an amateur, sporting competition which involves the racing of ladje (vessels
native to the Lower Neretva River which flows through the Republic of
Croatia). It is held annually on the second Saturday in August, on a
course 22.5 km long, under the direct patronage of the President of the
Republic of Croatia.
Photo the oldest Ladja,
biuilt 1895.years. Participated Marathon ladja 2000. i 2003. age.
Ladje have served
for centuries as water vehicles which transported people, animals and
farming produce. It was used for weddings, funerals etc. Because of its
narrow size, it was able to enter every one of the rivers that flowed into
the Neretva as well as the Neretva River itself. It can be said that the
ladje to the Neretva represents the same significance as the gondola does
Ladje were used by the
old Neretva pirates of yesteryear, who terrorised these parts in the 10th
century. With the modernization of life, ladje have almost become
technologically redundant, and as a result became a relic. In many cases
they could be found ruined and 'shipwrecked', half submerged in various
parts of the many tributaries.
So as to preserve the
significance and history of the ladje, in 1998 the very first race
involving these relics from the past was organized from Metkovic to Ploce.
At the start of the inaugural race, there were a total of 18 local crews.
It so captured the imagination of the locals that with each year a new
record number of entries is received. As for the old half-ruined ladje
lying peacefully in the rivers, they were awaken from their slumber and
repaired to live another day in the following year's race.
Since the old ladje were
all of different dimensions, and so that all competitors would race in
vessels of the same size, in 2004 new custom-made ladje were built, which
would be used specifically for the Maraton ladje.
Each rowing crew
consists of 10 rowers, a drummer and a cox, or oarsmen. There can be a
minimum of 12 and a maximum of 18 persons in each squad. Anyone who is
willing may form part of the crew: men, women, children.
The competing ladja must
be wooden, comprise a traditional shape and must meet the official
competition rules as far as actual dimensions are concerned. That is, the
length must be between 7 and 8.2 meters, the width between 2.45 and 2.8
meters, the depth is 70cm, with 23 spokes or wooden rods. The actual oars
themselves must also be made of wood.
A week prior to the
actual Maraton, the time trials for starting positions are held in Opuzen
(individually over 100 metrers). Depending on the finish in the time
trials, will determine starting positions at the Maraton. The start of the
race is in Metkovic under the main bridge. The course runs along the
Neretva to the harbour in Ploce, a total of 22,500 meters. Approximately
at the halfway mark, in the town of Opuzen, an interchange of up to six
crew members is permitted (although it is not compulsory to change). Then
it's further down river we go through the small village of Komin, through
the narrow Black River and onto the final destination in Ploce.
The winners normally
achieve their goal in about 2 hours and 15 minutes, following continuous,
non-stop rowing. On average, close to 50,000 spectators line the entire
route of the course each year. Spectators follow the race in cars on
either side of the river, by train (which also hugs the river route) and/or
on board the many boats and other water vessels that accompany the ladje
Up until now, two
overseas crews have participated in the Maraton. in 2000 and 2001 crews consisting
of Croatian emigrants from Australia participated as did a crew involving
the Croatian minority from northern Italy in 2002 and 2004.
The most exciting aspect
of the race each year is the start. With more than 300 competitiors in 30
odd ladje in two rows, combined with the rhythmic beating of the drums by
each team's drummer, makes for a colorful and noisy spectacle.