The “gozzo” (rowing skiff) is a 9.25 meter long 2.45 meter wide boat made of cedar wood weighing 600 kg, and propelled by the explosive force of ten rowers. When it’s sailing well, it receives a forward shock that makes it fly lightly on the surface of the water. The famous Scarronzoni (name given to the Olympic rowing team from Livorno) didn’t do that in the 1930s when they competed in the Olympics, they raced not as equals but as the underdogs, losing twice by fractions of seconds* in two Olympic games. They pushed and beat hard with their oars, sweat and foul language. The boat bobbed up and down, rose and pitched continuously, even drifting.
The origin of the competitions at sea dates back to the times of the Medici, when the sailors challenged each other in tests of strength, courage and endurance, against the adversities of the sea to be ready to save their boats that were pushed by the waves and the Libeccio (a south westerly wind) on the shoals of the Meloria (a rocky skerry surrounded by a shoal just off the coast of Livorno). The competition dates in July and August consolidate from tradition to tradition, from race to race: The Palio Marinaro, a competition on the open sea amongst sixteen districts in Livorno, held in front of Terrazza Mascagni; la Coppa Risiatori, a test of stamina from the Meloria lighthouse to the port of Livorno; la Coppa Barontini, a captivating time challenge within the inner city canals; the Palio dell’Antenna, in Darsena Nuova (the new dock) and its grand finale involving a free climb to the top of a pole in the middle of the dock. Crowds on the tribunes scream crazily during every race, always.
* In 1932 they took second place, missing only by 2/10 of a second and then in 1936 by 7/10 of a second.