The Henley Boat Races were founded in 1975 by Richard Bates, an undergraduate at St John’s College, Cambridge, when he arranged the first Lightweight Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge over Henley Reach. This echoed the first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, which took place at Henley in 1829.
The Women’s Boat Race was first raced in 1927 – in the form of a time and style contest – and it underwent a revival in the 1970s and joined the men’s lightweights at Henley in 1977. The Blondie-Osiris race for the women’s reserves followed and, with the inauguration of the women’s lightweights race in 1984, a successful format of four varsity races has evolved.
For the first time in 2010, races – over a shortened course – between college crews at each university were added to the programme. These races are between the current holders of the Headship of the Lent bumping races in Cambridge and of the Torpids bumping races in Oxford.
As Race Day became more popular, an organising committee was set up in 1989, comprising the club presidents under the chairmanship of Mark Blandford-Baker, to agree the umpire, the date and other race details for the benefit of all.
Patrick Gillespie (CULRC 1989-90, OULRC 1992) took over the lead role in 1999, and he handed over the Chairman’s reins to Robert Treharne Jones for the events from 2004 to 2010.
The Boat Race Company Limited, which organises the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in London, has announced an initiative that will bring the Women’s Boat Race to London in 2015 to race on the same day and on the same course as The Boat Race. The Henley Boat Races will continue in their current format at least until then.
The Henley Boat Races currently benefit from sponsorship from The Brakspear Brewing Company, Invesco Perpetual and Newton Investment Management. In recent years the main site has been helpfully provided by The Copas Partnership. The Organising Committee also gratefully acknowledges the help, guidance and support of many organisations including Colwick Park Lifeguard Club, Environment Agency, Henley Contracting, The Stewards, Secretary and staff of Henley Royal Regatta, The Higgs Group, Hobbs & Sons Ltd., Leander Club, Oxford University Rowing Clubs, Remenham Club, River and Rowing Museum, The St John Ambulance, Upper Thames Rowing Club, Wokingham Borough Council, and all the residents of Remenham.