The salty sea breeze is enveloping, even more so along that strip of water in front of Malamocco, which stretches lazily between the Lagoon and the sea in a hot summer afternoon. In this captivating place, the selections of all municipal regattas take place, in an atmosphere of peace and quiet that clashes with the frenzy of the old town crowded with tourists, marked by an endless procession of motor boats that seems to never end.
Come on! Push, push... Don't give up, don't give up until the end!
A strong and distinct scream that fades out in the sultry surrounding. Nothing to do with the roar of the cheering fans during the “Storica”, the famous rowing challenge in the Grand Canal, something that can make your skin crawl. And yet, despite the inertia of a place that indulges in the slothfulness of its natural rhythm, the emotional impact of the racing crews in Malamocco is just as strong. The motivating screams that are lost in the air heighten the loneliness of the competitors who, 30 seconds apart, compete along that long stretch of the Lagoon.
The trajectory of wood
Wood is a living material, it breathes, it reacts to atmospheric changes during processing and is destined to come into contact with water, with the life of the lagoon: it interprets its moods and character, it adapts, it takes a trajectory.
The gondolino is a living boat
"The Eight is a beautiful boat to row in, but if I had to make a comparison with the gondolino I would say that with the Eight you're rowing on a dead boat lying on the water, while with the gondolino you're rowing on a living boat! The gondolino moves, reacts to the wind, to the current, to the motion of the waves, it never stops and in your whole career of regattas, it still won't be enough to fully understand it". This description still comes from Ciaci, and it has been dutifully quoted by the journalist Antonio Padovan in a splendid book, “Una vita per il remo” (a life on the oar), which summarizes the story of one of the legends of this sport, of the races, of the territory. An elegy of names evokes religious festivals (the Sensa, the Feast of the Ascension or that of the Redeemer, perhaps the most famous among the Venetian folk festivals), islands of the lagoon such as Burano or Sant'Erasmo, land of famous champions of the specialty, and the “Storica”, the regatta par excellence.
Fatigue and sacrifice since eight years’ old
Graziana Pavanello, winner of the Historical Regatta for Women's Crews twice, is one of the most active members at Querini Rowing Club, the century-old rowing company that trains only boys and girls under 15. "Already at the age of eight you can row on schie, the small boats with which children can learn, then climb up category until you get to the maciarele, the boats with which the boys compete until 15. The races for them are more or less on two kilometres, roughly 15 minutes of regatta that at that age is more than enough."
Querini Rowing Club’s training
In the shipyard there is even a tank that serves to simulate rowing on the water and a small gym to complete the preparation for the young athletes: "It is used especially in winter when there isn’t much to do. A few machines, a few weights, at most we use ergometers when there are no conditions to get out. The muscle of the rower must remain elastic, so we focus on circuit training and not on strength. In this sport the greatest effort in the race is the power sprint at the start, then, once off the lanes you need stamina to keep up the pace until the end. Today the lever of our champions is very high, more than one person performs a specific preparation with a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Obviously this sport, like many others, has evolved, but the so-called fartlek (speed and endurance) training is always done on the boat.” Just as the champions of the past have always done, transforming hard work into daily training.
The muscles of the old Fishermen Champions
However, today the prize in the Storica is worth much less. Despite this, rowing every day as a gondolier (as most of these younger rowers do), is still a profitable activity, especially in a city packed with tourist like Venice. In short, although it is true that the earnings of the regattas are no longer enough to sustain oneself during training, but it should also be considered the fact that some of the past champions came from a much harder and exhausting life. Ciaci, son of fishermen, born on the island of Burano in 1935, describes his days during the fishing season, from March to October: "We stayed out in the lagoon for 12 or 13 days, following the water cycle, we slept and cooked in the boat, four people in each caorlina, we woke up at three and a half in the morning, just before dawn, walking in the mud throughout the length of the nets.” And it wasn't over. The fish was kept in the ice and every night Ciaci or one of his brothers rowed with the fish of the day to the Rialto market in time for its opening. Then he would go back to reach the others in the lagoon.