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Dozens line the banks of the River Humber

Preparing for the flotilla in the River Humber Photo: Calendar

A mile-long flotilla of boats sailed down the River Humber tonight for the first time since Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Thousands of people lined the banks of the river as more than 40 "fully-dressed" vessels passed beneath the Humber Bridge.

The event reflected the flotilla which gathered on the Humber 115 years ago to celebrate Queen Victoria's 60 years on the throne.

Before the vessels set sail, a distinctive yellow Royal Air Force (RAF) Sea King helicopter flew over four towns on the Humber Estuary, prompting cheers as it hovered at low level in front of the crowd of around 10,000 people gathered on Hessle Foreshore.

Crowds gathered Credit: Calendar

The rescue aircraft flew over the span of the Humber Bridge and banked sharply over the spectators as it joined the flotilla as an air escort.

The historic, commercial, military and pleasure craft set sail from St Andrew's Quay, just outside Hull, after ferries at Hull Docks sounded their horns and sirens in salute.

Among the vessels was Olympic gold medal-winning yacht Ierne.

The yacht, which won gold for Norway at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, was decked out with colourful flags not normally allowed under maritime law.

Also taking part was the Humber Charter, the Royal Navy vessel HMS Explorer and the Vulcan, which was built in 1865 and is believed to be older than any of the boats which took part in yesterday's event on the Thames in London.

Phil Withers, a councillor on Hessle Town Council and part of the organising committee, said they had not copied the London event.

He said: "We conceived of this before the London flotilla was announced and are trying to recreate what happened on the Humber in 1897 for Queen Victoria."

Commenting on the decoration of the vessels, most of which were decked with bunting and flags, Mr Withers said: "Normally, by maritime law, the boats are not supposed to sail with flags but we have been given special permission to sail fully dressed."

He added: "All the boats are very special."

David Prattley, a councillor who also helped organise the event, said: "We are trying to create community spirit on both sides of the river. We have a wonderful bridge that links both sides. It's a very special occasion."

The flotilla was accompanied by a gala of music, food, stalls and attractions along the north bank of the Humber.

Thousands of people took advantage of the sunny Bank Holiday weather to have a day out with their families and watch the flotilla.

"I think this is much nicer than what happened in London. We've got the weather and the Humber Bridge - what more could you ask for?"

– Hull resident

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