Diamond Jubilee: Swanage rowers set for Thames challenge

Image caption Members of the club have been training in Swanage Bay for the pageant

"Our problem will be slowing down", says George Wallace as he checks the detailed six-page plan for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.

His three crews from Swanage Sea Rowing Club will have to curb their usual racing enthusiasm to keep to the required speed of four knots.

They will be part of the largest flotilla on the Thames in modern times: 1,000 vessels of all sizes on the river to celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the throne.

Three of the club's traditionally-made Cornish gigs will travel the 14 miles from Hammersmith to Greenwich, each with six oarsmen, a spare and a cox.

The members taking part were drawn out of a hat.

In previous years the club has taken part in the Great River Race along the Thames so members are used to rowing on the river.

Mr Wallace said: "It's going to be down to the cox to maintain their station within the flotilla, rather than focusing on speed or power.

Image caption The boats will be among 1,000 taking part in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant

"Hopefully our coxes' experience should ensure we won't have too many problems."

The boats have been decorated in various themes ahead of the pageant - including one depicting Swanage's Victorian heyday.

They will be joined by their neighbouring sea rowing team, the Pirates of Poole in Arripaye.

Swanage's Sea Rowing Club was founded in 2001 by former lifeboat crew who wanted to promote rowing on the open sea.

'Incredible sight'

Their four boats - Winspit, Dancing Ledge, Old Harry and Peveril - are all named after coastal landmarks.

Built in Cornwall from elm and oak, gigs were used to take pilots out to sailing ships in the Western Approaches off Falmouth. The pilot would board the ship and guide it safely into port.

They are now used to race in a number of championships and regattas.

Mr Wallace described them as the "Formula One racing boats of their day".

He said: "Until you've seen the Jurassic Coast from a rowing boat, it means nothing. It's a phenomenal coastline and when you are in a boat there is very little noise so you can get closer to birds and wildlife."

Mr Wallace said everyone in the club was "grinning from ear to ear" at the prospect of the pageant.

"They all really like boats and this is the biggest gathering of historic boats in our lifetime.

"It will be an incredible sight - all of British maritime history in 75 minutes."

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