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Pearls of the Pavia-Venezia

John Moore on 30th April 2021

After a ten year absence, the world’s most beautiful, oldest and longest boat race returns to Italy.

The 414 km Pavia to Venezia river race captures a blend of sports and entertainment with the winners clocking average speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour.

There have been plenty of calendar disruptions in the event’s 92 year history including World War II, environmental protests and poor river conditions, however, this year’s event has been organised by the Pavia Motorboat and Venice Motorboat associations during the global health crisis and all things are go!

Known as the Paris Dakar on water, the event has a vast array of competing craft categories, F1 and F2 circuit cats, Offshore Class 3, Endurance Group B, Endurance Jet Ski, water skiers, air propeller boats, historic racers and pleasure boats.

The race was first held on June 6th, 1929 and it was also one of the first times a woman had raced in a nautical motor sport; Franci Balboni drove a hull built by Italy’s oldest shipyard, Taroni, and it was powered by a Elto outboard. Since then, the Pavia-Venezia race has boasted many noted lady racers – the ‘Pearls of the Pavia-Venezia’.

Following Balboni’s debut came Pina Capè, she raced the Pavia to Venezia on three occasions, in 1933, 1934 and 1935 and took a hat-trick of class wins.

Pina Capè

In 1936 and in 1938, Irma Lucchini finished both races in leading positions.

Irma Lucchini in 1936

The race would then have to wait until 1954 for another female competitor, Amalia Marega. She co-drove and engineered for her brother Tarcisico, and the racing siblings took the runners-up spot,

Four years later they won the 18th edition of the Pavia-Venezia race with an average speed of 128 KPH using a three pointer Timossi hull powered by a Botta e Puricelli Milano motor.

Camilla Cometti raced in 1954, 1955, 1957 (below) and 1959, taking the coveted Coppa d’oro Theo Rossi di Montelera Pavia-Venezia trophy.

The amazing Camilla shared her victories with her younger brother, Augusto, who became a six times record holder of the race.

Thirteen years later in 1972, Gabriela Corti won the 700cc Class.

The 47th edition, held in 1987, counted Stefania Batoli, Silvana & Nicoletta Mora and Countess Marie Paola Petrobelli on the entry list.

Batoli was third in class 1 while the others were disqualified for insufficient documentation.

Petrobelli’s brother, Count Antonio, enjoyed great success in the event until he was tragically killed in the 1994 race.

In 1990, Milena Clerici, the wife of F2 racer, Paolo Zantelli, won her class at an average speed of 124 KPH, (Zantelli sadly passed away in 2013).

In 2002 Cinzia Treossi, Mara Mazzucotelli, Caterina Croze, Jennifer Milani and Francesca Gava entered the race.

Treossi raced with Carlo Bentivogli in Endurance B and Mazzucotelli co-drove for her father Achille.

Caterina Croze aka the “Lady Driver of Offshore”, a beautiful Venetian with a passion for speed, later became the first Italian woman to win the Centomiglia del Lario.

Caterina Croze
Photo: Massimo Ciuchi

There are ten women entered into this year’s Italian Raid Pavia to Venezia river race and all eyes will be on the ‘fairer sex’ as they roar to the finish line in Venice, Italy, an enchanted city that mirrors the beauty and passion of our lady racers.

The 414 KM race will be held on June 6 and is organised by the The Pavia Motorboat and Venice Motorboat associations, the boats start in Pavia and race to Venice on the same day.

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