THOUSANDS of well-wishers welcomed an Olympic vessel on the opening day of Portsmouth Festivities.
About 3,000 people cheered and clapped as Collective Spirit made her way into the marina at Gunwharf Quays on Saturday.
To mark the boat’s visit a massed choir made up of schools, singing groups and members of Portsmouth Military Wives Choir sang songs around the theme of the Olympics and personal achievement at the base of the Spinnaker Tower.
The 30ft boat, which will tour the south coast during the games, sailed from Hornet Sailing Club, in Gosport.
Its arrival marked the launch of the Festivities, a nine-day event which this year has the Charles Dickens-inspired theme Great Expectations.
The day saw volunteers from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard dress up in period Royal Navy uniform to generate interest from passers-by.
Mike Barham, captain of Collective Spirit, which is made out of people’s donations of wood, said: ‘The reception we’ve received is overwhelming. We never expected so many people to turn up and show their support.
‘My daughter Rachel, 10, sang in the choir so it was an emotional moment.’
Kate Lawrence, of Fareham, who is a member of Portsmouth Military Wives Choir, said: ‘We were honoured to be part of this occasion – the arrival of the boat and the festival is about bringing the community closer together.’
The boat will be on show docked at Gunwharf Quays until the end of the festivities on July 1.
When the vessel leaves the city, performers gathered together by the New Theatre Royal will wave off the boat from the top of the Spinnaker Tower using semaphore flags - a traditional form of communication on land and sea.
Yesterday, there was model boat show at Canoe Lake in Southsea, and Portsmouth Cathedral hosted a festivities Eucharist and a service of evensong with the cathedral choir.
Royal biographer Penny Junor will talk about her latest book Prince William at St George’s Church, in St George’s Square, Portsea, from 4pm today.
The writer is looking to set the record straight about her book as many of her critics have labelled it as being anti-Princess Diana.
At 7pm Cornish folk band The Fisherman’s Friends will perform songs from their catalogue on board HMS Warrior at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
At the same time films about the life and works of Charles Dickens will be aired at The Kings Theatre, in Albert Road, Southsea.
Tomorrow young people’s novelist Anthony Horowitz will talk about his works, which include the bestselling teen spy series Alex Rider and the new Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk. He is also currently writing the script to the sequel of the film The Adventures of Tintin, which will be directed by Steven Spielberg next year. Mr Horowitz’s talk is at 11am.
On Wednesday former England cricketer Ed Smith will explore the themes of his new book Luck at the Royal Marines Museum at 7.30pm.