Dozens of boating Santas race in Venice's Grand Canal

People dressed as Santa Claus take part in a regatta on the Grand Canal of Venice on Dec 17, 2017.
People dressed as Santa Claus take part in a regatta on the Grand Canal of Venice on Dec 17, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

VENICE (AFP) - Dozens of rowers dressed as Father Christmas raced down Venice's Grand Canal on Sunday (Dec 17), cheered on by crowds gathered to watch the annual fancy-dress regatta.

Organised by the University Ca' Foscari, the eighth edition of the race set off from Saint Mark's Square, with champions and amateurs competing in traditional "mascarete" boats - once the domain of fishermen.

They were followed by a water parade of fellow Father Christmases in "bissone", "caorline" and dragon boats - flat vessels with six to eight rowers each that nipped down the canal in the winter sunshine.

Since it began in 2009, the regatta has been held in the run-up to Christmas. Those feeling particularly sporty - or keen on losing Santa-sized stomachs - can take part afterwards in a race through the Italian city's allies and squares.