Why the Dragun?

I inherited the spirit in my childhood, lived in the embrace of the men of this strip of sea, which  they transmitted with so much love.

Sailors that, for the most part, are no longer with us, but who continue to row even on the Dragun, because he who lives in the oars in contact with the sea never die. 


The Dragun

It's both a sailboat and a rowboat with typical characteristics of ships from Sciabecco and Galilea.The wooden ship was born in 1968 being transformed from a lifeboat dating back to the early 1900’s.It’s history is simple like the spirit that animates its builder, Ido Battistone, together with a group of his friends.Thanks to Ido’s inspiration, this old ship has taken its present day form, and today, in a small way, it has become a symbol of Camogli, its inhabitants and the sailing tradition that “The Dragon Club” tries to keep alive.


Techincal details:

Length:  10,50 meters 
Width:  2.47 meters 
Draught:  0.6 meters 
Total weight : 1,6 tons

2 hand-painted masts
12 oars:  each  4 meters of length and  each weighing 7 kgs
A tiller.




The first launch happened on the first of May, 1969, among the enthusiasm of the entire village.  Ido’s good intuition and the desire of the group that wanted to rebuild an old forgotten ship to represent the nobility of navigation was and still is confirmed by the warmth and good cheer that surrounds the Club every time they participate in folk manifestations that occur all along the Italian Riviera.



The Stella Maris is a tradition that occurs in Camogli every year on the first Sunday of August.  “The Dragun”  is the protagonist in a wonderful procession of decorated boats and ships, that hopes to remind everyone of the continuing history of a population of sailors and their ties to the sea.


20 OCTOBER, 1969

On the occasion of the instatement of the new parish priest, Mons. Natalino Garaventa, “The Dragun” is given the honor of bringing the priest from Sori (a nearby village) to Camogli by way of sea.


20 MAY, 1970

On this date, “The Dragun” participated in the “Sagra Del Pesce” (The Blessing of the Fish) which is the patron festival in Camogli when all guests are offered fried fish cooked in the world’s largest frying pan “on the house”!  There is a fireworks display and thousands of candles are floated in the sea.  The grand finale is a bonfire of the Saracen Tower constructed by the village kids on the beach.  The enthusiasm of the participants represented the best recognition of the Dragon Club to date.



During the festivities, the Dragon is on display in full regalia in Piazza Colombo.


19 JUNE, 1971

On the occasion of the patron festival in Recco, a neighbouring village, the club is the protagonist in a “pirate attack” on the beach as a  historical re-enactment of the past. During the Summer, the Dragon navigates from Camogli to Levanto, another town on the Riviera of the Levante, to participate in the festival of San Giacomo.  The ship’s thrilling silhouette with its sails and beating oars through the calm waters of the bay among the cheers of the citizens and tourists gave some colour to the serene Levanto summer nights.



On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the statue “The Crist of the Abyss”, “The Dragun” participated in this suggestive manifestation in the magnificent bay of San Fruttuoso where there is a bronze statue of Christ positioned at a depth of twenty meters  in the bay as the protector of all scuba activities.



The hull of “The Dragun” had the honour of transporting a copy of the Christ of the Abyss statue to the Abby of San Fruttuoso so that today everyone may admire it in the small church of this antique monastery.



It was the first great expedition for the Dragon along the Po river from Pavia to Venice.  The imbarcation left the Ligurian Coasts to be admired by the great city on the lagoon after 500 km of rowing. And with enthusiasm and nostalgia one remembers “The Dragun’s” triumph in the Historic Regata in the Grand Canal.  The whole group participated in Ido’s great joy  in finally realizing his dream. On that occasion the local newspapers noted that strange ship and its crew that rows backwards (compared with the Venezians) as the first “foreigners” to participate in the regata in 703 years!   The applause of over 80,000 spectators along the grand canal well compesated the fatigue and effort of everyone on “U Dragun”.



The ship was turned over thanks to an ingenious pulley system so the hull could be repainted and plastificied.  


