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Warwick Rowing in Venice

Friday, 14th September 2012

Author: Lauren Rutter, President

Warwick Rowing competed in the international regatta on the first weekend of September. It wasn’t just any international regatta, however it was the Regata Storica, a major celebration which has been the pride of Venice for more than seven hundred years.

The first historical record of the event, held in Venice every summer, dates back to the mid 13th century but its origins are thought to be older still. This year, Warwick Rowing were invited to take part in the International Universities Boat Challenge competing against the Universities of Ca Foscari, IUAV, Vienna, Bari and Zagabria.

All crews took to the lagoon for the qualifiers on Saturday 1 September, in traditional boats which look like a cross between a Chinese dragon-boat, a Venetian gondola and a Canadian Hudson (less so the latter). They had benches rather than a sliding seat, and a winch was required to lift them into the water. We lost our first race after drawing the outside lane on a course which was approximately 200m round one bend. Fortunately this loss spurred on the crew and we won our second race in the inside lane, getting us through to the race for third place, to be held on the Grand Canal the following day.

Tension was building in the city of Venice as the event drew closer. The Grand Canal was closed to water traffic and crowds of Venetians and visitors lined the banks. The regatta began with the historical water pageant, a parade that commemorates the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favour of Venice. Races began after the pageant, in a variety of boats including the famous gondolas.

An hour before our race, it was time to boat (uncharacteristically early for Warwick Rowing). We managed to navigate our way to the start line, by weaving between a myriad of gondolas and other brightly coloured vessels. It was a close and hard fought race, but the University of Bari, Southern Italy, got the win by less than half a length.

The whole trip was an incredible experience and Warwick Rowing would like to thank Erasmus, Ca’ Foscari and the University of Warwick for the opportunity.