An 'oarsome' taste of Venice for the south coast

Oarsome: Boats perform an 'Alza Remi' raising of the oars during the inaugural Vogalonga Down Under last year. Photo: Supplied.
Oarsome: Boats perform an 'Alza Remi' raising of the oars during the inaugural Vogalonga Down Under last year. Photo: Supplied.

The Fleurieu Peninsula will share in a taste of Venice on Sunday, May 16, when the Vogalonga Down Unda hits waters at Goolwa.

A renowned annual event in Venice, Italy, the Vogalonga is a non-competitive rowing and paddling regatta that attracts thousands of participants from around the world.

Last year, the inaugural Vogalonga Down Unda was held in October, the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the only Vogalonga to be held worldwide in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This year's event aims to build on the inaugural Vogalonga Down Unda, hosting more boats and participants.

Event coordinator Michael Piovesan spent a number of years living in Italy and said it was an honour to host a Vogalonga in South Australia.

"I took up Venetian Rowing as a hobby and participated in three Vogalongas plus lots of other events on the Venetian calendar," Mr Piovesan said.

"We had close to 200 participants and about 50 boats with a wide range of vessels last year and we are expecting to build on this in 2021.

"Goolwa will be developing its already well-established links with Italy - not only through its many local residents of Italian origin, but also the vibrant and highly active community organization Cittaslow Goolwa which has already put Goolwa on the world map by becoming the first town in Australasia to be officially designated a slow town."

Vogalonga Down Unda, like the original event in Venice, is a non-competitive regatta for human-powered water craft.

It promises to be a spectacle, with a big range of water craft including dragon boats, surf boats and sculls set to hit the water.

"We will run a ceremonial procession from the Goolwa Aquatic Club right down to the wharf. This will be led by some of the boats from the Armfield Slip including the historic Storm Boy boats," Mr Piovesan said.

"We'll also have a Lotus Boat displaying a Venetian flag before we run an 'Alza Remi', a traditional Venetian salute or raising of the oars. This will give us a bit of a connection to Venice and real feel for the festival atmosphere.

"Vogalonga Down Unda will be a unique-for-Australia expression of living slowly and sustainably for community health and wellbeing."

For spectators, a variety of food, live music and performances will get the entertainment rolling while boats hit the water. The event is free for spectators, but boat participants are required to register.

The Vogalonga Down Unda will set off from the Goolwa Aquatic Club at 9am on Sunday, May 16.

Participants have the choice of three courses. A main course of approx. 13.5 kms, a short course 5.5 km and for more hardy rowers and paddlers, an extended course of 18.7 km.

For more details and to register, visit: vogalongadownunda.net.au