Piero demonstrates the Valesana

A Wednesday morning in July was a pleasant, sunny day to spend at the old swimming pool area beside Longbridges Boathouse, the perfect location to demonstrate and document the rowing technique known as la valesana.

Assembled from early morning were Richard Heffer, Kip Loades, Piero Bortoli and Ricardo Bailey. They launched the dark blue Venetian sandolo, Serena, and Piero demonstrated the art of “knitting”, Venetian style. With grace, he showed and told us what he had learned as a child, in Venice, standing, using an oar in each hand, with the handles crossed in front of the rower. Piero controls the nine-metre boat with skill and agility. Kip Loades was the cameraman. Richard Heffer was the director, and sponsor. Riccardo was the fixer. Kip, afterwards, edited the film with direction from Richard.

The result is a charming, eleven minute, film showing others how to position themselves in the boat, and handle the oars, to practice an ancient method of standing rowing. The technique, is properly called valesana.

Afterwards, Piero gives us a short tour inside the boathouse, showing three Venetian boats in particular, and invites the viewer to come and have a go at rowing with City Barge Boat Club, Oxford.

The film is dedicated to Mario Pianta, who was also an expert at the valesana, and gave his knowledge on Venetian rowing, freely, to standing rowers in Oxford for twenty four years.

— Richard Bailey