The Vogalonga is one of Venice’s main water festivals, a 32km non-competitive race for rowing boats; in the spirit of historical festivities. Every year, several thousands of participants take part in what can be described as a fun and exciting non competitive race. Essentially it’s a grand “get-together” and a protest against the destructive action of motorboats; damaging the fragile lagoon ecosystem and Venice’s building foundations. The initial motivating force, was to “invite all enthusiasts and all those who had ‘laid the oars’ for too long“.
It is held on the Sunday morning normally in May, following the “Sensa Festival”; but because the date changes each year, the Vogalonga sometimes takes place in early June.
For this year’s race in May 2021, the course ran from the San Marco Basin to the island of Burano, as the halfway point and returned to Venice via the entrance to the Arsenal. The finish was under the southern Arsenal Bridge, at the outlet to the San Marco Basin.
The Vogalonga – The Race
On November 11, 1974 a group of Venetians amateur and professional rowers, had a race in the island of Burano.
From this, was born the idea of a non-competitive “race” in which almost any kind of rowing boat could participate; in the spirit of historical festivities. The first Vogalonga rac, began the next year, with the ideology of a protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the damage they do to the historic city.
Each participant receives a commemorative medal and a certificate of participation. They may also receive a prize chosen randomly, which are often trophy cups and plaques, decorative oars and other mementos, which local associations, newspapers and the organising committee have donated.
The numbers of participants have swelled to several thousand over the years from all over the world. New rowing clubs, have been founded and many build their own boats, based on historical designs.
Participants first gather in St Marks Basin in front of the Doge’s palace. All boats then move to their starting position in the Giudecca Canal starting at 08:30 and take a position behind the Punta della Dogana.
The race is started at 9.00am, by a cannon shot. Below: starting positions and map of the route for the 2021 Vogalonga.
Some teams dress up in costumes, others in the livery of their rowing clubs. The atmosphere is “fun-filled, with extra cheers for those who make a special effort, such as bringing an onboard bagpiper! Towards the finishing line, spectators give extra encouragement to the exhausted crews.
In 2007, for the 33rd Vogalonga, there were a record 5,600 participants, in over 1,500 boats. Teams and individuals from the Veneto, from the rest of Italy and from many other countries join in and add to the party atmosphere. This year the number of boats was limited to 500.
The 2009 Vogalonga, could have become a small-scale disaster; strong winds overturned several rowboats and around 50 people had to be pulled from the water. Fortunately, police and fire service motorboats were quick on the scene and nobody was seriously injured.
Today, the event is tightly controlled through its organising authority. Visit their website below, to find out about dates, registration and compliance with its rules, regulations and safety requirements.
ORGANISING COMMITEE OF THE VOGALONGA
San Marco 951 – 30124 Venezia (VE) Italia
Tel. +39 041 5210544 | Email email@example.com
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