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Ready, steady: row - the PLA joins the Queen's Jubilee Pageant

(L-R)PLA rowers Barbara Meddings, Lee Walker, Jane Collins, Jayne Stokes and Dave Bird (click on image to enlarge)
(L-R) PLA rowers Barbara Meddings, Lee Walker, Jane Collins, Jayne Stokes and Dave Bird 
(click on image to enlarge)

As over 100 Port of London Authority (PLA) staff marshal the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on the river Thames on June 3, 12 of their colleagues will be joining the event, as rowers.

The PLA are the pageant organisers’ marine advisors, planning the river event in the finest detail and also getting the river ready for 3 June, laying hundreds of additional moorings for participating vessels.  And as the 1,000 strong flotilla sets off in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, two PLA rowing boats will be joining the 265 manpowered vessels from round the world in the pageant’s first section.

The PLA’s two 34-foot long Waterman Cutters, the Penelope and Centurion, will be crewed by PLA staff based at its headquarters in Gravesend.  The cutters carry four PLA rowers, a cox and a passenger; the crews are ready for the pageant, after they joined the manpowered squadron rehearsal for the 3 June event.

PLA rower and IT project manager, Dave Bird said:

“We are very much looking forward to the big day. It will be a challenge rowing in formation with the 20 other Waterman Cutters which we usually race against.

“We compete in the annual races on the Thames, including the Port of London Challenge, the Admiral of the Port Challenge, and the Great River Race and we practice hard on the river most weeks.

“But this is going to be different and it’s great to think we are going to be part in a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. We expect to be aboard our boats for about eight hours.”

The Pageant’s first section, which includes Penelope and Centurion, will be headed by the royal row barge, Gloriana, powered by volunteer rowers including Olympic medallist oarsmen Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.

Other man-powered vessels include the 260 year old St Michael’s Mount State Barge – the oldest boat in the flotilla; a Viking long ship; Venetian gondolas;  a Celtic longboat; dragon boats and kayaks.
The design of the modern Waterman Cutters, which is essentially a racing craft, is based on drawings of the boats used by the Watermen of London in the 1700s and 1800s.

In the 1980s organisers of the Great River Race developed the modern day boat and in 1992 produced the first of what is now a 24 strong fleet, most of which compete annually in the 21-mile long autumn river marathon from Greenwich to Ham.

Waterman Cutters are robust, light, stable and fast and are equally at home on the tidal Thames or sheltered coastal waters.  They can be rigged for up to six oarsmen either rowing or sculling. In keeping with their traditional origins they can carry a cox and passengers under a canopy.

In the last ten years Waterman Cutters have set new record times for sculling the English Channel (two hours 42 minutes) and sculling non-stop from London to Paris (four days 15 minutes).

Notes to Editors

  • For the last 18 months the PLA has been heavily involved planning the navigational safety of the Pageant’s flotilla of up to 1,000 vessels large and small from all over the world.
  • The PLA has laid three miles of mooring chains in Barn Elms Reach which will enable more than 200 vessels to tie up the night before the pageant.
  • The PLA has laid heavy duty moorings on the Thames in central London below London Bridge to accommodate the Avenue of Sail, which consists of  tall-masted vessels which cannot get under the bridges
  • The PLA has been involved in rehearsals for the pageant and its vessel licensing officers will, with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, inspect 200 of the craft expected to take part.
  • On the day, 30 PLA vessels will help monitor and marshal the participants and their boats afloat, and co-ordinate river traffic.
  • The PLA will also keep the seven mile Pageant route from Battersea Bridge to below Tower Bridge clear of debris.