Sunday, October 16, 2011

Single-Oar Regata

photos by Nereo Zane
A while back, Nereo Zane was on hand for a single-oar gondola regata in the Venetian lagoon.
There are many different kinds of rowing races in the world of voga-alla-Veneta, but the single oar category of a large boat requires extra strength and advanced technique.

Team rowing, with oars on either side of the boat, allows the vogatori to row without having to "stai" (correct at the end of each stroke). 
When it's just one person on the boat, rowing off of one side, corrections have got to be made.

Rowing with passeengers is typically done at a leisurely pace.
Sure, you've got to stai to keep the gondola from going in a circle, but barring unusual conditions, it's not very strenuous.
Empty the boat, remove all the extra weight you can,
and make it a race - and you've got a whole different version of things.

Getting a boat of this size up and moving is an undertaking.
It gets more exciting when there's a field of boats all trying to get ahead of you.

The competition gets fierce.

You've got to have power,

but you must maintain control as well.

These boats have the same dimensions as a passenger gondola, but weigh less, have no parecio, and are built for speed. 
They also have an easily identified feature - a set of vent holes at the tail, just under and behind where the gondolier stands.  These holes allow air to pass through the rear portion of the boat as she moves. 
I honestly don't know how much of a difference this makes, but one could certainly argue that the raised deck at the back of a gondola constitutes an area of wind-drag.

The Venetians have also found another use for these vent holes:
They come in very handy when towing the fleet.

The athletic version of Venetian rowing seeks to utilize your whole body - from the feet to the fingers.  The legs, core, chest and shoulders are on duty, not just the arms.
Another aspect of this style of rowing is that it uses the maximum reach of your body.
The furthest a person can reach is from the end of one arm to the foot on the opposing leg - at full extension.  Looking at the photo below, we see the rower taking advantage of this principle.

It's more than a balancing act,
it's a supreme exercise in achieving maximum power, with just the right amount of control.
Throw in stamina, the ability to maneuver, and the sometimes unpredictable nature of wind and water, and you've got a single-oar regata.

Anyone wanna race?


staff said...

Great post Gred. There is another thing to note: the rower on the light blue gondola (celeste) doesn't use shoes to get better feeling (and grip maybe) with his boat. Nereo

Tamás said...

The so-called "vent holes" at the rear are the place where the jet engine blows. Chiogga to Burano in 5 minutes 8-)

I think the use of shoes depends on the experience level of the racers. Veterans want better skin communications with the deck, while rookies take their shoes off as a precaution, to be able to swim if they fall overboard. Race gondolino are not exactly stable vessels.

Gondola Greg said...

Actually, these are not the gondolini - they are mich smaller and more spindly.
As for shoes, it's about having a tactile connection with the boat.
Some go barefoot, others wear shoes. It seems to be a matter of preference.
The guy on the red boat with the red bandana on his head has actually chosen to wear two different shoes - my guess is that he recognizes the different duties each foot performs and has chosen a shoe that he thinks is the best for each task.
I've also seen guys wear only one shoe.
The connection with the boat is very important, and at the level of performance that these guys bring it to, feeling the boat through your feet can be hampered by shoes. Imagine playing a piano with gloves.

staff said...

Sometimes during the Summer I row without shoes and I'm not a veteran despite my age. You're right Greg when you write "It seems to be a matter of preference." Nereo

Bepi Venexiano said...

Rowing without shoes makes you feel like a kid and will add five years to your life.

Gondola Greg said...

I love it.
Just make sure that if you have stinky feet, that the wind isn't blowing by them and towards your passengers!

staff said...

Just tell your passenger it's the scent of the Ocean!! ahahahah

Il Paradosso said...

I love it. This is my kind of race.