Gerry Goss on location at the World Masters Games Torino, Italy

Or; how I learned to shug my shoulders Italian style (spalle scrollata di spalle).
Geraldine Goss on location at the WMG, Torino, Italy
Before I begin… let me be clear that I love Italy, I love Italian people, Italian food and wine…Italians are, well, not very good at organising things…when I think of this regatta certain words come to mind: fiasco! shambolic! folle! pazzo! …however, I believe there is no Italian translation for ‘well organised’.
So there you have the background. There were early clues, when no draw was posted, then some unconventional rules were advertised, e.g. one could not row in more than one age group for any event e.g. row a 4x in both D and C. Since we usually do this, many felt limited and were put off; many rowers decided early on to withdraw, including the quad I regularly train with.
However, having booked leave, cover and a ticket I thought I would go anyway…how badly I organised could it be I thought? Hmmm…well…very. Very badly organized. Shambolic. More on this later.
I have been training in Essendon with some folks from there who were headed to Torino, and we formed some crews with some NSW girls Krys and Kim. Before we knew it, it was departure time…
The first part of my trip was a rowing camp in southwest France, in Penne on the river Lot. I will not bore you with the details of the beautiful countryside, the sculling past chateaus on the river, the chef who fed us, and the local rosé…really I will not. But I have been there before and it’s as good as it sounds and a perfect acclimatisation. There were eight of us training, six of whom were headed to Torino. After a great week we hit the road with our coach Allan, towing I some 1x and 2x boats to Italy. It was a 13-hour road trip and a story in itself…but my brief is to report on the games, so here it is.
Sunday August 4: Penne to Torino
Today we did a road trip from Penne to Torino; 954 km and convoy of three cars. Bit boring and the tolls cost the earth it we arrive at 9pm at Castelfiorito, a B and B in an old castle and when we see it we know it will be a good week. We are well fed by our lovely host Silvana who has dutifully risen each day to give us breakfast at 6am on days…bless her! She already thinks we are crazy.
Monday August 5: Torino
Our day starts with a bus trip to Torino: our host takes us to the bus stop to catch the 1032: we arrive at 1030 but no bus comes. We think maybe it came early but she explains that in Italy, this is not possible. Turns out there is no 1032 for 2 weeks of August… but we eventually get to Torino on a very hot day (about 37) The registration is easy until we go to the rowing section and find that none of our entries are on the computer! This is despite Bill (who organised everything, dutifully translating all his emails into Italian) having email confirmation. We re-enter everything. With less than 48 hours to go before our first race, there is still no schedule….
Tuesday August 6.Lago Candia
The canoeists have left and we are allowed to train on the course. It is still very hot. The preliminary schedule (which came out 2 weeks ago) has racing starting at 8 am, a siesta time of 4 hours in the middle of the day, and racing resuming at 3 pm. We wonder how accurate this schedule is given that our entries were not in…still no final schedule, even when we check at midnight…. Scott from ERC checks our entries and none of them have appeared on the computer. He re-enters everything.
There are a good contingent of Australians in Candia. The regatta is not as well attended as Sydney, however there are large teams from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The ladies are huge, and we find they are rowing in C and D age groups. Against us.
Wednesday August 7: Day 1 of the Regatta
We arrive early for our supposed 8 am heat of the D4+. Our crew is not listed in the heats. Hmmm. Others find their crews are all in the wrong age bracket. There is a long line of disgruntled people at the officials’ office. We find that later heats have been created, at 1040. Meanwhile Tamara (ERC) and I row our C2x heat and make the final. Race starts 60 min late. My D 4+ find our boat and head to the start line. We sit there. Nothing much happens. Regatta is already 90 min behind schedule. Seems that some people cannot get on the water because hire boats are not available…miscalculation, mi dispiace. Sorry. We must wait for them. Other races go in ahead of us. We finally race and it is 1345 when we come off the water…but we have made the final.
There are no letters on the bow numbers, only numbers, and it is hard to know how to track who is going out and when. The boat hire area is in a shambles. The Fillipi people, who are hiring boats, are tearing their hair out, as the afternoon schedule is not released yet. The schedule for the finals comes out at 330, with racing to resume at 4. It starts about 430.
Tam and I come in fourth in the final, 0.7 sec off the medals. Our D4+ finally rows the final at about 1830 and wins silver. We feel better. It’s been a long hot day and we get back to our B and B for dinner at 9. When we arrive back at the castle Silvana has made a banner to congratulate us! Her sister took her twin daughters down to watch us race and they saw our second placing. They are very excited. They don’t realize it’s just old people rowing.
We check the schedule for Day 2; there isn’t one. It appears on line at 11pm. Meanwhile we head to a spectacular castle on a hill to a jazz concert. We find ourselves dancing on the terrazzo terrace of a seventeenth century castle and we love Italy. We stay till the end despite our resolve to leave early because of a big day racing ahead. Decide we will use the siesta break tomorrow.
