Tuesday, October 28, 2014


photo by Elisa Mohr

As the U.S. Gondola Nationals took place this year in Providence, it was fitting that the first event we kicked off with was the slalom - a contest unique to the conditions of the Providence and Woonasquatucket rivers. 

Each year this beautiful waterway serves as the stage for an event known as "Waterfire" - one which I will make an attempt to describe in a future post, but I fear that words will not do it justice.

The centerpiece of Waterfire is a string of fire pits that are permanently situated, usually down the center of the waterway.  As you might imagine, they make a great obstacle course (when they're not on fire).

On Saturday morning Marcello explained the course to everyone,
and then we took turns rowing through it.

John Kerschbaum working an expert turn.
photo by Elisa Mohr

This was a really fun race.
Most of the competitors who were from out of town had never attempted such a course, and it was a great test of boat handling skills.

We began at the dock, with only a one foot-push to get started.
Next it was a straight shot down under the Steeple Street bridge,
a quick U-turn around the central bridge support,
and back under the bridge.

Emerging from the Steeple Street bridge, the slalom portion begins.
It's a back and forth between every other fire pit.
At the end of the slalom you make a right turn before the Exchange Street bridge, and it's a sprint back to the dock.

 William "Alberto" Oberg begins the straight shot back to dock.
photo by Elisa Mohr

"Boston Charlie" in action nearing the last turn.
This first video clip has no sound.
Providence gondolier "Rosario" shows us how it's done here:
I saw an opportunity to bring back the Strap Cam for this event.
This device is the great-great-grandpa of today's GoPro cameras
(and it shows in the quality),
but it is fun to watch things from the "ferro's point of view".

Here's a Strap Cam clip from Tim "Bepi" Reinard's run:
To see more of the Strap Cam in action, check out:

My friend Eric Bender (The "Snapper") brought in the winning time on
this event - quite a thing considering that he rowed that waterway for
the first time on Friday night, and had not rowed the slalom through
those fire pits until his run.

Here's a video clip from the top of the course.
From this angle, the boat disappears for a while under the bridge,
so I edited that part out to eliminate the "boring factor".
I also took the liberty of throwing in a soundtrack from a familiar source.

Medals for first, second, and third place were given out at the awards banquet on Sunday night.

 Tim "Amadeo" Coffey receiving his medal from Marcello,
with Luciano to the left.

From left to right:
Amadeo, Eric Bender, Marcello.
The slalom was an event that I really just "thought I'd try for the fun of it".
As it turned out, it was a rewarding and challenging experience.

Here are the complete results.

Single Slalom - complete results

Place  Name                                      Origin                             Time
1.      Eric “Enrico” Bender                  San Diego, CA                 3:55.41

2.      Matthew “Marcello” Haynes        Providence, RI                 3:58.18

3.      Tim “Amadeo” Coffey                Providence, RI                 4:17.16

4.      Greg “Rafaello” Coffey               Providence, RI                 4:22.15

5.       Adam “Ivano” Alves                 Providence, RI                 4:23.38

6.      Alexander “Alessandro” Haynes  Providence, RI                 4:23.98
7.      “Gondola Greg” Mohr                 Newport Beach, CA          4:36.0
8.       Russell “Rosario” Venditto         Providence, RI                 4:37.53
9.       Tim “Bepi” Reinard                   Huntington Beach, CA      4:41
10.     John “Giovanni” Kerschbaum     Stillwater, MN                 4:41.35
11.     Richard “Ricardo” Corbaley        Huntington Beach, CA      4:49
12.     Cole “Colombo” Hanson             San Diego, CA                 4:58
13.     Joe “Giuseppe” Gibbons             Boston, MA                     5:23
14.     Tony “Antonio”                         Boston, MA                      5:59
15.     Charlie “Carlo”                          Boston, MA                      6:23
16.     William “Alberto” Oberg             Providence, RI                 7:00

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