'Genuine factor' wins the high-speed cheers

HOLD ON: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge get ready for the Shotover Jet experience.
HOLD ON: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge get ready for the Shotover Jet experience.

The royal couple's "genuine factor" won over the fans on and off the water in Queenstown.

The duke and duchess arrived at the Shotover Jet base to a cheering crowd.

With the motorcade halting on the rocky shoreline of the Shotover River, the couple met Ngai Tahu tribal leader Mark Solomon.

Shotover Jet is part of the adventure tourism holdings owned by the South Island iwi.

Kate crouched low to talk with 5-year-old Maggie Langford, who presented her with flowers and later said the duchess was "very nice, and very pretty".

Next there was an introduction to jet boat driver Wayne Paton, who afterwards admitted to some pre-performance butterflies.

"We get some pretty big names that like to do the ride when they're in Queenstown, but Wills and Kate are the biggest by far. They were really down to earth and seemed to love it."

Paton said the trip's intensity was on par with an average tourist ride, and was not "too watered down".

This meant high-speed manoeuvres came within centimetres of the Shotover Canyon walls, and the spray jackets issued before the ride were needed, as Kate's jeans showed water splashes at the end of the trip.

The public were kept well back but had great vantage points, and made their presence felt with loud cheers and whistles when the royal couple's boat passed.

As they disembarked the boat the duke was heard to exclaim, "I knew it'd be fast, but I didn't realise just how fast."

After the ride the couple talked with Arrowtown School pupils who had won a school-wide draw to meet the royals.

Kate asked pupils when they were breaking up for Easter, and what they would be doing for their holidays, while William asked one group, "Have you been standing here all day waiting for us to turn up?".

He smiled at their rapturous response and thanked them for their patience before being ushered back to the motorcade and whisked off again.


The Southland Times