This weekend saw the presentation of the historic Inman & Ovey cups to the male (Henry Plewes from Hampshire) and female (Vicky Cunningham from Reading) winners of the 2018 Henley Classic, an historic open water swimming race along the iconic Henley Royal Regatta course, dating back to 1892.

Winners had their names ‘Inscribed for eternity’ on the base of the antique trophy which were presented to them by the co-founders of the reprised Henley Swim and Director of the River and Rowing Museum. A swimming tradition set in 1892 is kept alive as the winners of this world-renowned race follow in the footsteps of generations of swimmers to take their small part in the history of open water swimming races in the River Thames at Henley.

The race is one of the oldest swims in the world and sees swimmers take a course which is 2.1km upstream on the course of the Henley Royal Regatta, taking place at dawn.

The History

The Inman Challenge Cup was given to the Henley Swimming Club in 1896 to encourage long distance swimming. The challenge was an endurance test and awarded to the swimmer who could swim the furthest.

According to a report in the Henley Standard, there were six competitors in the event in July 1899, which was won by a Mr Tomlinson, who was the slowest swimmer but managed to swim a few yards further than the Mr Inman, the original donor of the trophy. A second trophy was presented by Mr Ovey, the President of the Henley Swimming Club and both are now housed in the River & Rowing Museum in Henley.

The event was reprised in 2004 by open water swimmers Tom Kean and Jeremy Laming in a dawn race, upstream along the world famous Henley Royal Regatta course on the Sunday before the regatta each July.

The Inman and Ovey Challenge Trophies are now awarded to the fastest male and female swimmers of the Henley Classic Swim and outdoor clothing brand, Selkie is delighted to support this iconic open water swim to help make it a truly international event with swimmers from all over the world competing for the oldest open water trophies in the world.

The modern event

Nowadays swimmers swarm from across the world to take part in this iconic event that promises serious bragging rights and ticks off a bucket list challenge. One swimmer enthused: “There is something quite exciting and a little bit naughty about getting in the Thames at 4am in torch light knowing thousands have done this before throughout the century.”.

In the 2018 event, over 40% of the field was made up of returning competitors. The Selkie Henley Classic has an unprecedented return rate with more than 100 swimmers taking part more than five times and 13 of them have competed over 10 years and are included in the Henley Swim Hall of Fame.

Co-founder Tom Kean explains: “The event rebirth was founded on a passion and love for swimming. We had heard about its history and just had to give it a go! It has grown from strength to strength ever since attracting international swimmers and those from mixed swimming backgrounds looking for new challenges.”

Sign up now to the Selkie Henley Classic on 30th June 2019 and be part of history.