Saturday, November 25, 2017

Left Side, Right Side, Ay-yay-yay!

photo by Patrice Goldberg

Valesana - an unusual rowing style (even by Venetian standards) 
where the rower uses two oars, which are crossed, 
and operates them in an almost scissor-like fashion.

This is much more challenging than standard single oar rowing.
First of all, you've got twice as many oars to deal with.

Secondly, you've got to row each of them with a single hand.

Third, they've got to be operated in unison, 
but without bonking them into each other.

Fourth, if one pops out of the forcola, 
you've got to figure out how to get it back into place 
(while not losing control of the other oar...or the boat, for that matter).

Fifth, you've got to do all those things in such a way that the boat actually goes where you want it to.  Throw in the fact that the boat is very light and there are winds and currents, and you've got a recipe for frustration.

Oh, and number six:
You can't itch your nose!
(Seriously, this was one of my biggest frustrations during the Valesana race this year)

I came away from this year's Valesana saying several things:
- that it was an exercise in frustration,

- that it was remarkably humbling,
- that the GoPro footage was NOT to be posted online.

I went into the event with a rather cavalier attitude.
(first mistake)
I hadn't practiced, (second mistake) but I'd done this type of rowing years before in Venice.

I'd had a good warm-up row, but early on in my run, 
the oar off the right side of the boat started popping out of the forcola.  
The clock was ticking. 
I tried several adjustments, but eventually I resorted to
the odd tactic of knocking it back into place with my right knee.
Not really what my old Venetian rowing coach would approve of, 

but sometimes you find yourself in a tough spot and you improvise.
Fueled by frustration, determination, 
and a desire to not come in an hour later, I plowed on.

If you start thinking about it, Valesana can get your mind in a pretzel twist.
"If the oar off the right operated by my left hand...but the left side of the body is supposed to be controlled by the right hemisphere of my brain...AAAHHH!!!! It makes both sides of my brain hurt!"

 Two years ago we had this event, and I came in fourth.
This year I took second (all the while thankful that the second and third place guys from 2015 weren't competing this year).

The next time we have a Valesana event, I'm planning on practicing.
I'm also planning on figuring out how to keep that oar from popping out
(still probably won't want you to see the video).
Special thanks to Alberto Bozzo of Emilio Ceccato,
and Chef Bruno Serato of Caterina's Club and The Power of Pasta.

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