"GOZZI" ( The name for typical Ligurian rowboats)

For quite a time the group saw the necessity of allowing rowing practice, especially for the youngsters, on smaller, more manageable boats than “the Dragun.” It was for this reason that in 1978 thanks to Ido’s will and genius, a model from a  shipbuilder from Portofino was used to create a mould of a boat of six meters for four crew members made from straw.  Then on a small plaza turned boatyard in Camogli the mould was used to create seven “Gozzi” in fiberglass painted and decorated in the colours of each of the neighbourhoods of Camogli. It was thanks to these seven boats that many youths in Camogli got involved in rowing, lived the spirit of the group, and began to participate in the crew of “U Dragun”. During this time the Club began organizing various editions of local rowing matches.  



Having completed the maintenance work and cosolidating the ship during 1977, the club organized their first European Expedition: From Besancon to Paris along rivers and canals reaching the French Capital after 750 km. The friendliness and hospitality of the French were as thrilling as the last pulls of the oars under the bridges of Paris and docking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.   



During preparation for the trip to England, the Dragun was invited by the boards of both the Italian and Ligurian chapters of UNICEF to participate in the International Nautical Expo held annually in Genova to help raise fund for this worthy cause. In the same year, after a long period of restoration, the Club inaugurated its headquarters in a space under the promenade.



The imbarcation was ready for its expedition on the Thames.  The Dragun  departed among the smiling citizens of Lechlade and after around 500 km, they reached London. Ido and the members of the crew were honoured to transmit to all of the mayors in each of the cities where they stopped  a message of peace from the mayor of Camogli. During this English Expediton “the Dragun” was trusted to show the flags of UNICEF and The European Council, to emphasize the spirit as a messenger of peace. With every pull of the oars, “the Dragun” slowly won over the proverbial English Reserve. And by the time they arrived under the Tower Bridge, the applause was sincere and enthusiastic for “the Ligurian wood" and the conquest was complete. It was with true pride that the Club learned through a letter from Buckingham Palace that Queen Elizabeth had placed a photo of the Dragun on the Thames in the palace.



On July 25th, the group returned to Levanto with a nocturnal Pyrotechnic display offering the city a testimonial to friendship.



The dream was realized! “U Dragun” began its longest, most glorious, and most difficult undertaking along one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe… The Danube. The departure was set in Ingolstadt, Germany and the arrival in Budapest, Hungary travelling through Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Thanks to the help and interest of the Ligurian Region, the Provence of Genova , and the Comune of Camogli, “ The Dragun” would be the messenger of peace along the great river.  The voyage touched not only small towns, but also major cities such as Vienna and Bratislava.  They were always received with great kindness and humanity.  On their arrival in Budapest, in that hospitable Hungarian land, after twenty long, hard days of rowing on the river, that although it is no longer blue, has always fascinated everyone who has ever had the opportunity to navigate it with its greatness and marvellous passages.  The greeting of peace was delivered to all of the mayors upon arrival and a poster of “The Dragun”  was presented with these words: 

 “Rowing together on the waters of a great river, heavy with history, and trying to imagine a Europe that flows without frontiers towards a sea of peace.”



All of the films made throughout the various expeditions were positively utilized in elementary and middle schools so that the Club could encourage youngsters to get involved with the message so that it would continue through time.



The culmination of a long, and arduous research and reproduction of a photographic History of Camogli led to a show, first in the Theatre of Camogli, and then in Piazza Colombo.


1985 OSWEGO TO NEW YORK  Expedition to the U.S.A.

After long preparations, the group realized this expedition over the Atlantic Ocean to the United States to voyage from Oswego to New York City along the Hudson River. The trip was realized with help from the Ligurian Region, The Provence of Genova, The Commune of Camogli, The Genova and Imperia Savings Bank.  It was baptized as the opening manifestation of the Colombus Celebrations that would conclude in 1992, the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.  In the USA, the success of “The Dragun” was over and above every expectation.  All the cities and especially the Italo-Americans that hosted the Group offered us their very warmest hospitality.  The newspapers and local television stations spoke daily of the expedition.  At every stop, the reception of the mayors and the local authorities enthusiastic.  In the state capital, Albany, the Congress and the Senate suspended sessions to greet “The Dragun”. In New York City, after an enthusiastic arrival under the Brooklyn Bridge, The crew was received by the vice mayor of NYC and other authorities. On the fourth of July, 1985, “The Dragun” participated in an international regata under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Returning to Italy, “The Dragun” knew that Colombus’ Message had been received in the tradition of peace and solidarity.  



