THE HENLEY WHALERS - Venice, Italy, 2011

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The three major events which atract Henley Whalers to Venice at the end of May each year are:-
The Vogalonga (Long Row),
The Velalonga Raid (Sailing and sometimes rowing whilst journeying for several days in the company of like-minded people, stopping at a different destination each evening. Exploring remote corners of the Venice lagoon and less-known parts of the city).
and The Velalonga (Long Sail),
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Venice 2011
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The Vogalonga (Long Row) and the Henley Whalers -2011

A Voga Virgin's View

Not since Robert Benchley was sent to Venice and telegraphed his Editor STREET FLOODED. PLEASE ADVISE can a journalist have arrived in Venice less prepared than I was for the reality.

I had been woefully misled. It was Voga Longa not Bunga-Bunga Longa. Andy Murray was enduring Tsonga Longa at the French open. Fred Goodwin was meanwhile enjoying Wonga Longa (that's enough longa jokes - Ed).

Venice 2011
Above & below from Steve

True, you get great views of the outer islands, but at some effort. By then the heat and 27 camparis has ensured delirium was setting in, if not dementia, so I assumed we must have reached Corfu (as in Corfu what a scorcher). What I thought I could see through the sweat, tears and blood (well, OK, just running sunblock) was the leaning tower of Murano turned out to be Geoff at the helm. Row, row under a searing sun... I imagined a sneering prison camp guard saying: 'Keep rowing, Engleesh peeeg! Oh, so sorry, Robin, Welsh peeeeg.'

I didn't see the crew member called Tone, but apparently he was lowered repeatedly during the day. Actually, it wasn't really that bad - just the odd comment such as pointing out that Bob's rowlocks were creaking ominously. True, there was some aesthetic (or asthmatic) appreciation from the crew of miniskirted Green Goddesses (lovely curves, so, so gorgeous - we're taking about the boat, honestly!) but frankly the fact they were effortlessly overtaking while pushing gently on a few grissini was of more concern.

The distaff side of our crew were just as bad, I can report from my vantage point just astern of two such. Their sheer incredulity that fat balding Italians of about 65 could think it acceptable to appear with a paunch hanging over their budgie-smugglers brought on the giggles. I thought it was nice of Mr Berlusconi to come and support us (with his two minikini clad grand-daughters too, clearly a trustworthy family man). When we reached the Cannaregio, the scene was indescribable. A bit like Hanger Lane gyratory on August Bank Holiday but a bit wetter surface (have you seen British bank holiday weather? - Ed). The reactions of the locals was unbelievable - there were Venetians at every window. The beggars might at least have raised the blinds.

So what suggestions can a newcomer make? In-flight melon ice cream tubes lowered from a launch cruising alongside (like those air-to-air refuelling things for jets), a pair of Evinrude outboard motors, chap in the bow with a drum and a knotted whip ('Faster, Geoff wants to go water-skiing!). Rowing speeds could be given in Italian music notation. 'Andante.' 'Pizzicato for a few strokes, then legato.' 'Allegro con Adagio Multo Doloroso' - (No, that would remind me of my humiliating patriotic car purchase in the Seventies).

Talking about fantasies, Bella Pippa from the Green Goddesses could put a garland of flowers round our necks rather than some urchin (chavi, claro) flinging medals somewhere near the boat (where are they - at the bottom of the canal?). That and stopping somewhere in the shade for lunch. Inferno horrendo.

Sunday night, I was less able to sit down than the day after Southall's finest Ring of Fire vindalissimo. Oddly, apart from a few insect bites, everything seemed to be pretty well OK after only 16 glasses of red.

Sue Turner said she got through it by being in a sort of trance. Talk about taking your work home. No seriously I do understand that to get through such as experience you have to go to another place. Sadly, no one explained it was Dubrovnik.

High praise must go to Ellie who had, I'm told, never rowed this kind of distance and did so in broiling heat (Gas Mk 6 in old money) while retaining good humour and an elegant style. Plus she brought the average age of the crew down to merely 89.

All in all, as another first-timer, (and old-timer), I'd say it was an extraordinary experience physically and team-wise and offered superb views of Venice and the outer islands which few tourists would ever see. That and the feeling of being part of something great, something in my ignorance  I'd never known was possible (not 'never known', as you know it now - chief sub. Alright, Robin, 'Not known'. You mean 'All right'. Arghhh!). Next month's more unknown challenges: Underwater hang-gliding, free fall parachute flower arranging and Gobi Desert ice sculpture. Scorchio!

Many thanks to all those who clearly do so much to put these things together and congratulations to all survivors. Hope the ointment works. Bravi tutti! Stupdendissimo! Collapso!

