Geldof takes to the waves with call for Sail8 flotilla to 'recreate Dunkirk'

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Indy Politics

Bob Geldof has called for people to "recreate Dunkirk" by sailing across the Channel and picking up French supporters of Live8. He announced his initiative yesterday as more than a million people texted 84599 to enter the ticket lottery for the Hyde Park concert.

His "Sail8" initiative will encourage ferry companies and owners of small boats to cross one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and transport people from the Continent to the UK.

Once on British soil, they would travel north for a rally in Edinburgh ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Geldof hoped coach operators would offer their services free of charge to help ferry the protesters north.

The cross-channel event is part of Geldof's "long walk to justice" plan for people to travel to Edinburgh after the Live8 concerts on 2 July, one of which is planned for Paris. Sailors will be urged to make the crossing and travel on to Scotland for the demonstration on 6 July.

Organisers hope that more than a million supporters will attend the rally as part of the Make Poverty History campaign, which calls on G8 leaders to cancel debt repayments, free up trade and increase aid donations.

Launching the event from a rowing boat in a Southampton marina, Geldof said: "What we are asking people to do is ... recreate Dunkirk, which is one of the great national legends of our country where normal people got in their boats to rescue our soldiers, 390,000 of them, who were surrounded and came back to fight another day. We are asking people to get in their boats in their thousands and pick up the people of France who wish to participate. It will be many hours of sailing ... but the symbolism of that around the world will be one of great effort, great friendship, great solidarity."

The Solent coastguard warned the event could lead to accidents caused by irresponsible sailors. Geldof responded with impatience: "We live in a world of timidity and this isn't the time for timidity. If you don't think it will make any difference, you are wrong. We urge you to take due caution but not to take unnecessary caution."

Dame Ellen MacArthur, the yachtswoman, will join the flotilla.

Millions entered the text competition to win tickets for the Live8 concert at London's Hyde Park. All 150,000 tickets will be allocated via the competition, in which people have to text the answer to a question about where the G8 summit is held. Lines opened at 8am and about 1.5 million people entered by last night.

Texts will be accepted until midnight on 12 June, when a computer will randomly allocate tickets to those with correct answers.