There was a photographic exhibition in Camogli, along with clippings from the newspapers of the voyage to the USA, and in the evenings a film of the trip was shown.



To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the expedition on the river Po from Pavia to Venice, the group repeated their experience so that they could once again participate in the Historic Regata on the Grand Canal.  The voyage was organized and paid for without sponsorship.  Many young people enthusiastically joined the group in this extraordinary adventure even if by this time the Po river had reached a disastrous level of pollution. On September 7, together with “The Bucintoro”, one of the most beautiful Venezian Gondoliers, “The Dragun” repeated their famous success of ten years before, in the Historic Regata this time in front of 100,000 spectators and on live TV.  Once again, “The Dragun” realized this feat; the fruit of fantasy and hard work of the group that represent an extraordinary wealth by living in peace.



 “The Dragun” participated in Torino on the Po river in their traditional manifestation “Winter on the Po”.  It was organized by the Friends of the Po Association to help educate and defend the natural environment of one of the most important Italian rivers.  Even with freezing temperatures (-15°C), The Dragun, The Venezian Disdotona, Folk groups and ski divers all went ahead with the manifestation nonetheless.



In this year, “The Dragun” celebrated its twentieth anniversary.  Among numerous initiatives the group met with The Community Administration.  The group presented a model of “The Dragun” to the Mayor of Camogli, to be placed in the Marine Museum.  Over the year the club made its first contacts with the Soviet authorities with the intention of bringing about an expedition which would arrive in Moscow.  A member of the group went to the Soviet Capital to make arrangements with the local organizational authorities for the voyage; the group’s next objective.



In Genova at the National Unity Festival the Dragun tool part in the closing festivities entitled "Fun in the Marina”.  Accompanied by the music of G.F. Handel, and A. Stradella, “The Dragun” was greeted with enormous success.



 “The Dragun” took part in the Colombus Day Festivities in the Port of Genova, along with the famous vessels The Amerigo Vespucci and the Caio Duilo.  The imbarcation with sails reminiscent of those used in the time of Colombus, guided a host of rowboats to the mayor  of Genova and numerous authorities bringing the water of the Mediterranean sea to put in the Colombus Fountain..



"U DRAGUN" took part in the international orchid exhibition  in Genova 



The hundred year old hull of “the Dragun “ needed urgent restoration and restructuring work.  Through public financial donations and support the work was begun in no time.



The Club’s  “Gozzi” bring greetings from Camogli to the Navy Sailing School  and the whole world during the departure of the Colombus Regata.  



With passion and enthusiasm, Ido brought the Dragun’s restoration work to a close.  The first Sunday of August they once again participated in the Procession of the Stella Maris.  Everyone cheered the return of “The Dragun” with great joy and enthusiasm. In the evening, during the traditional placing of votive candles in the sea in remembrance of all sailors who have passed on, “The Dragun” returned with enthusiasm with its pyrotechnic display in front of the promenade symbolizing the continuity of a life of tradition.



Being the twentieth anniversary of their first participation in the Venice Regata, “The Dragun” Took their part yet again wishing to continue from Venice the oarsmen tradition, transmitting their message of peace and providing a positive role model for the youth of the group.  



During the Christmas festivities, “The Dragun” returns to Piazza Colombo in full regalia.  Its also another occasion to display their photo history.



