On Sunday September 4th will take place the Historical Regatta, Venice most ancient rowing competition

30 August 2022

Venice, 29th August 2022 – Regatta, Venetian Regatta, Royal Regatta, and finally Historical Regatta. An event that over the centuries has often changed face but that continues to be one of the most prestigious and awaited events in Venice, capable of drawing to the sides of the Grand Canal thousands of curious, fans and Venetians. The appointment this year is for Sunday, September 4th at 16, when along the Grand Canal historic boats with costumed figures, gondolas and boats of rowing associations of Venetians will parade. Later in the afternoon the races of the eight categories in the race will follow.

History tells us that the tradition of regattas in Venice dates back at least to the thirteenth century, as reported by the first written evidence that in the “Splendor magnificissime Urbis Venetorum, die 16 septembris” comes “indicta regatta cum navigiis habentibus remos viginti”. First, organized as a military exercise or as a choreographic exhibition in honor of rules or personalities visiting Venice, with relative ostentation of luxury and wealth, this is soon added to the connotation of sporting event.

If in the Renaissance they were usually organized by the various “Compagnie della Calza”, or societies formed by young Venetian nobles to revive the city festivals, from the seventeenth century it was the government of the Serenissima that took care of it in person, to celebrate an important visit, a military victory, the election of a Doge or some particularly heartfelt city festival.

The last regatta organized by the Republic of Venice is in 1791, in honor of the Emperor of Austria, Leopold II of Habsburg, the King of Naples, Ferdinand IV, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand of Austria. Then, a regatta was organized in 1807. On the occasion of the arrival of the French Emperor napoleon Bonaparte. After the annexation of Veneto to the Kingdom of Italy, the regattas of “standing rowing” resumed with vigor, not only in the traditional waters of the San Marco Basin and the Grand Canal, but gradually, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century also in Murano, Mestre, Castello and, since the beginning of the twentieth century, in Burano, Pallestrina, Giudecca, Lido, Sant’Erasmo.

Therefore, despite the complex historical events that Venice went through after the fall of the Serenissima, the culture of the regatta has remained a tradition to which the Venetians have not renounced and which they have managed to preserve until today.

The 1841 is generally considered as the year of birth of the modern regatta, and consequently of the Historical Regatta: it was at this time in fact that the Municipal Congregation of Venice submitted a request to the Austrian authorities for an annual “boat race along the Grand Canal at the care and expense of the City to encourage gondoliers to keep in honor their praised dexterity”. The application was granted and the event was held on 20th June of the same year.

However, it will take many years for the Historical Regatta to take on its current contours: the annually, for example, is respected only in short periods (1941-47, 1874-81, 1889-93) the event often remains linked to an important arrival in the city or is the crown to a significant cultural or scientific event, and in addition to the the municipality, also the trade associations organizes it(The Union exhibitors in 1904 and 1905) or even some press (Il Giornale d’Italia in 1920). The number of participants also changed several times: eight in the first two editions (1841 and 1842); only seven in 1843 and from 1857 to 1874; nine from 1844 to 1856, and from 1875 to the present.

Since 1922 it has been held annually and has been organized by the City Administration, whilst the tradition of holding the event on the first Sunday of September has begun in 1946. The water parade in memory of the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro, who in 1489 had given her crown to the Serenissima in exchange for the lordship of Asolo, took place for the first time in the mid-1950s.

To the traditional Historical Regatta, that is the competition reserved for men on two-row gondolini, over the years various races have been added, always very felt by the Venetians: that of the Caorline with six oars (since 1951); of the Giovanissimi (since 1976); of the Women (since 1977, although two races had already been run, in 1952 and 1954). To each competition access, after the qualifications that take place throughout the year, nine boats compete for the “flags”: the winners are awarded with red flags, the second with the white, the third with the green and the quarter with the blue one.

There are three topical moments that every year fill with emotion the spectators of the Historical Regatta crowding the banks of the Grand Canal: the “cavata”, the tour of the “paleto” and the arrival at the “machina”.

Although it is a long race, which lasts from 35 to 40 minutes, one of the highlights of the sport event is right at the start. For this reason, it is essential, for each crew, to make the best “result”, or progression immediately after the start, at the beginning inside each of its lane, and then in the open field, where you try to gain the best position of entry into the Grand Canal. But the outcome of the first part of the cavata is also determined by good luck, since the allocation of the lanes is carried out by draw, and the same movement of the currents determines a better or worse position. In the second part of the cavata, the one on the open field, instead emerges the strength and the talent of the various crews, in choosing even the most advantageous route.

The “paleto”, instead, is the bricola that is placed near the railway station and that the sailors must pass before making the inversion maneuver of their boat and embark on the return route on the Grand Canal, until the place arrival at Ca’Foscari. It is traditionally one of the most delicate and spectacular moments of the race, because it is one of the last opportunities you have to gain positions in the standings. Moreover, it is a moment of maximum attention also for judges, since they must detect eventual infractions committed from the participants.

The ”machina”, finally, is par excellence the place where the finish line is and where there are the flags that are assigned to the winners (red for the first, white for the second and green for the third, in honor of the Italian tricolor). Rectangular in shape, with a sloping roof, and located near the Ca’Foscari University, over the years it has also been established itself as the most sought-after place to attend the Historical Regatta, as well as a social meeting place, with the possibility of sitting a short distance from the authorities and personalities of the political world and culture.

For more information on the Historical Regatta, visit the official website www.regatastoricavenezia.it/ 

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