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What a tremendous day on the river…

04 Jun 2012
It seems every available window was packed as The Royal Rowbarge swept past – photo: AdamBMorgan

It seems every available window was packed as The Royal Rowbarge swept past – photo: AdamBMorgan

JUBILEE PAGEANT: The ‘papers say over a million people went to London to see the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames, writes Peter Nash. And what a magnificent spectacle it was.

Following the Belfry Barge, the Royal Rowbarge Gloriana – financed by a group led up by Lord Sterling - was ostensibly rowed by a crew that included Olympic medallists Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.

But this seven mile row must have been their easiest yet with the £1m, 94ft boat’s passage aided and abetted by electric power supplied by British high performance DC motor company LMC.

LMC’s motors were connected to a pair of Sillette-Sonic MK2 Sonic Elect saildrives mounted in a V configuration towards the stern of the craft. The setup enabled the 12 ton Gloriana to achieve speeds of up to 8 knots, exceeding initial expectations of 5 – 6 knots.

They also provided a stopping distance averaging 1½ boat lengths from 6 knots. And all this with just 14kW/19hp of available power.

The Thames Barrier had already been closed to keep the Thames – generally averaging around 4kts – down to around one knot, but it was felt electric power would be ideal to add that little extra when berthing or manoeuvring.

And, let’s face it, rowing a boat that size and weight wasn’t going to be easy. So the oarsmen and women must have been pleased to find they had little more to do than lift their oars up and drop them in the water in time.

Navionics also helped the Pageant by providing participating boats with a free Navionics app that enabled skippers to plan their routes, record their tracks, save geo-referenced photos, and share their experiences with friends via email, Twitter and Facebook.

However, running a pageant with 1,000 boats on the River Thames was always going to be a bit fraught on occasions. The leisure powerboats were restricted to four columns across the Thames with orders to keep one boat’s length from the boat in front. And there was always the worry that Something Might Go Wrong.

But it didn’t. Well, I didn’t see anything other than a few row boats under tow towards the end of the trip. And I’ve not heard of any silly swimmers trying to prove a point.

The Daily Mail reported an anti-monarchist demonstration that had its chant of Lizzie, Lizzie Lizzie, out, out, out, completely drowned out by a spontaneous reply of Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie, in, in, in. This was, apparently, followed by a resounding rendition of God Save the Queen.

The small powerboats – a band of 60, I believe – didn’t get much airtime, but the inland waterways boats seemed to enjoy some excellent coverage. And the rowing boats that led the pageant were superb. What a collection, with oars and paddles waving at all angles on occasions, but essentially all under control from start almost to the finish, where things slowed up a bit and caused some bunching.

But I did feel sorry for those having to stay out there in the relentlessly appalling weather. Apart from a short trip below, both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed on their feet in temperatures around 7ºC. Think what the actual temperature was with the wind chill...

Tom Cunliffe was engaged as a maritime pundit, but came up a bit short when asked to translate the message being broadcast by semaphore from one building. “I haven’t a clue,” he replied truthfully.

Strangely for the erudite Mr Cunliffe, he was remarkably reticent, which was a pity. He is, after all, one of the most knowledgeable people in our industry and can raise many a smile with his anecdotes.

Maybe he was put on a tight rein in front of Her Majesty…

Final boat
Then the final boat came under Tower Bridge and turned to port to present her starboard side to HM the Queen and the royal party on Spirit of Chartwell.

The singers from the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir seemed not to notice the downpour (all were dressed for fine weather and absolutely drenched). They brought the day’s exquisite proceedings to a fitting finale with a truly spectacular and rousing version of Land of Hope and Glory.

There wasn’t a dry eye in our house…

This was an excellent example of what Britain does better than the rest of the world: pomp and ceremony. And it was nice to see the Union Flag being waved, carried and worn by thousands with absolutely no political overtones.

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It seems every available window was packed as The Royal Rowbarge swept past – photo: AdamBMorgan Even ‘HMS Belfast’ had a fresh coat of paint for the day… Inland waterways craft dressed for the occasion I wonder if the girls had spent much on a fancy hairdo for the important day…

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