In the month of June, “The Dragun” participated In the International Andersen Prize held in Sestri Levante.  The imbarcation opens the celebration with their famous nocturnal fire and light display in the “Fairytale Bay” during a Edoardo Bennato concert.  “The Dragun” was then brought by the oarsmen themselves onto the Community Plaza to be displayed for all ten days of the Competition.  The group takes this opportunity to take part in the traditional “Barcarolata” in the month of August.  During this Festival, an unfortunate fire burns the prow and one of the sails of the ship.  Even so, “The Dragun” completed two revolutions of the “Bay of Silence” made magic by artistic lighting and the enormous crowd that encouraged  the crew “The Dragun” with their warm applause. 



Returning to Camogli, “The Dragun” is once again the protagonist  of the by now under-appreciated Stella Maris Celebration.  Nevertheless, “The Dragun” opened the significant procession of boats and excite the night’s festivities as well during the traditional votive candle ceremony previously mentioned.   



After nearly thirty years of existence and activity based on verbal agreement of the members, the group finally became official.  The founding members voted on the first officers including President, Treasurer and Secretary.



The hull of the boat needed new maintenance work. Under Ido’s guiding hand the prow is again restored, and the rigging and sails replaced. 



During the celebration of Liguria in Strasburg, the seat of the European Parliament, “The Dragun” rowed in the splendid canals of the Alsatian City.  Under the fabulous parliament building, they took place in a rich program of initiatives organized by the Region of Liguria.   “So that the ancient pride of our sea-going people will never be forgotten.” …was the message that the group, after thirty years of navigation, brought to the European Assembly .  Reminding us all that we mustn’t base our parameters only on economic issues, but on traditional human and social values as well.



On the invitation of the organizers, “The Dragun” once again participates in the traditional “Barcarolata” in the “Bay of Silence” in Sestri Levante.  In a magical evening, along with lighted  and decorated boats filling the bay, “The Dragun” greets the inhabitants of Sestri Levante with a colourful and enjoyable “pirate attack” in the ancient sailing tradition.



On returning to Camogli, “The Dragun” could not miss the traditional procession of The star of the Sea on the first Sunday of August and an encore performance of their nocturnal fire and lights display to booming classical music. 



The City and the ancient “Repubblica Marinara” of Venice was reconstructed, combined with an enormous hotel-casino, in Las Vegas in the Nevada desert. “U Dragun” (the Dragon), that three times paraded in Venice along the “Canal Grande”, dreams of exporting the marine traditions of Liguria in this new and fantastic American reproduction. The occasion could be combined with the opening, in Las Vegas’s “little Venice”, of a large new restaurant promoted by the famous Genoese restaurant “Zeffirino”. In this way it might be possible to combine the Dragun’s journey with the promotion of Italian gastronomic tradition and it would also be an interesting and original image promotion for Liguria and Camogli. The feasibility of this project depends on the dimensions and the depth of the channels . 



Stella Maris is a feast that celebrates Camogli’s strong attachment to the marine tradition. Once again “U Dragun”, with Camogli’s priest on board, opens the evocative religious procession. The ships, dressed with flags, go from the little harbour of Camogli to the rocks of Punta Chiappa and here the priest celebrates the mass. During the night the landscape is a moving and exciting show of coloured lights and the Dragun completes the amazing picture parading with torch-light. 



From Genoa begins again the international sailing competition that will bring thousands of sailing vessels and their crews through an exciting transoceanic regatta. For this event “U Dragun” is in Genoa’s Port to give to the Captains of the queens of the sea the “sacca del marinaio” (the sailor’s bag) with a symbolic content: some bread representing the hearth’s gift, some salt as the sea’s gift, some wine as the gift of the sun and human labour and a greeting message translated in 7 languages.



There was also “U Dragun” encouraging the crew of the galleon of the “Superb” (Genoa is also called the “Superb” because of its elegance and majesty) that, as last year in Venice, won also the Genoese edition of the Regatta that once again took place against the backdrop of people’s enthusiasm and participation.


