As much as we are all thinking about the preparation for coaches and athletes this weekend, for many this could be the first big regatta for parents attending in support and as many stalwarts in the spectating world would say... easier said than done! We spoke to some parents who have been-there-done-that at more regattas than we count about their best tips for surviving the busy weekend ahead.
If you can't be there in person, check out the YouTube livestream here.
Parking payment has been changed for the 2019 race. The parking is now run through Eventbrite and is £20 in advance or £25 on the day. This is done on a daily basis, so booking in advance for all three days can save you £15.
The nearby Sainsburys Taplow Superstore is a good spot to get refreshments near the regatta, which is conveniently close to the lake. Most people find themselves passing the Sainsburys on their right-hand side after coming off the M4. Note that need to be "checked out" by a parking attendant if you pop out throughout the day so you can be let in on your way back.
Dogs are very welcome at the regatta provided they're kept under control, so don't worry about leaving them at home! It's a great day out for the whole family with lots going on. There really is no atmosphere quite like it.
The gate opening times are:
Find out where your school/club marquee is situated (we've got a copy of the map here)
This mostly depends on whether your child will be racing at the regatta for one or two days. Remember that at Dorney we are very close to Heathrow (around 25 minutes by car), so there are plenty of hotels and B&Bs nearby, as well as in Slough and Maidenhead. It might be worth looking a little further out, as clubs and schools will have likely booked the majority of nearby accommodation. AirBnB is always worth a look.
AT THE EVENT
For starters, your child will almost certainly want a National Schools Regatta official top. They're usually £25 so it is worth bringing cash for that! Demand for NSR merchandise is very high so it is also worth going early to avoid disappointment. There are refreshments available but especially on a hot day, it is worth bringing your own with you. Picnics are a great idea, as well as gas operated BBQs.
There is a great Shopping Village to look around, as well as many universities who are open to talk about rowing at university, the academic side of things and how students balance this, which can be very valuable to hear from real students.
Bringing binoculars can be very helpful in the event those you are supporting are racing on the opposite side of the course, or simply to look further up the course.
There is water available for two-legged and four-legged friends alike at the boathouse at the finish end of the course near to the boating pontoons. It is important to stay hydrated for both athletes and supporters, especially in hot weather as we are often blessed with during NSR! There are portaloos to use the bathroom spread up the course and several by the boathouse.
There is seating available at the finish line, but many prefer to bring their own chairs to sit by their school's marquee in a group.
Bicycles are NOT allowed; you may see many people on bikes, but these are coaches and officials only. Cycling is not allowed for spectators and can negatively affect the crew you're supporting. This is also applicable to the island betwewen the racing lake and warm-up lake. It is reserved for coaches and officials only.
Pack for all weathers! The weather can change greatly as the day progresses, so be prepared to shelter from both the sun and the wind. Out in the open, a stiff wind can make it feel very chilly.
There are several photographers at the event.
Check out AllMarkOne above for our photographs, we will be uploading images live, all day, every day. If we didn't get the shot you're looking for, Ben Rodford Photography and Rowing Photography both take fantastic photographs also. We'd recommend checking through the photos online both during and after the event, with so many talented photographers attending - don't feel pressured to purchase photos on site.
The start line end is normally very quiet so we would recommend watching the semi-finals from there if you want a different experience; it also makes for a nice stretch of the legs during the day! Standard start-line procedures apply, athletes train for months and years focusing on these races, with the 2-5 minutes on the start pontons being the quietest and tensest of them all.
Enjoy the racing! The weekend is ultimately about the kids so let it be theirs. Be mindful of when they might not want to have that picture taken as they are focussed on their race, but absolutely cheer at the top of your lungs for them! A fantastic time is guaranteed.
Many thanks to the parents from Winchester, Shiplake, St. Paul's and Norwich for sharing their top tips with us!