Sorry to disappoint but yes, there is a river in Henley
"IT'S not about the rowing," someone said to me over the weekend while at Henley Royal Regatta.
But I can tell you, more than ever, it is very much about the rowing.
TRADITION: Five-time Olympic champion Sir Steven Redgrave is one of the Henley Royal Regatta's Stewards (Getty Images)
The age-old regatta has come in for its fair share of criticism over the years as being elitist, if not just an excuse for a jolly-up - but read between the lines and you'll find one of the world's most inclusive sporting events.
2009 was a vintage year along this quiet stretch of the River Thames - straddling the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire - and produced some of the finest racing in the regatta's 170-year history.
The entry list this year was outstanding - Olympic and world champions were two-a-penny - but alongside those names were clubs and universities from across the country, for many of whom getting past the qualifying races was an achievement in itself.
When those crews go side-by-side it is the one-on-one format of the regatta itself - with each race effectively a penalty shoot-out - that produces the sports most exciting spectacle.
And for the 468 entries who took to the water over five days of racing, Henley is held with the same reverence - from elite rower to amateur alike.
"Henley is just a fantastic event - it's like Wimbledon on water," said Great Britain's single sculler Alan Campbell - who lost out to world champion Mahe Drysdale in the Diamond Challenge Sculls.
"I made it to the final and I faced Roger Federer unfortunately.
"It is a hugely important event, especially with the standard that was in this year - it was special."
That from a man who finished fifth in Beijing and won the season-opening World Cup regatta in Barcelona.
Campbell's semi-final win over Olympic champion Olaf Tufte was one of the greatest races ever seen at Henley - coming from a length down to break the Norwegian in the closing stages and win by two lengths.
"I had a brilliant race against Olaf. I really enjoyed it, and I hope I'll be remembered for that race," he added.
SCENIC SETTING: The River Thames at Henley staged the rowing events at the 1948 London Olympics
It speaks for itself that Campbell regards that victory as one of his greatest achievements.
The 26-year-old was searching for his third Henley win, but for coxless pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, their win in the Silver Goblets was a significant victory in itself.
"This is our first time at the Henley Regatta and we are trying to think if any New Zealanders have won this event before. If not it is great to win it for the first time," said Murray.
For athletes of the calibre of Campbell and Murray to speak so admirably of the regatta speaks volumes for the quality of rowing it produces and the tradition it upholds.
But for all its heroics, Henley will still have its doubters for its antics on the banks - garish blazers, cigars and Pimms.
Look harder though, and beyond the Stewards Enclosure, you will find a range of spectators as broad as the quality of athletes the racing entices.
The regatta is undoubtedly a social event, but many of our British favourites are - what would Wimbledon be without Henman Hill and strawberries and cream?
Henley brings the spectators close to the action throughout the course - a unique set-up in rowing.
The fact remains that Henley Royal Regatta is a treasure - one of a select few sporting events where you can watch the world's best go head-to-head for free.
What's more - with enough dedication, everyone has the opportunity to compete alongside them.
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