SHOPPERS were stopped in their tracks when two Royal Marines dropped from the top of the Spinnaker Tower at break-neck speed.
The men abseiled down the iconic tower in Gunwharf Quays yesterday to launch the South Coast Proms.
The music event on July 1 and 2 at HMS Excellent will draw in 14,000 people over two nights and raise thousands of pounds for charity.
A crowd of people cheered when Colour Sergeant Lee Waters and Sergeant Matt Hoey, from the Royal Marines Mountain Leaders, reached the bottom of the tower.
Col Sgt Waters, of Paulsgrove, said: ‘It was great. Royal Marines opened the tower back in 2005 but I missed out on it then.
‘As a Pompey boy I was chomping at the bit to do it this time.’
The marines came flying down the 557ft tower, opening up a banner reading ‘South Coast Proms’.
Sgt Hoey, from Emsworth, came down especially fast and for a brief moment swayed to the right in the air before catching his footing.
He said: ‘I think the wind took me for a second when I was coming down but it was fine. We’d done a few dry runs but I was nervous in front of the big crowd.’
The South Coast Proms launched last year and is headlined by the world-famous Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, who perform a mix of classical, contemporary, military and mainstream music before the night ends with a big firework display.
The event raises cash for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which supports former and serving naval personnel and their families should the worst happen.
It is a cause close to the heart of Col Sgt Waters who was shot three times in Afghanistan last year – once in his face.
He said: ‘I was hit on April 5 last year but I’m back in action now. It’s been tough but I’ve got lots of good people around me.
‘Quite a few friends of mine have needed help. My commanding officer last year lost both his legs and his right arm. The charity has helped him tremendously with a new car so he can get around.
‘Anything I can do to raise the profile of the charity is good.’
One of the South Coast Proms organisers, Royal Marine Warrant Officer Reg Sheen, said: ‘This will be our second year. It’s a spectacular event.
‘We wanted to bring the massed bands of the Royal Marines to the people of Portsmouth.
‘They are world-class. There is something there for everyone. They do everything from Mozart to Glenn Miller to Michael Bublé.’
The South Coast Proms is on July 1 and 2, 5.30pm to 10pm each night.
Tickets cost £20 for adults, £10 for under 18s, and free for under 5s. A family ticket for two adults and up to six under 14s costs £50.
Additional concessions apply for Pompey season ticket holders and The News readers.