Tag Archives: voga veneta

Vogalonga 2010: one for the record books

Spettacolare. Ideale. Glorioso. Whether you were participating in  36th annual Vogalonga or cheering your pals from the nearest riva or fondamenta, nothing less than superlatives will do when describing the day, the row, the joy, the experience. The thousands of oar-powered boats and thousands more rowers propelling them along the 32 kilometer / 20-mile course from the San Marco Bacino north to Burano, back to Murano and the Cannaregio Canal and down the Grand Canal enjoyed gentle winds, temperate temps, and golden rays…a marked contrast from the near hurricane conditions of the prior year.

As far as we know, we were the only two all-female crews of traditional caorlina type boats. We looked like a set of twins, with bright flowers adorning our grass-green boat, and coordinating kerchiefs; our sister craft had netting that streamed behind it into the water (that’s what we assumed got them into the next day’s journal La Nuova Venezia, and not US).

Little matter…just take in the looks on every rower’s face to see what a grand time was had by all.

Favorite kayaker quote of the day: “They need to make this canal bigger for next year!” Hm….wouldn’t hold my breath.


(We only mowed down four kayaks and two sculls; a much better record that last year. If only they would turn their heads on occasion… )

Abbiamo vinto! First race, first place in the all-woman amateur regata in mascareta.


I didn’t get to participate in last fall’s all-woman regata della voga alla veneta (rowing with one oar, standing up, facing forward). Regate rowing races are held throughout the year for every sort of oared craft and combination of rower. The more serious competitors referred to as agonisti — compete in those; we are instead called esordienti, or something akin to rowing debutants. We are women of all ages: single, married, widowed, moms, working professionals, and students; all passionate about the voga for the challenge, the exercise, the chance to be on the lagoon, the camaraderie and sheer allegria that are all natural by-products of participating this very-Venetian rowing tradition.

Last Saturday was the first of this year’s series of regate for us esordienti. It was March 8th, the Festa delle Donne, and we were in 8 mascarete: the lighter, more agile versions of the Veneto lagoon craft. My rowing partner (names are drawn to form the pairs that pilot each boat) was Amelia Coco, a young Venetian woman who’s studying to be a veterinarian at the University of Padova. Thanks to intemperate weather conditions ranging from wind, fog, and even a four-day bora with gusts of up to 40 kph lashing across the lagoon, in the weeks prior to the race we only had four opportunities to get used to each other as rowers.

No matter, though…we WON. I have no idea how, but it was one of the most delicious, exciting, breathtaking experiences I have ever had. Amelia was amazing as a provina (at the front): young, strong, and determined; it was all I could do to hold our mascareta on course (“Where’s the bouy? Non la vedo!” “Dritto! Sempre dritto!” Straight ahead!). After a come-from-behind partenza, we were in second place when we managed to round the bouy with a big swousche, cutting in between the bouy and first-place boat which had swung wide. We took the lead (oh, Serena, forgive me), and then managed to not to lose it between there and the finish.

bandiera rossa - 2.jpg

Che soddisfazione. This ridiculous, giddy grin will simply not leave my face. Every time I believe I have dreamed it, I go check on the bright red, hand-sewn, first-place bandiera rossa, that remains my proof. Perhaps in the next race, someone will cut us off, or we’ll have a weak start, or scontrare up against another boat at the start to cost us time and the race. But for now…

Abbiamo vinto! Evvia!

Corteo in Maschera sul Canal Grande.

peata.jpgThis Sunday, January 27th, to do their part to inaugurate Carnevale, the area remiere will form a Corteo (procession) of traditional Venetian rowing craft, from caorline to mascarete, cruising up the Grand Canal. The procession will commence at 10:15 at the Punta della Dogana, and will have at its center una peata, one of the largest barche a remo there are (see the video of the frozen canals in the post below). For the procession, the peata will serve as a floating stage for acrobats, musicians, and even flamethowers. As is the tradition, all us vogatori will be in costume and si fermeranno along the way for refreshments, at the Salute or the Accademia or the Rialto, until they reach the Fondamenta Cannaregio around midday, where they’ll halt public transport for the festivities. There’ll be bancarelle serving traditional Venetian Carnevale fare. (Fritelle, anyone?) Head that way yourself to take part in the festivities, boat or no boat, it will be as Venetian as you can get these days, and a great contrast to the subsequent 17th century reenactments to follow as Carnevale progresses.

bigpeata_01.jpgOn a recent Sunday morning I rowed on the Canal with friends (no corteo), and it was perfect: few taxis and no transport boats, only the normal vaporetti and other vogatori taking advantage of Canal quiet.) In contrast, this should be quite a spectacle; keep your fingers crossed that the weather holds.

Do take lots of photos (I’ll be the one in the costume).

A footnote: Out of respect for the families of the two workers that suffocated in the hold of a freighter in Porto Marghera a few days ago, the Saturday morning festivities that normally launch Carnevale in Piazza San Marco have been rescheduled. I understand that the volo del Angelo (which won’t be an angel at all, as you may have heard) will fly instead on Sunday. Me par giusto.

For official Venice Carnival 2008 info, check the official Venezia Carnevale 2008 website.