Rowing for her majesty … it’s a wedge issue


THERE were certain delicate issues to be navigated by the Australian surf lifesavers who will row boats in the huge flotilla on the Thames for the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations later today.
The women usually wear bikinis in the short races associated with their sport and the men their famous budgie-smugglers. Apparently this was not a goer for this grand event, where they will wear black pants.
The traditional bathers “wedgie up” over time “and being on the river from 9.30 to 5 with a wedgie would be too painful”, crew member Sarah Handley says cheerily.
Surf lifesaving boats also effectively act as modesty panels, which the boats borrowed for the day will not achieve to the same degree, so “we had to wear something more modest”.
They were worried about their modesty? Organisers’ concerns were “not for us, mainly for the Queen”, Handley laughs. She is among four Queensland state rowing champions, from the Currumbin Surf Lifesaving Club, who will row today. They put in an application following a call to oars by the Australian high commission in London. Their winning pitch? “We thought it was really important, as female rowers, to offer representation for our female monarch,” Rachel Kilmartin says.
Twenty-nine Australian lifesavers will be among those in the human-powered vessels that will lead the flotilla of 1000 boats, including a barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, that will carry the royal family.
The flotilla will include 10 herald barges that will play different music, including a floating belfry containing eight church bells, each named after a senior member of the royal family. The largest, which weighs half a ton, is Elizabeth. Church bells along the route will ring in reply.
Another barge will play Handel’s Water Music, while the royal marines will play Sailing. The final music barge will carry members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra who will play themes for landmarks as they are passed: Country Gardens for the Chelsea Physic Garden and the James Bond theme for the MI6 building at Vauxhall.
One group of boats will receive a particularly warm welcome: in the historic section will be the much-loved Dunkirk Little Ships. They are the last survivors of Operation Dynamo, Churchill’s strategy to evacuate almost 400,000 troops from the coast of France during World War II.
In a stretch of the river from London Bridge to Wapping, boats from the era of sail will be moored, including warships, tall ships, square riggers and oyster smacks. A 41-gun salute will erupt from the Tower of London and the flotilla will end with the singing of God Save the Queen.

First published in the Sun-Herald.