When I am not ,religiously , deeply involved with Cornish pasty making you can often find me doing a bit on rowing Cornish fixed seat style. I have enjoyed Cornish Pilot Gig rowing for the past 30 years since the tradition of racing them has been rekindled. I also row Cornish flash boats and skiffs. For the past 6 years the Italians have organised a great competition for European ‘fixed seat’ rowers using their own traditional fixed seat boats for the races. The ‘highlight’ of 2016 for me was my little break from pastying when with my Trelawney crew flew to off to Milano Malpensa on our way to Lake Maggiore for the 6th Fixed Seat European Rowing Cup.
Although I was excited about this adventure I was at the same time apprehensive. At the beginning of August I had slipped on a wet floor and landed on my coccyx and had damaged my arm that I outstretched automatically to break the fall. SO I had been unable to train properly for any boat race.:- (As it happened I didn’t really have to worry about being the ‘weakest link’ as another member of my crew broke her arm about a month before the trip and yet another crew member had a series bout of flue the week before the race. It was too late to pull out of the competition as we had all booked and paid for flights and accommodation. We were just going have to go along with it and hope that we wouldn’t come in a too embarrassing last. Of course our crew member who had broken her arm would need a replacement but she did cox us. Apart from this being a rowing weekend we were all looking forward to this trip to the area of Piedmont and Lombardy.
We arrived at Reno on the 6th October after being collected by transport laid on by the Italian Fixed Seat Rowing Federation. Our accommodation looked across the lake to the Alps, a wonderful view. The following day we were collected, as we were a mile from the action, and dropped off at the beach from where the event was happening the following day. On the beach were several of the trad. boats that we would be racing in. Those crews other than the Italians could practise and get to know the vessels that we would be racing in. So here we were on a lovely sunny day ,in a beautiful part of Italy, with boats at our disposal plus a lovely, helpful Italian cox/instructress.
We rowed passed the ‘Santa Caterina del Sasso’ and over towards the ‘Isola Bella’ . We rested and chatted and gazed at the mountains and wanted to row to Switzerland but there wouldn’t have been time, if only we had brought a Cornish Pilot Gig!!!!! Our dear cox was so pleased to tell us about the lake. She told us that Napoleon stayed on ‘Isola Bella’ before the battle of Marengo. He loved the garden there.
That evening we were treated to a huge reception dinner plus wine. The first course was an assortment of charcuteri with bread followed by a delicious walnut rissoto. I thought the risotto was the main course so when they brought around extra helping I had some more………….. but NO there was another course to come!!! Braised beef and carrots, OMG! I did manage it but no way pudding. This meal with wine was served to all of us foreign rowers from Cornwall, Wales and England . You can imagine the noise! Thank you Italy, we felt very welcome.
We slept well and were collected early for the race day. We managed to find a spare Welsh rower and in our heat we came in one second behind another Welsh crew. This meant that we did NOT make the next round but only by one second. So we could relax out of the competition without looking pathetic.:-) That evening we enjoyed a meal at the restaurant that had produced the free meal the evening before. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant but it is nearest to the water’s edge near the rowing club. Anyway I had the most delicious lasagne there and the staff were lovely.
We awoke to tipping rain the following day and instead of our planned trip across the Lake to Strasa we decided to go directly to Milan where we had booked accommodation for two nights. There were 5 of us in our group so we decided to book a taxi instead of hanging around at the station waiting for a train in the rain. Our taxi driver was so sorry about the rain that on the way back to Milan he took us to his favourite cafe and treated us to a coffee each. What a guy! Fab. cake at that cafe too! Having a taxi in to Milan made life easy for us in a strange city, our lovely taxi driver took us up to the door of Hotel Berne that wasn’t far from the centre of the city. The weather eased during the afternoon so after a bit of a rest we ventured out to get our bearings for the following day. We walked around the huge central station that Mussolini had built.