MAY 2000  -  Works in the central headquarter

The central headquarters in Via Garibaldi needed a major job of restructuring because of the age of the building and of the leaks in the roof. Ido, the Commodore, with his crew, brought back to its original magnificence the historic headquarters of Dragun. The restructured headquarters was inaugurated during a nice ceremony in the presence of the authorities and the citizens.



Even if the sea was rough “U Dragun”, with the strength of the rowers, opened the religious procession of boats towards the cliffs of Punta Chiappa. There a mass was celebrated in memory of all the dead sailors. After the ceremony, friends from Stella Maris Restaurant offered a toast to the crew. In the night the traditional show of fireworks and torch-lights fascinated the thousands of tourists and citizens crowding Camogli’s harbour. 



The Town of Noli invites “U Dragun” to celebrate the historical roots of this beautiful borough, considered the Fifth marine republic.. “U Dragun” will perform the traditional torch-light show during the night, while the crew, during the day, will participate in the historical parade walking with their oars on their shoulders: the perfect accompaniment to the traditional sailing race of Noli’s quarters.


CANAL DU MIDI 2001-2002

Sustained by the spirit for adventure and by everlasting enthusiasm, the Dragun’s group works towards a new journey: the Canal Du Midi (Channel Du Midi) in France that goes from the Atlantic city of Bordeaux to the Mediterranean Marseille. The Dragun will row along this most fascinating and ancient French channel. The Group thinks that, as for all their previous adventures, the Dragun’s journey will create interest and important chances to create relationships for the Private and Public Institutions that for years have been sustaining the Dragun’s adventures. In the summer 2001 the Dragun lives the first half of the adventure: from Bordeaux to Grissoles. Everywhere the welcome and the hospitality are very warm: authorities and citizens are fascinated by the Ligurian boat, by its history and by its message in favour of the defence of the Sanctuary of the Cetaceans (Ligurian Sea is loved by the cetaceans, and therefore undertake its defence, hence the name). “U Dragun” is then left in the hands of a group of friends from the rowers of Grisolles, ready to start the adventure again towards the sea in Marseille the following summer.



The second part of the adventure starts on the 14th of July, French National Feast, with a torch-light procession to thank the city of Grisolles that took care of the boat all winter long. The way to Marseille, through the channels in Camargue, through the Provence and through two stages in the sea, is a lot more difficult that the first half along the Canal Du Midi. “U Dragun” passes through industrial sites and beautiful natural landscapes; it is the perfect environment for the Dragun to bring its ecological message: the hope for a possible harmony between human activities and the respect for and protection of the big cetaceans that live in our seas. “U Drgun” arrives in Marseille after a journey 750 km long, passing through 160 dykes in 27 stages. The Dragun goes back to rest on Camogli’s beach, ready for new exciting adventures!



In 2004 Genoa is the European Capital of Culture. The group plans a rowing expedition from the City of Lille  to Brussels. Unfortunately the health conditions of Ido Battistone worsened and the group does not feel morally and spiritually ready to effect the voyage without the Boss. The expedition is postponed.



Now U Dragun navigates also on internet and from any part of the world you can know the history of the Group, which is also translated in English, French and the official language of Ido, Genoese.



For the first time U Dragun takes part in the traditional feast of Stella Maris without Ido at the helm giving rowing orders. The crew wants to make a good impression in order for Ido, who follows from shore, to be proud of his group.



After fighting against his illness as a lion, on 7 October 2005 Ido, at the age of 67 years, passes away. The man of the Dragun, the Boss, the champion of humanity, a protagonist who did so much for the community and for his beloved Camogli is gone.  The Boss will be irreplaceable, and the Group’s task and all who cared for him will be to honour his memory and not to lose and to transmit the patrimony of spirit and works that Ido left behind.



One day Luciano Senes, one of the ‘Senators’ of the Dragun thought that it was time to put some order in many memories and loose documents of the Group’s story and proposed to Prof. Silvio Ferrari, eminent Camogliese to write a book.  Thanks to the personal involvement and to the extra special capacity of Silvio Ferrari ‘’The Man and the Dragun’’ has become a first Act to honour Ido’s memory, a written document of a community and a Chapter of the glorious tradition and marine culture of Camogli..



