2023 CIVV Rally in England

I would like to report on a stupendous event which has just taken place in Oxford. Thirty-one rowers and four supporters travelled by air to take part in the annual rally of the International Community of Venetian Rowers, or CIVV—this year in England and hosted by City Barge.

Three boats returning from Osney


We welcomed three rowers (who run the CIVV) from Frankfurt, one from Amsterdam, one from Berlin, one from Marburg, two from Baunschweig, two from Venice, four from Paris, four from Suce de L’Edre, six from Treviso, and seven from Padua!

Most people arrived on Tuesday 18th July and found their way, on foot or by boat, to the open-air watering hole The Head of the River, on the Thames at Folly Bridge. Here old acquaintances were rekindled over beer, lager, cider, and coffee.

Some had a row first, English style, in the Draper’s ceremonial shallop helped by Janice and Andrew Thomson from Swanage, who manage this boat.

WEDNESDAY: Everyone to Eynsham

The next day blessed us with brilliant weather and the whole party, led by Richard Robinson and Ian Hall, boarded ten Venetian boats and wound their way upstream on the Thames past grassy banks to picnic at a spot near the village of Eynsham. The picnic was adeptly organized by City Barge member Laura Hutchins-Payne. The winding river way back to Oxford via three locks went well, as the sun continued to shine, and muscles responded to their owners’ bidding. This is indeed a green and pretty part of our river.

THURSDAY: A Taste of Oxford and back to our roots

Thursday morning involved tours through Oxford City to see the sights and learn a little. Clare Oxby led ten people addressing them in French. Richard Robinson, a graduate of the university, led the rest, and all ended up at the Rose and Crown pub for lunch. City Barge was founded here by Richard Norton thirty-one years ago. Debbie and Andrew, the publicans, are still there welcoming and serving us so well after all these years.

In the afternoon, one group went punting up the river Cherwell to the Victoria Arms pub for more beer, more laughter. Others Venetian-rowed up the Cherwell River to a pleasant spot called Parsons’ Pleasure, where in the past men bathed au naturel. En route, to avoid fallen trees and much overhanging foliage, much creeping and lying down in the boats was necessary. One witty visitor named this outing the “Indiana Jones trip”.

FRIDAY: Downstream to Abingdon

Sue Burton led us far downstream on the Thames to Abingdon with a group which numbered fifty-two people. City Barge supplied eight Venetian boats, and six others were loaned by club members, but even this huge flotilla was not enough to carry all. The shallop, with six rowers, a whiffler, Les Burton in command as cox, and passengers completed the group. On arrival, the Nags Head pub on an island under Abingdon Bridge coped very well with serving lunch to this huge influx.

In the evening, there was the grand dinner of the rally at the Cherwell Boathouse attended by about fifty-one people. There was singing and merriment in plenty.

SATURDAY: It’s Race Time

The Sixth Oxford International Fun Regatta was held on Saturday, and began with a race round a small island next to the boathouse, a short course tests the manoeuvrability of the crew as well as their speed. This race was organised by Pauline Dobbs, with Ruth and John Kinahan as timekeepers. 

The ladies had the privilege of racing in our new mascareta, Robbert van Mesdag, constructed by our club members during the last twelve months. Robbert donated money to the club in his will which paid for all the wood, paint and tools needed. Robbert died very shortly after the CIVV trip to Amsterdam where he regaled us with jokes at the big dinner. 

There was to be racing round buoys in the Thames in the afternoon, but it was judged better to miss this because of the persistent English rain (not enough offerings to the gods on Friday, evidently).


The event wholeheartedly earned its title of “international” this year. In the well-decorated Hereford College clubroom, we spent almost as much time eating, drinking, laughing, and receiving prizes as we had rowing—all good. Ann Holden led the team of ladies who saw to it that we ate so well. Venetian flags, or bandieri, supplied by Anna Campagnari of Venice, were awarded to the fastest rowers in mixed pairs, ladies pairs, and single valesana (one rower with an oar in each hand). All attendees received a medal supplied by our printer extraordinaire, Dek Cordingley.

The whole event was coordinated by Richard Robinson, supported by other City Barge members. Extra thanks go to several members who lent us their boats.  It was not easy squeezing them all into the boathouse, so some joined us en route.

This is a factual report, but not enough can be said to pay tribute to the participants for their bonhomie and enthusiasm. The next annual CIVV event will be in Treviso hosted by Club Sile in June 2024. We can’t wait!

Richard Bailey