THE COXSWAIN of Diamond Jubilee – Eastbourne’s brand new RNLI lifeboat – was honoured to take part in the Queen’s Thames flotilla at the weekend.
Mark Sawyer, the town’s RNLI coxswain, said the pageant on the River Thames on Sunday (June 3) will be a day he will never forget.
Mark piloted Eastbourne’s new £2.7 million lifeboat up the river in London, just three boats back from the Queen’s barge which was carrying Her Majesty and the other senior royals.
Mark and Eastbourne’s RNLI mechanic Dan Guy were accompanied by The Duke of Kent in their new appropriately named boat.
Mark said, “I am immensely proud we were not only representing the RNLI, but representing England for the RNLI and more importantly Eastbourne.
“This new boat for Eastbourne is the latest to join the RNLI fleet and it was humbling to be in the pageant.
“It was amazing to hear how much support there was for the RNLI because as we came through Tower Bridge and people saw us there was this massive roar.
“People were shouting and chanting ‘RNLI’ and ‘lifeboats’. I think I have got repetitive strain injury from waving so much.
“There were people everywhere. People were four, five or even six deep. They were also on roofs and balconies. It was amazing to see.”
The weather was bad for much of the pageant but Mark said it failed to dampen spirits.
“The heavens opened as we came down to Tower Bridge but that didn’t detract from the event in any way shape or form,” said Mark.
“Everyone was prepared with rain coats and umbrellas.”
The highlight for Mark was when Diamond Jubilee was allowed to tie up just 50 feet behind the Queen’s barge to watch the flotilla of around 1,000 vessels of all shapes and sizes – the biggest pageant on the Thames for more than 350 years.
He said, “That really made it extra special as I hadn’t expected that. We watched the whole thing come through right next to the Queen’s barge.
“I was full of pride that we were part of it. It really is a day I will never forget and something to tell the grandchildren.”
Mark said it was excellent publicity for the RNLI and the spectators watching the pageant confirmed their support for the national organisation.
Diamond Jubilee is now back in Eastbourne and the town’s RNLI crew has started training on the new boat.
The week before the Thames pageant it was given a warm welcome by crowds of flag-waving locals as it pulled in to Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour and next month it will have an official naming ceremony by the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The visit by Prince Edward and his wife Sophie will be the last event to mark Diamond Jubilee’s arrival in Eastbourne. Details of the royal visit will be released soon.
The state-of-the-art vessel will then take to the seas of Eastbourne in July.
Pictures: The Diamond Jubilee in London (by Nigel Millard) and off Beachy Head (by Trevor Boston). We apologise for not printing Mr Boston’s byline last week. (firstname.lastname@example.org)