One thing that immediately catches the eye of those who go to Venice for the first time and wander around the lagoon is the way in which the local population conducts non-motor boats. It is the so-called Venetian rowing.
In fact, Venetian rowing is a bit strange to see while it is being implemented: a rower leads the boat alone, directing it wherever he wants and without the need for a rudder, standing on the bottom of the boat or higher and further back. on the stern cover. The oar is held to the right, using a particular rowlock called the fórcola, so the rower is always moved to the left of the boat.
Rowing standing looking straight ahead and with a wide view of the whole surrounding area is certainly a way of adapting to the environment: going around the lagoon you have to pay close attention to shoals, sandbanks, narrow and winding canals , to other boats, to any masses of algae. Furthermore, in historically difficult times, it was necessary to pay close attention to the hypothetical encounters that could be made with malicious people, and to be ready for the defensive. In fact, it is assumed that rowing while remaining to the left favored the possible taking of weapons placed comfortably to the right of the rower.
But how does one person keep the boat going? Here Physics comes to our aid, especially leverage. Here is the definition of leverage:
“A lever is a simple machine that transforms kinetic energy; it is capable of overcoming by means of a force, called a driving force, another force called resistant. " In practice it is a rigid rod capable of rotating around a fixed point, called the fulcrum.
And the Venetian rowing applies precisely the principle of the lever; it basically takes place in two phases: the prèmer and the staìr.
In the first phase, in the prèmer the rower exerts a forward thrust on the oar, which is leaning on the forcola and which leverages the shovel on the water. The paddle of the oar immersed in the water has an angle of about 90 ° with respect to the surface of the water itself, and will move backwards towards the stern.
In physics this is an advantageous lever, called a second-order lever, in which the resistance lies between the fulcrum and the applied force. In our case, the fork is the center of resistance, the force applied is the thrust on the oar and the fulcrum is the water.
With this movement the boat undergoes a force that pushes it (prèmer, in fact) to the left, and will therefore tend to go to the left and slightly forward.
In the second phase, the staìr, the rower, always keeping the oar blade immersed in the water, reverses the movement with a twist of the wrist and pelvis and pulls the oar towards him forcefully, without letting it fall from the fork. The blade turns in the water, performing a movement opposite to that of before, returning towards the bow.
As a result the boat suffers a force that makes it return (staìr, in fact) to the right, and will therefore tend to go to the right and slightly forward.
If the rower made the first movement equal to the second, the boat would remain almost stationary, moving the bow once to the left and once to the right, combined with a slight advance in both directions. By calibrating the two phases with an appropriate sinuous movement, the boat moves straight ahead and can be led in the desired direction.
Depending on the various situations in which the boat can be found, there are also other secondary movements that can be done with the oar.In the event that there is another rower, this will be positioned towards the bow, with the oar to the right. Rowing in unison, the rower placed at the stern will act as helmsman, applying the same movements just seen, but with less force and less accentuated.
If you look at the paintings and engravings of the great Venetian masters, you can see how this type of rowing has remained unchanged over the centuries, a sign of how it is truly in keeping with the lagoon environment.