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Christophe to train in Sicily


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NSPN member Christophe Godfreddo of Ipswich has decided to skip NY's summer thoroughbred racing season and our paddling season this year to head directly to Sicily to train for next year's "Greasy Pole" contest.

Sunday afternoon, June 30, Christophe was inspired to this radical change in plans by his first-ever viewing of Gloucester's famous Greasy Pole finals. Like so many others, Christophe had thought that "Greasy Pole" was just a name for a handy kayak put-in with free parking at Gloucester harbor. In fact, it has a more literal meaning - much more literal. The 50+ foot horizontal telephone pole is coated with about 6" of axle grease. Creatively-costumed men attempt to walk the pole and grab the flag at the end, before falling into the water. At the end, all contestants swim to the beach, with the winner carrying the flag.

Why? You might ask. This contest was brought over from Sicily generations ago and is held during Gloucester's annual St. Peter's Fiesta. The winner gets bragging rights for one year. This year was the 75th annual. A special "walk of champions" was held.

Contestants tried a number of strategies, which Christophe studied carefully and remarked upon:

Slip, butt whacks pole, splash - The announcer: "Well, if he had hemorroids, they are fixed now." Christophe: "Omigod."

Slip, do a split, splash - The announcer: "Another soprano for the choir." Christophe: "I cannot imagine...."

Slip, back smacks pole, splash - The announcer: "He looked good until then." Christophe: "People must get seriously injured doing this."

The crowd: Yelling, cheering their favorites. The sentimental favorite had retired last year but returned to competition "to put a smile on Dad's face." (Dad, a previous champion, recently suffered a stroke and watched from his wheelchair on shore.) One of the biggest favorites was the former "bi-continental champion" who had won this event in both Gloucester and Sicily. That really got Christophe's competitive juices flowing: he has to train where the sport began: For polo go to Pakistan and wack a head around. For Greasy Pole walking go to Sicily.

Our crowd of 5, rafted between the anchor line of a power boat and a small motor boat, had a great view of the Seine boat races that preceded the Greasy Pole contest. As soon as it was over, we split the scene in a futile attempt to avoid the grease in the water. A certain presidential Gulfstream got slimed. (That stuff looks so dark on the pole and so bright blue on a white hull.)

We dodged boats driven by folks in suspect condition and paddled through crazy wind and wake chopp to get out to Ten Pound Island for a stretch break. After a short tour of Rocky Neck Adam, Yvonne, Mary, Christophe and I headed back to the inner harbor Cripple Cove launch site (floating dock access), thence to check out a new pizza joint in town: Gepetto's - it was great! In honor of the day we ordered all Italian fixings.

Alas, we were too late for the "blessing of the fleet" - this year conducted by a mere Bishop, dear Cardinal Law being otherwise occupied.

Liz N.

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