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Monday, June 4, 2012

Queens' Diamond jubilee pageant at Thames and Sail boat race at Thondi

World is raving about ‘thames set ablaze’ by the grand show of boats commemorating the diamond jubilee pageant.  The water show is led by Gloriana, a royal barge.  A royal barge is a ceremonial barge that is used by a monarch for processions and transport on a body of water.  Royal barges are currently used in monarchies such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and Thailand.

River Thames, a long river, flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Windsor, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond.  Thames is very much in news as more than a million people lined up  the Thames to pay tribute to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee.

It was indeed a great event as thousands gathered along the Thames to get the best view of the Queen to mark her 60 years of reign.  A real marine spectacle as there was the 1,000-strong flotilla, touted to be the most spectacular nautical event in London for the past 350 years.  It would certainly have been wondrous watching the world record-beating 1,000-strong flotilla passing under Tower Bridge.

Daily Mail reports that the  belfry carrying The Royal Jubilee Bells was the first vessel through, followed by the million-pound row barge Gloriana led by Olympic gold medallists Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, rowing with 16 others.  There are reports that the threat of rain didn't dampen the Jubilee celebrations on the banks of the Thames  as one million people turned out on the streets of London to enjoy the 1,000-boat Royal flotilla. Pageant organisers said despite the weather, the huge crowds they had prepared for had turned up to revel in proceedings.
the passing boats and crowds at Millennium bridge
Sure, those  enormous numbers of visitors created chaos on tubes and trains, with packed carriages meaning passengers were unable to board. Transport for London warned people not to try and watch the flotilla from the already packed viewing platforms.  The river-borne event was one of the highlights of the four-day Diamond Jubilee weekend and spectators refused to let the miserable weather dampen their spirits.  Nine naval helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm were scheduled to form a 'Diamond Nine' in the skies above London to salute the Queen. However that did not occur as it was cancelled due to the poor weather.
Leading the 1,000-strong flotilla will be the Gloriana. The 94ft Royal rowbarge – the first to be built for more than a century – is unique among the participating vessels in that it is the only one specially commissioned for the event.   The Gloriana is a 2012 28.6 metres (94 ft) long British royal barge. She was privately commissioned as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee, and was the lead vessel in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

The project to build Gloriana was initiated by Lord Sterling, who stated he got the idea for a waterborne tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee from her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales.  The  rowing barge is powered by 18 oarsmen, and can carry an additional 34 passengers and crew. According to Lord Sterling, the design is inspired by Canaletto's London paintings of 18th century barges.  According to The Daily Telegraph, the design resembles the boat used by the Lord Mayor of London in the 1800s.

Construction began in November 2011 at a site in Brentford, and on  19 April 2012  Gloriana was transported by road from the factory to the River Thames, being placed in the water for the first time at Isleworth.  The Queen officially named her on 25 April 2012, during a visit to re-open the restored Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

If it was all about pomp and ceremony at Thames, elsewhere in Thondi near Ramnad, it was  all about keeping alive an age-old competition of fishermen, slowing dying mainly owing to modernisation of boats and changes in fishing methods.  The fisherfolk celebrated the ‘Vaikasi Visakham’ festival of Lord Muruga by organizing a ‘sail boat competition’ in the sea.  It was organized in the past few years also. According to rules fixed by the organisers, the participants should travel up to a marked point and return to the shore after going round a boat anchored in the sea.

At a time when fishermen have switched over to trawlers or motorised boats, there are some oldtimers who still live stuck to the catamaran for fishing.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
4th June 12

PS :  Thames boats and Gloriana – courtesy; Thondi boat courtesy

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