Santa Barbara floats by again


The course was inverted this year, as the tide was coming in (it’s always much better to start against the tide), so the race started in front of the Piazza San Marco, proceeded at a great rate toward Sant’ Elena, where the boats rounded the buoy and headed toward the finish at the Arsenal. The first two boats are already battling it out, while the team on the pink boat is probably discussing what to give their girlfriends or wives for Christmas. Not much else to talk about back there.

I’m sorry we can’t hear what opinions the teams on the first two boats are sharing with each other. Believe me, there can be as many insults yelled at your teammates as at your opponents, even if you’re in the lead.

As you know, every December 4 (for the past 16 years now) the gondoliers who are ex-sailors organize a regata in honor of the patron saint of the Navy: Barbara.

This year, seeing that the supply of willing gondoliers and/or ex-sailors is shrinking, each caorlina carried the usual one (1) student from the Morosini Naval School, four (4) gondoliers and one (1) fireman.  Barbara is also patron saint of firemen, as well as miners, artillerymen, and just about anybody who uses substances which explode.

Gondoliers also tend to explode when things don’t go right, as witnessed by the reaction of Franco Dei Rossi (nicknamed “Strigheta”) when his orange caorlina was cheated of its obviously well-deserved fourth place and consequent blue pennant.  He used Ugly Words to the race judge, which was unfortunate; it was also too bad that many people could understand — nay, shared — his sentiments, as most naked eyes had seen his boat cross the finish line fourth.

All would seem to be obvious from this vantage as the four boats we see here cross the line (orange in the background). Unfortunately, I didn’t include the yellow boat in this shot, and it was coming up fast on my left. The judge says it was faster than orange. I just don’t know anymore.

But righteous indignation and loud voices (though not Ugly Words) from somebody is almost always part of the tradition, along with rain (it was blazingly sunny the day before and the day after the regata — does Santa Barbara not like her regata?), cold, and a feast afterward featuring pasta and fagioli (beans) which, if it didn’t warm hearts which were still festering with rage, did a great job in warming our gizzards.

The first four finishers all clumped together, since they were so close in the home stretch anyway. Orange was still far out in the middle of the canal, though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, in fact, ahead of the yellow boat.

But wait! The white boat suddenly seem to have only five rowers.  And why are they all looking over the side?

Sorry for the blur but I was rattled.

The big police boat, and the equally big fireman’s boat, began to zoom over to give a hand, creating, in the process, waves which could have caused more problems than the one they were coming to resolve.

But our trusty gondoliers were quicker than that. At least two of them were.  The other three seem pretty calm.  In fact, it isn’t at all unknown for gondoliers to fall in the drink.  Sorry if that destroys a myth for you.

While the drenched racer goes inside to get into some dry clothes, the judges (huddling under the ramp leading up and over the bridge of the Arsenal) return to the previous drama: Deciding the fate of the orange boat. After much trading of comments and peering at somebody’s cell-phone video, they decided that yellow finished before orange.

Characteristic gear for a person rowing on the right side of the boat, usually the rower in the bow. It protects his leg from rubbing against the cinturino, or wooden upper edge of the hull.

Or you can just deal with whatever happens, like the man who was rowing on the red boat. That’s red paint, not blood, but the pants are undeniably torn. I didn’t examine any closer, but he didn’t seem too concerned.

Lino with the nine cadets from the Francesco Morosini Naval School who raced, plus the extra stand-by emergency rower. The great thing about this race is that, no matter what, four of his students are going to take home a pennant.  And now, bring on the beans.






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Categories : Boatworld, Venetian-ness


  1. Debi says:

    I’m learning so much from reading your blogs!! hope you had a great weekend!! 🙂

  2. Erla Zwingle says:

    Thanks, I had a fine time; can’t remember what we did, but that’s probably a sign that it was good. I forgot to highlight a link to my previous accounts of this regata, but while I’m correcting that, you can find them by putting “Santa Barbara” (or maybe Saint Barbara) in the search field.