Ben le Vay, 2011

Vogalonga 2011

Loads more Voga Longa pictures from Steve

The next three from Carson


Venice 2011


Velalonga Raid 2011


Kathy Venice 2011
Thanks to Kathy Mansfield

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Kathy Venice 2011 . Kathy Venice 2011 . Kathy Venice 2011 . Kathy Venice 2011 . Kathy Venice 2011
The five pictures above courtesty of Kathy Mansfield.
Click here for Kathy Mansield's whole Vela Raid Gallery with many other boats

VelaRaid, Venice Lagoon 14–18 June 2011

After the challenges of La Semaine du Golfe the MOLLY crew enjoyed a few days of R&R, soaking up the charms and excitement of La Serenissima, and the Vogalonga! Before we knew it, we were back at the Circolo Velico Casanova (CVC) sailing club for the eve-of-Raid dinner, chatting with old friends and meeting new ones. This year there would be 30 boats taking part, with just over 100 sailors from 7 different nations. The MOLLY crew was comprised of: Geoff, Madeleine, Bob, Carson, Peter, Steve and John (Madeleine’s brother) from the UK, and we were delighted to welcome back Guy from Belgium.

The organisers presented us with a great itinerary, taking in islands and the mainland for lunch breaks and night stops, with routes that took us from Venice to Chioggia in the south of the lagoon, and back. It was a mixture of some familiar places and new ones to delight us! The weather for sailing was as changeable as ever and over the next few days we were to encounter conditions ranging from hot & windy, hot & windless to torrential rain accompanied by thunder & lightning, but without the hail stones this year!

Vela Raid 2011
Here are Steve's pictures
14th June 2011, . 15th June 2011, . 16th June 2011, . 17th June 2011, . 18th June 2011.

Nine pictures below from Madeleine.
Click to enlarge.
Others anticipated on Picassa soon

The morning race (no idea of the result!) took us to Isola di San Francesco del Deserto, which we had not visited before. Here we found a peaceful monastery, which we admired from the outside! Beppe was back with the traditional bragozzo Paradiso and provided us with the first of several tasty lunches, this followed by a very welcome siesta in the shade. It was HOT, HOT, HOT! The afternoon brought light winds; we started well, but struggled to stay in contention with the other traditional boats, due to navigational confusion! Never mind, we made it to Ca’ Noghera on the Fiume Dese (mainland) and moored up, hot and thirsty, at the Country House Country Club with its very inviting-looking swimming pool. This was to have been our accommodation for the night, but alas, we had been gazumped by some rich Russians, so the pool was out of bounds, how frustrating! After some very welcome aperitifs in the shady garden we were bussed off to various nearby Bed & Breakfasts for a quick wash and change, returning to the Country Club for a delicious seafood dinner, as planned!

Isola del Deserto

Siesta in the shade

Another hot day, with light winds, and John volunteered to spend the day on the safety boat with Giorgio. We set sail passing the leaning tower of Torcello, on past Burano until we reached the island of San Erasmo where we all anchored or beached our boats. Molly’s new parasol was finally secured to give us some much needed shade for our picnic lunch, and then some of us swam ashore to enjoy the local facilities and ice creams! The afternoon passage took us to the Giudecca, where we all moored in a boatyard. Our accommodation was not far – the youth hostel with one of the best views in the world, looking out over St Mark’s Basin towards Venice island. Before dinner we stopped at the next-door bar where we sat outside and enjoyed a leisurely drink, whilst feasting our eyes on the stunning views. Then back to the boatyard restaurant where a lavish meal awaited us, followed later by the amazing sight of a very red moon. A few of us went on for a late night walk along the Fondamenta Zittele and unexpectedly came across the back entrance to one of the most exclusive hotels in Venice – the Cipriani. Staff must have assumed we were guests, leaving us un-challenged to explore the gardens and trying to find the swimming pool. Sadly we were unsuccessful, but it was an unexpected adventure!

MOLLY's new parasol

Aperitifs on the Fondamenta Zittele

John was back with us – just as well as we had to row for nearly two hours all the way from the Giudecca to Isola Fisolo as the air was still, and HOT HOT HOT! Fortunately we found wind coming in through the mouth of the lagoon at Porto di Malamocco, which we could use to race up to Valle Zappa (and the Dutch House), coming in amongst the first arrivals for the lunch stop, where we all moored up around Paradiso. Once again the parasol and the ‘Julia’ sail came into their own to provide us with some much needed shade! In the afternoon the Trevelyans persuaded John to join them in the Whitehall skiff (borrowed from Wolfgang Friedl) to boost ballast or rowing power, depending on what was required! It turned out to be a very frustrating passage through a myriad of channels to Giare, on the mainland to the north west of our lunch stop. With the ebbing tide the channels were becoming increasingly shallow, barely cutting through the marshes, and we often touched the bottom. Looking around us we could see the rest of the fleet going in all directions; every boat seemed to be struggling to find a way, but eventually most of the boats finally made landfall at the Trattoria Alla Laguna, where we all enjoyed very welcome cold beers! Accommodation was provided by the Ostello dei Colori, a 15 minute walk away, but fortunately a van had been organised to take everyone’s luggage. Dinner was another wonderful seafood feast back at the trattoria, where we were eventually joined by the crew from the three boats that had run aground earlier. They had had to sit it out in the growing dark and wait for the rising tide, with Marco in attendance on the safety boat to make sure they all reached the destination that night!

