‘The Grand Event’ – but no Red Arrows


Update 1700: The Red Arrows will NOT perform at 7.20pm because of bad weather. Organisers made the decision after initially giving the go ahead 30 minutes before.  This morning’s 11.45am Red Arrows Flypast was cancelled due to bad weather. 

Today is a day for maritime enthusiasts to enjoy a rare spectacle – for the first time, all the P&O cruise ships will be in Southampton.

The event – in a surreal choice of words merging Wallace and Gromit with any Doctor Who episode title – is called ‘The Grand Event’, and is taking place to celebrate the P&O boating company’s 175th anniversary. Every man and his dog will be heading along to have a look, with 29000 expected to disembark and embark the liners through the day.

The event will include the seven magnificent boats floating out of the Solent while watched by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, and will also include – subject to weather – an acrobatic performance by the world famous Red Arrows stunt team.

A crowd of 29000 people is expected to disembark and embark on the ships during the day, while crowds will also fill the shores of Calshot, Lepe and Hill Head to catch best views of the day’s events. Officials have emphasised the importance of going to these locations, as the air display will not be visible from Mayflower park, where the Jubilee celebrations were centred.

At dawn, the seven boats – Oceana, Adonia, Azura, Oriana, Aurora, Arcadia, and Ventura – will arrive and berth at the Eastern and Western Docks of the Solent.

The ‘Oceana’ P&O Ship is one of the ‘magnificent seven’

The main water-based event is when the boats depart from around 6.25pm, led by Adonia, and moving out of the Solent into the sea. There will be short bursts of fireworks as the ships pass out of the Solent. The Flotilla will pass through the Southampton Water in single file before splitting into two columns approaching West Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

At this point Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal will review the boats while on the Trinity House Vessel Patricia at anchor near to ‘Charlie Anchorage’.

Weather permitting, The Red Arrows are due to display between 7.20 and 7.45 over the Bramble Bank at the entrance to the Solent. A display by the Red Arrows was cancelled at Southampton’s Jubilee ‘Three Queens’ celebrations, and weather forecasts suggest that this may yet be the case for today’s P&O 175th year celebration.

There is no onshore event such as that of the Jubilee celebration seen in Southampton last month, and police and local authorities are urging anyone wishing to view the spectacle to arrive on public transport as due to the unusually high numbers of people getting on and off ships the roads will be very busy. The best vantage points for the event are on Calshot, Lepe, and Hill Head where the Red Arrows are scheduled to perform.


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