Richmond dragon boaters to take part in Queen's Diamond Jubilee
Georgina Patko, Yvonne Stitch and Margaret Hobson have been invited to spend Sunday (June 3) with the Queen.
At least the better part of it.
The three Richmond women are members of Abreast from the West, a team of 14 breast cancer survivors from around the Lower Mainland who’ll be paddling the River Thames in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne.
“Absolutely we’re pinching ourselves at the honour,” said Patko, who along with Stitch, Hobson and Vancouver’s Heather Trenholm—who works in Richmond—are longtime members of the local dragon boat team Abreast in a Boat.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, but it’s difficult to imagine what it’s really going to be like until we get there.”
The opportunity was spawned about a year ago during a dragon boat race in Malaysia. That’s when Trenholm was encouraged by the president of the International Dragon Boat Federation (who’s asked to be on the boat) to apply to be part of the jubilee.
According to Patko, the now-dubbed Abreast from the West—which will be near the front—will be the only Canadian vessel among the expected 1,000 on the river that day. She added that the flotilla will be the largest on the Thames in at least 350 years, possibly ever.
Film crews from just about every country in the world will be on hand for the flotilla, which is expected to draw one million spectators along the river. In all, the crew will be on the water for up to five hours—not because the flotilla will take that long, but because they have to get to the start line—leading the queen’s barge—and in position for the actual 11-kilometre trek.
“It’s going to be amazing,” said Patko. “They’re going to have all the church bells answering each other, choirs performing, and the Royal Symphony Orchestra on a barge.”
The Abreast from the West crew will be decked out in distinctly Canadian red-and-white uniforms replete with maple leafs. Even the life jackets are red.
“Every day that goes by we’re getting more excited,” said Stitch, adding there are many reasons why she wanted to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Imagine how exciting it’s going to be the only Canadian boat blinged out in Canada uniforms? You rarely go anywhere broadcasting you’re Canadian. And obviously it’s a great honour to be celebrating a great woman’s accomplishment.”
Stitch said there will be no time to rest—“because the Queen isn’t stopping”—so they’ll have to keep the clip up. At one point, before the queen gets on her barge, they’ll pass by her and will have to do the salute.