Marco enjoys a siesta

John with Trevelyans

This was marked as a day of changes in several ways: the clouds were building up for a storm, the temperature was cooling down and Eelke and Marja were feeling increasingly unwell due to infected insect bites (Erysipelas), so in the morning Bob sailed with them to Porto Secco, on Pellestrina. From the beginning this proved to be a challenging passage – initially it was difficult to pick our way back through the shallow channels that we had navigated the previous afternoon, then as the wind strengthened several boats ran aground and there was general mayhem, with boats going in all directions. In the confusion Molly managed to avoid other boats, but instead hit a bank with considerable force, knocking the crew off their feet. After this we decided to row for a while, and eventually all the boats managed to find a way through to the deep channel from where it should have been a reasonably straightforward sail to the lunch stop. Unfortunately, Molly was towards the back of the fleet and was caught by the torrential rain of a huge localised thunderstorm, with the lightening crackling directly overhead. I am anxious in such storms at the best of times, but with the words “carbon fibre mast and oars” and “fried to a crisp” all in the same sentence I was feeling extremely nervous. By the time we reached Porto Secco the early arrivals greeted us with surprise that we were so wet; they had missed the rain! After another welcome lunch cooked up in Paradiso we managed to lie down and enjoy a well-earned siesta. Phew!
By contrast the afternoon passage was wonderfully uneventful. Geoff and Bob took a turn in Eelke and Marja’s boat, and Hogy (Bulgarian) and Carlo (Italian) joined Molly, making it the most international crew! Our destination was Chioggia, and we got there after a mix of sailing and a fair amount of rowing. Although Molly was rather late starting, we managed to finish the race quite high up the fleet.
Accommodation for most of the raiders was at the usual Domus Clugiae hostel, but due to increased numbers Molly and some other crews stayed at the Salesian College where we had the comparative luxury of a 7 bed, air-conditioned dormitory, with two ensuite shower rooms! From there we found our way to the ristorante “ae do porte”, where we ate last year. Yet another seafood feast, with wine on tap!

Geoff and Bob in the Le Seil

Carlo, Guy, John and Hogy

We started the day well with breakfast in a local café – good decision: wonderful spremuta d’arancia, coffee and croissants sitting beside ….a canal! Another crew change: Peter and Bob sailed the Le Seil for Eelke and Marja, and Hogy joined us again. We collected picnic lunches from Beppe’s van and then headed off for the last race: Chioggia to a finish between the islands of San Servolo and San Lazzaro degli Armeni, near St Mark’s Basin. At the beginning the fleet spread out, everyone trying to find the best course to catch what little wind there was. Once we got past the Porto di Malamocco we found more wind and Molly surged forward to take the lead, arriving some way ahead of our nearest contenders. Plenty of time to anchor between the two islands and become the Committee boat, listing the arrival times of the other boats! After a lazy picnic lunch afloat we all headed off to the historic Arsenale as a fleet, where we disembarked and enjoyed a rest stop.
The afternoon sail was a non-race passage back to CVC, with yet another crew change: Hogy left us and Carlo took his place. Quite a fast sail back to the club, with an exciting gybe as we arrived at the quayside! This time we sailed down the length of the quay and moored up round the corner, which was pleasantly sheltered from the wind. This was a good place to leave Molly overnight, ready for the Velalonga the following day (which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the strength of the wind).
We headed off to our hotel for a wash and brush-up, and then returned to CVC for the final dinner, which was held in the shelter of the large boat tent. This was followed by the prizegiving, and to our surprise and delight Molly came first in the traditional boat class! What a way to round off five memorable days of sailing adventures in the company of so many good friends in the enchanting Laguna Veneta. Well done and thank you to all the 6 Edition VelaRaid team!
Madeleine Probert

Back at CVC

The Velalonga (Long Sail)
A one-day sailing race for hundereds of boats around the Venice Lagoon.
On this occasion, cancelled due to foul weather, though to see Steve's pictures you would not imagine it!

Velalonga 2011

And finally, Steve's "Tourist" Albums; (1), (2), (3)

Venice 2011

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