1:54 AM June 2, 2012
On Sunday, as more than a thousand boats begin a stately flotilla down the Thames river in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the procession will be led by 71 kayaks. Near the front, hoping they don’t get too tired, will be two doctors from San Francisco, the lone U.S. entry.
The expedition is the brainchild of Kieron Leslie, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. British-born Leslie, who did his medical training at the University of London, holds dual U.S.-British citizenship. When he heard that the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne would include a river extravaganza, he immediately wanted to be a part of the event honoring his sovereign.
The fact that he didn’t own a boat and had no river experience did not deter him in the least. Last summer he looked up the flotilla’s website and filled out an application.
“I put down ‘kayak,’ because I’ve kayaked in the United States and Canada,” he says. In answer to why he should captain a boat in a historic event that’s expected to be the largest rivergoing pageant in England since 1662, he wrote, “It’s a marker of friendship and respect between California and Britain,” the dermatologist, 40, says. At UCSF, “We have a lot of international staff, a lot of people from the Commonwealth, and there are pretty close links between the United Kingdom and California.”
It worked. Asked why the UCSF boat won a coveted space, when there were four applications for each spot, Harry Whelan, who is in charge of the kayak portion of the flotilla, says he chose their application because “it was so far to come.”
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant will stretch for 7 miles, and it is estimated it will include up to 20,000 people on the river. As many as 1 million people are expected to line the route from the Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge as the queen sails by on a barge converted to look like an ornate 18th-century royal galley. The event will feature fireworks and music from each decade of Elizabeth’s reign.
Leslie says he was very pleased when he got a call from the palace telling him he’d been selected.
“UCSF is proud to be represented by two of our physicians on this auspicious occasion,” said Sam Hawgood, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. “These two doctors embody the core of our institution, serving the people of California in their daily lives but also reaching out and making positive connections worldwide.”
Leslie will be paddling with his partner, Ludwig Lin, who directs critical care services at San Francisco General Hospital and is a professor in the department of anesthesia at UCSF.
This spring the two launched into a training regime at UCSF’s Mission Bay Aquatic Center, which thankfully offered kayak lessons. By the week before the pageant, they’d managed a 7-mile trip at 6 mph and were feeling pretty strong.
“This is a more-than-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Lin says.
The kayak brigade will set off from Chelsea in West London at 8 a.m. Sunday, paddling 7 miles to the start of the pageant. There they will rest in a secured area for about three hours before the beginning of the event at 2:40 p.m. Then they have to paddle back 7 miles to Shadwell Basin in East London.
The human-powered boats have to keep up a speed of 4 knots (4.6 mph) or they’ll knock the entire flotilla’s timing off, Whelan says. That shouldn’t be a problem for him. He holds the world speed record for circumnavigating Ireland in a kayak, a feat that took 25 days.
Whelan is a little worried about the rest of the Kayakers, in part because there’s a forecast of possible rain and headwinds.
“If it’s too windy, we can’t go,” he says. Any wind of faster than 15 knots (17.2 mph) will slow them down. “If you can’t maintain the pace, you’ll be pulled off,” he says. The event is being televised live internationally, “So they want it to work.”
The good news about colder weather is that it will allow Leslie and Lin to wear the racing silks they had specially made in the queen’s colors, for which they had to get approval from the palace. “If it’s too hot, I’m not sure we could stand to wear them,” Leslie says.
After the paddle, there’s a barbecue planned for the human-powered boats. Then the two will spend the day with Leslie’s family.
The trip isn’t only about queen and country. Two days after the river expedition, Leslie will fly to a dermatology conference in Verona, Italy, where he will present a research paper. It’s on urticaria, or hives.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
334597 395 48
his path of destiny = 48 = A man on a mission. Doing what he is here to do.
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