The boys from the Porto and Pineto neighbourhoods decided to join their efforts and to change for this year their healthy rivalry into collaboration. They are doing it to remember and honour Ido’s memory by realizing a bonfire representing the Dragun which will burn , and then, the real one will return to shine and sail in the waters of Camogli and of the world.



A coordinated organization increases the value of the traditional feast of the Stella Maris. Great participation at the procession of boats decked with flags. As ancient tradition, after years it is still saluted by 21 shots and by the joyous bunting in the streets of the maritime village. After the religious function Punta Chiappa animates for the whole day with various initiatives, which includes a wonderful Gallery of historic pictures. In the evening a singular procession of illuminated ships, led by U Dragun, returns to Camogli. 



Genoese and Venetians meet in the Lagoon. After 1976-1986-1996 U Dragun returns to the historical regatta in the Grand Canal in Venice. Once again the excitement for the Ligurian ship is sky high and the new success in the Grand Canal is dedicated by the crew with the repeating lifting of the paddles to the Boss Ido. In the previous days to the Regatta u Dragun reaches the Island of Murano, Burano and Torcello , where in the Basilica an olive plaque was posted in memory of Ido.



The damages caused by the weather, water infiltration and the positioning on the shore, require a new extraordinary maintenance intervention. The Dragun will be followed by the group and brought to new life with love and spirit transmitted by Ido. For the future the idea of ‘mooring’ U Dragun, completely renewed, is increasing, on the terrace of the restored old market, in an upgraded place of the Historical Maritime Museum, witness of the extraordinary maritime tradition and culture of Camogli. From a place where, in a quick way, could start towards new adventures.

Stopping activities and keeping only  the memory or continuing the dream started in May 1969? This is the question that takes place in Dragonauts minds still shaken by the disappearance of Ido. Already in December 2007 - thanks to the insight of Giorgio Piccinino - we start thinking to an expedition of global dimension : Argentina … Rio Parana. 
Towed by emotion of the new boat refurbishing and the determination to pursue the dream of Ido, we decide to go. 
In September is presented the mission at the Museum of the Sea Galata Genoa. In October the boat is packed in a container and shipped to Buenos Aires and then finally trucked to Rosario. 
I° Stage: from ROSARIO to ARROYO SECO (32 kilometers) 
II° Stage: from ARROYO SECO at VILLA COSTITUCION (30 kilometers) 
III° Stage: from VILLA COSTITUCION in SAN NICOLAS (20 kilometers) 
IV° Stage: from SAN NICOLAS in RAMALLO (35 kilometers) 
V° Stage: from RAMALLO in SAN PEDRO (48 kms) 
VI° Stage: from SAN PEDRO in BARADERO (25 kilometers)
VII° Stage: from BARADERO to ZARATE (55 kilometers) 
VIII° Stage: from ZARATE to BELEN DE ESCOBAR (35 kilometers) 
IX° Stage: from BELEN DE ESCOBAR to TIGRE (35 kilometers) 
X° Stage: from TIGRE to BUENOS AIRES (30 kilometers). 
Meetings with our emigrants, hospitable and attentive, Dolores Amaya, olympic canoist guest of honor on the DRAGUN, parties, dinners …. The mission in Argentina has represented and represents the spirit of Ido, Camogli and its people! 

Rowing together on the 150° anniversary of the Unification of Italy for and with the migrant peoples of the earth. 
The DRAGUN tackles a new expedition that brings the boat to navigate the waters of the Brenta (Sunday, September 11, participating in the regatta FIORITA DEL BRENTA from Stra to Malcontenta) and then continue along the Venetian waterway from Venice to Trieste with stages in Iesolo, Caorle, Marano, grade and Monfalcone. 
The sodality with the Nautical Institute of Camogli is renewed and consolidated: rowing with the Dragun 5 boys under 18 of the Nautical School.


Via Garibaldi 128 - 16032 CAMOGLI (GE) - ITALY

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