He did it again!
Yesterday, Paolo D’Este, nicknamed Super D’Este, won his twenty-second first-place flag for the two-rower gondola regatta. This race always takes place on the Sunday of Redentore, the festival commemorating the end of the Black Plague in Venice about 500 years ago. But spectators were definitely not thinking about pestilence! Some of their energy was going towards fanning themselves and staying out of the sun in the oppressive heat, but mostly they were watching, cheering, and hoping to see Paolo race to first again.
You can see Paolo and Ivo warming up before the race. Then here is the start of the race.
Paolo and his partner Ivo Redolfi Tezzat rowed the green gondola this year, with their long-time rivals Rudi and Igor Vignotto in the viola colored gondola. However, Roberto and Renato Busetto in the pink gondola, also long-time rivals, took an early lead and kept everyone pumping at their oars, but came in third. Paolo and Ivo won by a couple boat lengths, a healthy lead, though still an impressive feat considering they had been rowing up and back the length of Giudecca for over half and hour.
(Paolo D’Este is one of the few racers who is also a gondolier. I met him 18 years ago when I was writing Free Gondola Ride. Back then he wore his beard as “un geometria” he said, with sharply shaved asymmetrical points.)
A couple hours earlier, the teen boys had raced in boats called puperini, followed by adult men in the two-oared puperini. Simone Costantini and Federico Busetto, the winners of this race, were so joyful that they leaped at each other in their boat to embrace with such gusto and then tumbled into the water! We got to enjoy the sight of them after this, soaking wet and sans shirt, showing off their winners’ flag.
As my friends and I walked back to Venice across the pontoon bridge that stays up only for a day to celebrate Redentore, we passed by the green winners’ boat. “Bravo Paolo! Bravo Ivo!” we yelled out, and Paolo turned and saluted us. I felt like we had received the rock star benediction.
Paolo and Ivo relax after their win.