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A huge section of hull for HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers being built for the UK Royal Navy, has left BAE Systems' Portsmouth factory to embark on a four day journey to the east coast of Scotland.
Employees watched on Monday May 21st as the large sea-going barge carrying the 6,000 tonne forward section of hull, known as Lower Block 02, was towed from the company's facility in the Naval Base to begin her passage to Rosyth.
To celebrate the departure of the block, a team of 50 cyclists from across the Aircraft Carrier Alliance will set off on a gruelling challenge on Friday, cycling 500 miles from Portsmouth to Rosyth in an attempt to complete the journey in a faster time and raise funds for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.
Building on the success of last year's event which raised more than £35,000 for the charity, the cyclists will have their fitness and endurance tested in a challenge which will see them travel through Britain, stopping only for rest in Northampton, Sheffield, Durham and Berwick.
Steven Carroll, Queen Elizabeth Class Project Director at BAE Systems, said:
"There's a massive sense of achievement here in Portsmouth today, as the team has delivered two large sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth in less than four weeks.
"I am very proud of the team's achievements, with both blocks departing on time and built to an exceptional standard, which is testament to the skills of our workforce here.
"Beat the Block is a great way to not only mark this significant stage in the carrier programme, but also raise money for a charity which supports the men and women of our armed forces.
"The cyclists face a tough few days ahead so I encourage people to get behind the challenge and show support to the cyclists on route."
Since moving the block out of the company's shipbuilding hall last week, final preparatory work, including sea fastening, has been undertaken by workers to prepare the block for her departure. Over the coming days, the block will travel up the east coast of Britain before arriving into Rosyth on Friday 25th May.
On arrival, Lower Block 02 will be floated off the specialised barge into the waters of the River Forth. Before the block can enter the dry dock at Rosyth, workers will undertake a complex move to fit the giant pieces of the jigsaw together. A 13,000 tonne section of hull already in the dock will be floated out to allow Lower Block 02 to move into position and both sections to come together.
As the future home of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, a significant plan of investment is underway to prepare Portsmouth Naval Base for the ships' arrival.
The plan includes dredging the existing channel to Portsmouth to make it deeper and wider, the renovation and reinforcement of the base's jetties to ease access for both the QE Class and Type 45 fleet and the installation of new navigational beacons to help the ships find their way safely into and out of the harbour.
The aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be the centre piece of Britain's military capability. Each 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier will provide the armed forces with a four acre military operating base which can be deployed worldwide. The vessels will be versatile enough to be used for operations ranging from supporting war efforts to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.