With Help from Jimi Hendrix and King Henry VIII, an Olympic Boat Sails into History

A sailboat built to commemorate British history includes pieces of Hendrix's guitar and Henry's warship, among many others.

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Artist Gary Winters with wooden items donated to the Boat Project at Thornham Marina in Emsworth, Hampshire.

Quick — what do Jimi Hendrix and King Henry VIII have in common? The London Olympics, of course.

The legendary guitarist and the English monarch  have collaborated – indirectly – on the construction of a boat being built to commemorate great moments in Britain’s past in the run-up to July’s Olympic Games. Pieces of wood related to both men, along with hundreds of other fragments from around the UK, have been fused into a living, floating piece of history.

For Henry’s part, a plank from his famed naval warship Mary Rose was spliced into the boat. Hendrix, who lived in London from the mid-1960s until his death in 1970, contributed a piece of one of his guitars –a small shaving from a British-built 1960 Zemaitis, according to CNN. But those were just two of the 1,221 pieces of wood donated to the project, every single one of which was added to the vessel — appropriately named the Collective Spirit.

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Described as a “floating collage of memories”, the boat is an eclectic mix of colors and grains, but artists Gary Winters and Gregg Whelan hope that viewers look past the mismatched splinters to appreciate the history in each individual piece. The only restrictions were that the items had to be made of wood and have historic significance. “The call-out was for objects which had a significance and a story,” Winters said in a statement. “We were given some lovely, lovely things, personal and emotional things.”

The boat is as eclectic as the Olympics itself, cobbled together from all walks of life and time periods. One person donated a 1960s hairbrush from a make-up artist at Pinewood Studios, the sprawling British film studio that served as the set for nearly every James Bond film. Other pieces of the boat include a police baton from the era of Queen Victoria, a crate used to transport gold during World War II, a Masai warrior’s club and a rolling pin. One of the most recent inclusions was a piece from the Velodrome, the cycling track recently completed on the Olympic Park site.

The final result is a single-masted, 30-foot sailboat, capable of reaching up to 20 knots (23 mph). It’s currently on a voyage to share its unique contents with the British public, visiting port towns along England’s southern coast for the next two months. Ultimately it will dock at the Olympics’ sailing venue in Weymouth just in time for the event’s kickoff.

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