There are few things more quintessentially British than getting a little tipsy on Pimms, donning a snappy straw boater, a rakish blazer and mucking about in boats on one of Britain’s many famous waterways. And there can surely be nothing more quintessentially associated with the British summertime than the world famous Henley Regatta. But for those East Londoners in the know, there is a far more risqué and adventurous nautical gathering which like the aforementioned event, takes place but once a year along the salubrious Regents Canal. The not so much as famous, as infamous Hackney Regatta.
The roots of the event are unclear. Some say it all began way back in 17th century London when impoverished Venetian immigrants would offer scenic tours in improvised canal boats made of macaroni and PVA glue. Others say the event has it’s routes all the way back into the 1980s as a right of passage for East End barrow boys determined to prove their worth to gain the much coveted honour of being Sir Allen Sugar’s human punch bag. Whatever the origins of this remarkable event, it has none the less made itself at home as a regular feature of the nautical calendar.
This year’s event saw a record breaking amount of vessels participate in the afternoon voyage as turnout has increased year on year. In anticipation, organisers provided extra time for those struggling to prepare their craft before casting off from City Road Lock. But organisers ensured that not all tradition was lost, and just as every year that has preceded it, safety measures were neither considered nor implemented for this year’s regatta. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it British Waterways!
With such an enthusiastic group of maritime merrymakers, and considering the rapid inflation of numbers over the years, next year’s event is sure to attract far more attention than just the confused pedestrians walking alongside the fabulous flotilla. With both major endorsements from international alcoholic beverage companies and an inflatable dinghy manufacturer in the offing, next year’s event is sure to be another massive success.
And what better after enjoying a full day of excitement and excess, than retiring to the venerable surroundings of the Albert and Pearl finishing the day at the official Hackney Regatta Bon Bon after-party?! Huzzah!