By strength of arms

Venice celebrates tradition
by Fabio Marzari

On September 4th, appointment with the Historical Regatta, a feast of color and sport to relive the Venetian rowing challenge.

On September 4, the Historical Regatta, or Regata Storica, will populate the Grand Canal – as it does every year. In the late afternoon, people will amass on the embankments around town to see the cortege of traditional watercraft ploughing through the waters and challenging one another in the re-evocation of such a celebration that took place in the late 1400 for Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus. Caterina has been used by the Republic of Venice as a political pawn to take control of Cyprus. After some time as regent, she was given some land in the Venetian mainland around the beautiful hill village of Asolo, where she dedicated her life to literary and cultural pursuits together with scholars of the time, whom she welcomed at her estate. To describe the boat cortege down the Grand Canal, which reminds and celebrates the former military glory of Venice, one is easily drawn to resort to hyperbole. However, the view is honestly spectacular and will make any onlooker open wide their eyes in awe when they realize what incredible historical unicum Venice has been.

What is new in 2022 is that, 25 years after the last new watercraft addition, ten new colourful boats have been built for female crew at squero (boatyard) Tramontin by master boatbuilders Silvia Scaramuzza and Francesco Stenghel. The most important race is that of gondolini, at the end of the show. It takes brains and brawn to find the right position within the Grand Canal and dart through your opponents, leaving them behind. As it happens, the challenge doesn’t end there, because after the race is won, debate ensues, as do complaints and appeals. This shouldn’t take away anything from the pure display of physical ability on one side – the two rowers must coordinate extremely well and dose their power wisely – and beautiful craftsmanship on the other – the boats are exquisitely built, light yet strong to sustain push after push by athletes that are called, and quite rightly so, Venice’s own rowing champions.