Thursday August 8: Day 2 of the Regatta
There is no siesta break. We get to the line for the second race of the day but already the regatta is delayed by 30 min! There is to sense of urgency in Italy, but a lot of shoulder shrugging. The people are very cheerful. The racing finally starts 45 min late. We make the finals of the. C4- and D1x. We head out for the heat of the D4 x and the skies open and we are suddenly in the middle of an electrical storm. It is very spectacular, but I find the lightening very frightening. We head back to shore being pelted with hailstones and we are utterly saturated..but very glad to make it back in one piece. We then wait for two hours while and nobody knows what will happen: it is quite cold and the line for cappuccino is long. We can’t really leave.
Eventually the skies clear and the regatta resumes…by now about 4 hours behind schedule. We row the final of the C4- and win bronze. The D4x suffers from erratic steering and we cannot keep up with the Lituanians, Russians and Latvians: we finish fourth. My final race is the D1x: it’s been a big day and it’s a hard race: I finish in fifth place. The Latvians and Lituanians are too strong, but Krys from NSW comes in third. They are not very the final results of the D1x the second place getter is listed as ‘did not finish’, and I am listed as eighth. I shrug my shoulders.
The rains return and we eat inside for the first time in Italy. We give Silvana the good news that our first race on day 3 is at 0920 (by now we understand that it will likely be around 11). We can have a later breakfast.
Although the regatta is not as well attended numbers wise as Sydney in 2009, the competition is very tough at the pointy end of things, especially in C and D age groups. This is common in masters rowing, as olympians and world champions return after a break, or people can afford to travel now their kids are grown (both time wise and money wise). The Latvians look enormous and wear gear with Olympic Rings on them. The Lithuanian women are also very tall and scull beautifully. The Germans have beautiful boats and space age looking oars. We feel small!
Friday August 9: Day 3 of the Regatta
Tam and I have entered the B2x. Why not, since the schedule is only done the night before? We row a good heat to make the final and we row our best race ever together. We can’t keep up with the youngsters and finish sixth, but we are very happy. Regatta runs 3 hours overtime, and medal presentations finish at 930 pm. Another very long day.
On the podium a fight breaks out between the German and Russian crews. IT seems that the Russians skipped the heat and showed up for the final, rowing in lane 9. They win the final, but on the podium the Germans complain that the Russians are ineligible because they did not row the heats. A fight breaks out. Eventually no medal is awarded.
Rumours abound of crews substituting younger or fresher crews for finals. I mean, really? It’s not the Olympics, just old people rowing….
Each night at our castle there is a concert, and tonight is the Torino Dixieland band. They are fantastic. The DJ plays on until 1am. The lifestyle is great, except that we don’t get the siesta!
Saturday August 10: Day 4 of the Regatta
Last day of the regatta, comprising mixed events. Usually these are not run as championship events but as straight finals, but not so here. The scheduling is awful, with events in the same age group being very close together, and some crews miss their races. Our stroke of the 4x, Billy has to jump from a double into the quad and we race to the start line. We get there on time (as its running late…I detect a theme). We row the heat of the mixed 4x; two will go through to the final. We are in front with the Canadians when, at about the 500 our strokes Billy’s bow side oar comes out completely from it gate. We have to stop and put it back, then row down two crews who have passed us. It is tough, but we make it to the final in second place.
Tim J from ERC and I row the heat of the D2x. We have been training together, and we won a gold medal at Aus nationals in April. There are eight heats, and only winner will go to the final. All the way it is a fight between the Latvians and us. We cross the line rating 38. We really want to win. Neither of us can speak for 5 minutes or more. Our time is 3 min 38.14 but we are beaten by 0.16sec.
Ours is the fastest heat, and other heats are all won in times between 3 min 48 and 4.13 min. We shrug our shoulders. Later the Latvians win the gold medal in the final. We are disappointed not to get a medal but we are very happy with the row, as we could not have rowed harder or better and it was an absolute battle, which is more fun really than winning by 3 lengths. This, and the 2x with Tam are my best race memories for sheer hard work and achieving our very best. It hurt so much though!
We row our mixed eight to a comfortable win in the heat. The regatta is 3 hours late, but the officials need their siesta and so racing resumes at 430. We have a less eventful 4x race but it is hard. We want this one, and we keep going until we are the ones to cross the line first, and it is a very, very big thrill. We feel like champions.
We then get our boat organised for the eight, only to get on the water and see our race go by! This must be the only race where they did not wait for people, and we were left with the disappointing sight of the people we beat in the heat taking out the medals. Hmmm. This was the one that got away, for sure. We shrug our shoulders. My zootie looks tired and I am tired and it’s time for a beer.
Sunday August 11: That’s it for another Year!
The regatta is finished. Krys and I walk down to the course. It looks lovely. The boats are gone, and picnickers are taking up the lakeside park space. It’s a beautiful spot. We have lunch as guests of Silvana and her family before boarding a train to Varese. It’s been a fun regatta, and now time for home.
WMG, Auckland, 2017. See you there!
Geraldine Goss