Saturday, August 22, 2015

Palio della Voga di Cervia

As I write this, the lifeguards are getting ready to race in Cervia.
This is the week of the Palio della Voga of Cervia - a popular competition between rescue personnel on the Adriatic Riviera. The event was established in 1992, with the original idea coming from the lifeguards of the major towns of the Adriatic coast.

Cervia is one of the many beach towns that stretch southward below the Venetian lagoon.
In that region, the lifeguards row an interesting craft:
It's a short catamaran setup, with oarlocks on either side and no sailing gear.
The rowing is done standing, while facing forward, allowing the lifeguard to look forward and enjoy a high vantage point.
Two oars, standing, and facing forward.
If this rowing arrangement sounds familiar, then you might be from
Long Beach, California.  It's quite similar to what they do on some of
the boats at the Gondola Getaway.

Some good images of the Long Beach two-oared boats can be seen
in my post "Busy Times at Gondola Getaway".

The lifeguards aren't rowing Naples gondolas, but it's essentially the same motion.
If I were a gondolier from Long Beach, I might consider showing up in Cervia and trying to join the competition as a wildcard.

Here's a short video with some good examples of the rowing style:

if the video doesn't appear, go to:

The races take place in a tight straight central waterway.
Unlike most Venetian rowing races, these are short sprints of 200 meters,
with a down and back format.

I discovered this brief video (only 47 seconds) which shows the return leg of a race with the crowd going nuts:
if the video doesn't appear, go to:

This short-burst-sprint approach is fitting for rowing lifeguards - as you can imagine, if they see a drowning victim, a safe rescue depends on quick response.
Many of the races I've seen have taken less than two minutes from start to finish.
It almost reminds me of a rowing drag race.
The racers speed down a concrete channel,
with lots of banners and sponsor signage,
and the crowds are big, all cheering as the lifeguards compete against each other.  Announcers give excited play-by-play over the sound system, with popular upbeat music thumping loudly throughout.

Another interesting difference:
many of the races take place after dark, under lights.

This next video is a long one - 25 minutes, but it shows many different races and gives a clear picture of what it all looks like AND sounds like:
if the video doesn't appear, go to:

Of course the lifeguard factor is strong here.
Most competitors wear their swimsuits, there's lots of red, and the boats all say "salvataggio" on the sides (rescue).
At the end of some races the rowers throw themselves into the water and take a celebratory swim!

There are men's races, women's races, and even rescue demonstrations by large Newfoundland dogs. 

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