The Classicist: Royal Ascot, Henley, Cowes & the English Summer Season
The English summer season is in full swing with the year's most important and stylish sporting events on the horizon, maintaining the British traditions of horse racing, tennis, rowing, polo and sailing with elegance and ardor. Lord's Test Cricket has passed, but the Royal Ascot races, the Wimbledon tennis championships, Cartier International Polo, the Henley Royal Regatta and the yacht races at Cowes round out a full season's worth of sporting occasions that are as much fun to watch as to participate in. Herewith The Classicist's guide to the best in class (with a tip of the Panama to the London Telegraph); all you need is a pitcher of Pimm's:
Royal Ascot – June 15-19, Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire
Since it was founded by Queen Anne in 1711, the annual Royal Ascot races have become the highlight of the English social season. Ostensibly a five-day sporting event, it's also evolved into something of an immense fashion show, marked by the arrival of the Royal Family in ceremonial horse-drawn carriages every day. It has become the style for ladies to sport increasingly outrageous hats, and lately the traditional rules about "formal day dress" in the coveted Royal Enclosure have been rather loosely interpreted.
The Championships, Wimbledon – June 21 - July 4, All England Lawn Tennis Club, Surrey
You don't need to be an anglophile to be in the know about Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Of course world-class athletes are the starring attraction but as the Telegraph notes the event also "stands out for its emerald grass courts, strawberry teas and leisurely English ambience."
Henley Royal Regatta – June 30 - July 4, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
International crews compete in various races at the Regatta, which has been held every year since 1839 except during the two World Wars, the main event being the Grand Challenge Cup for Men's Eights. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, became the Regatta's first Royal Patron in 1851, a tradition carried on by the reigning monarch ever since. As Godfrey Smith writes in The English Season, Henley is something of "an Edwardian time warp."
Cartier International Polo – July 25, Smith's Lawn, Windsor Great Park, Egham, Surrey
The "prestige event of the British polo calendar" is staged in the posh surroundings of the Guards Polo Club, and the Telegraph notes it attracts the most celebs of all the season's big ticket events: "the champagne tents heave with models, thespians, art collectors and captains of industry." The coveted Royal Box, Cartier marquee and members' areas are strictly invitation only.
Cowes Regatta – July 31-Aug 7, West Cowes, Isle of Wight
Since 1826 the seaport on the Isle of Wight has given its name to Cowes Week, the world's oldest regular regatta. It owes its prestige and longevity to King George IV, a keen yachtsman for whom Cowes' Royal Yacht Club, now the Royal Yacht Squadron, was named. The world's biggest and fastest sailing yachts compete for the coveted prizes.