Monday, July 28, 2014

Springtime Rewind Pt 3: Henley Royal Regatta

I have just one last spring rewind, because summer is now well and truly under way and I actually have some new events to write about, but this last recollection was just too good to pass up.

Remember how in my last post, I talked about getting the right to wear a Pembroke blazer, and thus getting an admission ticket into the weirdly cultish world of Oxbridge rowing? Well, I got to put that to good use just a week or so after term ended, when a couple of friends from boat club and I pulled out our blazers for a weekend at Henley Royal Regatta.

Henley is the crown jewel of the summer rowing calendar in Britain, half elite-level competition and half elite-level social ritual. The dress code is incredibly stringent, with jackets and ties for men and below-the-knee skirts or dresses for women, with boating blazers being the most coveted accessory of all.

 (Wearing my Pembroke blazer with pride - I also had my high school's bowtie folded in as a pocket square for a little additional institutional pride)


 (Familiarizing ourselves with the plan for the day's racing)

There is an unspoken hierarchy of boating blazers, with the blue blazers of the Oxford and Cambridge university teams ranking near the top, Oxbridge college blazers comfortably in the middle, smaller club blazers near the bottom, and international blazers from the Netherlands and the US appearing as exotic sideshow oddities. An Oxford grad student had just published a coffee table book of boating blazers a few weeks before Henley, so my friends and I--newly versed on the many cuts and colors of Britain's blazer tradition--had a lot of fun identifying who came from where as we walked up and down the riverbank.

(With my friend Richard, who wears the striped blazer of the Oxford University Lightweights)

(With a Nepthys-blazer-clad Sam)

(Pembroke ladies with an Isis man)

I have to say I didn't pay much attention to the racing, spending a lot more time observing my fellow spectators in full peacocking splendor and drinking pint after pint of Pimms. It was so quintessentially upper class British, and pretty much lives up to all the stereotypes I thought about England before I moved here. I found all the elitism pretty old by the end of the weekend, but definitely enjoyed my little window into high society while I could.

 (With Charly, one of my best friends from Pembroke)

 (Showing some Stanford pride)

 (Much exhausted lounging)

Plus, at £200 a pop, boating blazers are hardly cheap, so it felt good to give mine a few more outings to try to make the price seem a bit more reasonable!!

 (Watching the rowing)

(In Photog mode)

 (Watching two Pembroke students in one of their last outings before representing Great Britain at the world championships!!)

 (The fancay Henley lawn chairs)

 (All dressed up for Henley!)

(Blazers, ready to roll)

After Henley, I spent one more night in the UK before flying home to the States for a few weeks, where I've now been enjoying a relaxing vacation before another crazy year in the surreal world that is Oxford. It's been mostly quiet, but I have had a few adventures worth sharing. More soon!

 (Henley, yaaaaaaas)


redheadlins said...

I truly love the window into another life that your stories allow:)

T Myers said...

those blazers are mint!

L.Williams said...

Really interesting and cool!

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