Barcolana race viewed from a hillside in Trieste

Barcolana – The Biggest Sailing Race Around

By: American Sailing, Event, Sailing History

“Sailing is for everyone. That is why the Barcolana was started.” Dean Bassi, CEO of International and Global Affairs for Barcolana, passionately explained the sailing event that takes over his hometown of Trieste, Italy, every October.

“This event is for every sailor with any boat who loves sailing and wants to join other people who love to sail.”

The Barcolana is an annual sailing event and regatta in the Gulf of Trieste, located in the northeastern part of the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the largest and most famous sailing races in Europe and the world. Held during the first weekend of October, the regatta attracts thousands of participants and spectators, making it a significant cultural and sporting event in the region.

The Barcolana is known for its unique format, including a mass start where hundreds of boats of various sizes and classes participate in a single race. The event’s name, “Barcolana,” is derived from the Italian words “barca” (boat) and “colana” (long queue), referencing the long line of boats that participate in the race.

“The start line is more than a kilometer long,” Bassi illustrated with menus on a table.

“You start the race with a natural stadium created by the Gulf of Trieste, and you end with crowds in the town roaring like a soccer match.”

The regatta has a rich history, dating back to 1969 when it was first organized by the Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano (Barcola and Grignano Sailing Society). Over the years, it has grown in popularity and has become a symbol of sailing culture, drawing sailors and sailing enthusiasts from various parts of the world.

Apart from the competitive aspect, the Barcolana also includes various social and cultural events, making it a celebration of sailing and maritime traditions in the region. It’s a vibrant and exciting event that showcases the beauty of sailing and the unity of the sailing community.

The Barcolana

The Regatta

The Barcolana Classic Regatta is the centerpiece of the larger Barcolana sailing event.  Known for its iconic mass start and competitive spirit, the Classic Regatta is one of the world’s largest and most celebrated sailing races.

The record for most boats ever to start a race, when 2,689 boats made it to the start line, occurred at Barcolana.

Mass Start Tradition

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Classic Regatta is its mass start. Imagine a sea filled with hundreds of sailboats of various sizes, all starting the race simultaneously. This spectacle creates a breathtaking visual as the boats set sail together, their colorful sails unfurling against the backdrop of the Adriatic Sea. The mass start not only adds to the excitement but also emphasizes the unity of the sailing community.

Coastal Course Challenge

The regatta’s course typically covers a challenging coastal route marked by strategically placed buoys and landmarks in the Gulf of Trieste. Sailors must navigate through changing winds, currents, and tides, using their skills and tactical thinking to efficiently maneuver their boats around the course. The course’s layout may vary from year to year, keeping participants on their toes and testing their adaptability.

Diverse Participants

The Barcolana Classic Regatta attracts diverse participants, from professional sailors and racing enthusiasts to amateurs and families who simply enjoy the thrill of sailing. This mix of experience levels and sailing backgrounds adds to the regatta’s unique atmosphere, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared passion for the sport.

Competitive Spirit

While the regatta embraces the joy of sailing, the Classic Regatta is undeniably competitive. Sailors vie for the honor of claiming victory in their respective categories. The regatta features multiple divisions, including various boat classes and categories based on factors like boat size and design. This ensures fair competition and allows sailors of different skill levels to compete on a level playing field.

Spectacular Views

For spectators, the Barcolana Classic Regatta offers a stunning display of sailboats gracefully gliding across the sea. The event draws crowds of onlookers who gather along the Trieste waterfront and vantage points to catch a glimpse of the action. The sight of colorful sails billowing in the wind against the backdrop of Trieste’s scenic coastline creates a visual spectacle that’s a feast for the eyes. This area is a natural amphitheater to watch sailing as a spectator sport.

Cultural Celebration

Beyond the competitive aspect, the Classic Regatta also celebrates sailing culture and tradition. Trieste has a deep-rooted connection to the sea, and the regatta pays homage to this heritage. It showcases the enduring allure of sailing and its role in shaping the city’s and its residents’ identity.

Other Barcolana Events

Barcolana Sailing Extravaganza: Exploring the Diverse Events

Glistening waters, passionate sailors, and a vibrant blend of events are all part of Barcolana.  The historic town of Trieste, Italy transforms into a bustling hub of nautical celebrations, offering an array of events that cater to sailors, swimmers, and sea enthusiasts of all ages. 

Take look at the events that are held during Barcolana and the days preceding this monumental sailing extravaganza.

