta has only previously been cancelled during the World Wars.
Also that so many athletes and coaches have worked so hard for an entire season in order to give themselves the chance to race at Henley. Nonetheless, we are agreed that this is the right decision for our staff, members, volunteers, competitors, spectators, partners and Stewards.
We have taken this decision after much deliberation, and after as thorough an evaluation that we and the Regatta staff have been able to conduct since the COVID-19 outbreak started to have an impact on normal life. “
The Regatta states that the three major factors in the decision are from the latest government guidance, the disease modelling evidence which predicts the virus’ growth and forecast in the UK, and the financial and practical implications of altering the operation of the Regatta.
Sir Steve Redgrave, Chairman of the Committee of Management, has said the following:
“We appreciate that the cancellation of the Regatta will come as a huge disappointment to many involved in the sport of rowing, especially those whose seasons had been planned around Henley, and particularly given that event after event has been cancelled already this year. However, no matter how passionate we are about our sport, we are also mindful that there are now more significant issues at stake than the staging of sporting events. In this context, it is our hope that all concerned will understand our decision. We all know and cherish the fact that our sport is more than a community - it is a family. We encourage all in the rowing family to adhere to Government requirements on social distancing and guidance on good hygiene, and hope that by 2021 we are safely able, once again, to stage the world’s pre-eminent Regatta, over six wonderful days of competition.”
This announcement comes just one day after a previous statement from the Regatta stating that they were monitoring the outbreak, and that the health and safety of the Regatta staff, contractors, suppliers, members, competitors, coaches, volunteers and spectators were the chief consideration in theses times. There has been pressure on Twitter for a decision to be made from coaches and rowers, as more Summer races are being cancelled daily. Considerations must be made for international crews, who of course must plan any travel much further in advance, so the Regatta cannot make a late decision which other late-Summer events may be trying. With the Olympics postponed and all other major sporting events cancelled, this decision is unfortunately the only logical one at this time. The answer to the ever-present question of "Is it Henley yet?" remains "No." for another year.
For more information, see the following links:
Henley Royal Regatta