The Royal Yacht Squadron’s week long bicentennial celebrations commenced on Tuesday, 2nd June. Say it quickly and skip lightly over the hidden depths of that sentence and it doesn’t sound too bad at all. But ponder for a moment on the significance of the fact that it has taken the RYS five years of planning to ensure that the events, which celebrates the Squadron’s two hundred year existence, went smoothly and it might become apparent that this was one monumental operation.
What made the week complex was not so much the racing, something with which the Squadron is more familiar than most, but the fact that more royal visitors than you could shake a mace at were attending the Review of the RYS fleet and the Royal Marines’ Beat Retreat. Attending to our own royal family requires dedication and attention to detail but looking after the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, King of Spain, King of Norway, the Aga Khan, Prince and Princess of Greece and many more of our own royal family is enough to frazzle the brain of the most ardent of planners.
On Friday 5th June, the day of the Fleet Review, the Squadron’s fleet of yachts were in place, lined up on specially placed buoys off Cowes, a cloud of bunting fluttering above the the Solent waters in the gentle summer breeze. Cowes was in virtual lock down with road closures and barriers in place to keep royal watchers at bay, with sinister personal protection officers in dark suits glowering at those who dare step too close. Shortly before the Review took place the various royal parties starting arriving from every angle. Needless to say, there was a variety of royal photographers and film crews who had arrived to record the occasion. They were equipped with the most impressive array of top quality DSLRs coupled with lenses the size of dustbin lids, ideal for extreme long shots of press-wary royals. However, I had a secret weapon, Fran, who was armed with a Canon 5D Mk3, an unobtrusive short zoom and a flashgun. As the Squadron had commissioned us to cover the event they had also ensured that we had unrestricted access to all areas. So, while the press were penned in to a suitably royal friendly distance, the Secret Weapon was quietly patrolling the Squadron’s pontoons on her own. Very quietly, she approached one young, attractive royal couple and politely asked if she might take a photograph of them. When they happily posed for her and Fran took some shots with just a touch of fill-in flash, the press pack went into a frenzy, running along the shoreline with their huge lenses, all trying to get in on the action. Too late, the Secret Weapon had been unleashed. The royal couple were Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece and Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece and like so many of the other royals, were absolutely charming.