Barcolana Young: Nurturing Tomorrow’s Sailors: Barcolana opens with the energy of young sailors from the Optimist class. Barcolana Young, hosted over the first weekend, boasts six races designed for both competitive and pre-competitive experiences. A rendezvous for sailors under 14, this event sets the stage for camaraderie and future sailing prowess. The picturesque Porto Vecchio’s Molo IV serves as the logistics base, igniting the spirit of young seafarers.

Barcolana Nuota: A Swim to Remember: Witness a unique spectacle during Barcolana Nuota, where amateurs and professionals take to the water for open water swimming. The competition, scheduled during the first weekend, unfolds just yards from the shoreline. Swimmers of all ages dive into a one-kilometer race in the heart of Trieste, creating a mesmerizing sight along the city’s waterfront. 

Barcolana Maxi – Trofeo Portopiccolo: Glamour and Sailing Majesty: An event within an event, Barcolana Maxi – Trofeo Portopiccolo brings forth high-level regattas for boats exceeding 16 meters in length. Organized by Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano and Yacht Club Portopiccolo, this elite affair takes place under the aegis of Federazione Italiana Vela. 

Go To Barcolana – Western Version: A Coastline Challenge: Embark on the voyage as crews set sail for the “Western rendition” of Go To Barcolana. This inventive race breathes new life into the passage from Ravenna along Italy’s Adriatic Coast, turning it into a captivating contest. The culmination takes place in the Gulf of Trieste, perfectly timed for the grand Barcolana gathering. Ravenna acts as the point of departure, while the Gulf of Trieste marks the triumphant conclusion.

LNI Boat Owners Regatta: Celebrating Naval League Bond: Boats from different divisions of the Italian Naval League (LNI) gather for a regatta that enhances the spirit of naval league boat owners. Organized in collaboration with the Italian Naval League’s Trieste division, this celebration within the celebration fosters camaraderie among league’s boat owners. 

Barcolana Classic: Honoring Maritime Heritage: Barcolana Classic pays tribute to vintage, classic, and traditional boats, as well as last year’s IOR boats. This regatta, organized by Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano, is dedicated to the sea’s “ladies” – from grand yachts to small ‘passere’ boats. It kicks off with a captivating parade in the San Giusto basin, followed by a regatta along the coast or a triangular route in the Gulf, depending on weather conditions.

Barcolana by Night: Illuminating the Water: As the sun sets and light beams shine, the Barcolana by Night regatta unfolds. Crews of monotypes Ufo28, Meteor, and Melges 24 ignite an ancient “feud” in this captivating nighttime race. Thousands gather along the docks, adding to the electric atmosphere of this popular event. The buoy at Canale di Ponterosso intensifies the excitement, creating a race that captivates the audience ashore.

Eastern Adriatic Coast Race: A Unifying Adventure: Sailors from the Eastern Adriatic coast unite in a spirited journey towards Trieste. This race fosters camaraderie among Italian, Slovenian, and Croatian sailors. Organized in collaboration with Club Nautico Triestino Sirena, Slovenian Sailing Federation, and the Union of Slovenian Sporting Clubs in Italy, this race promotes unity across borders, starting from Izola and ending in Piazza Unità d’Italia.

Barcolana One Design: A Pre-Barcolana Warm-Up: Monotype owners get a chance to shine in Barcolana One Design. In collaboration with Società Nautica Grignano, this event lets yacht owners of One Design boats compete before the main Barcolana event. It’s a chance to “warm up the sails” and test the crew, setting the tone for the exhilarating days ahead.

Go To Barcolana: A Grand Circuit: The Adriatic Sea becomes a stage for GO TO BARCOLANA – SFIDA ADRIATICA, a circuit of regattas that brings together some of the Adriatic’s leading sailing events. The synergy among these events, including Dannunziana, Regata del Conero, and Go To Barcolana, amplifies the thrill. Participate in at least two of the three events to enter the circuit and enjoy reserved mooring at the organizing clubs.

Barcolana Parasailing: Inclusivity on Display: Barcolana Parasailing, in collaboration with Trieste Sea Sports Society, the Italian Naval League of Trieste, and the FIV Parasailing Academy, puts the spotlight on inclusivity. Dedicated to Hansa 303 and 2.4mR boats, this event showcases the theme of Parasailing. Expect regattas, volunteer associations, and a day dedicated to the integration of people with disabilities.

Attend Barcolana55

From young sailors igniting the excitement to thrilling night races, the Barcolana is a symphony of the sailing lifestyle. To get involved, attend, or participate, visit