Zoe Lee’s guide to the 2017 World Rowing Championships venue

Olympic silver medallist Zoe Lee discusses her thoughts on the 2017 World Rowing Championships venue in Sarasota-Bradenton, having visited in August

Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Zoe Lee took a trip to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, home to the 2017 World Rowing Championships, in August this year*. While recovery from injury is preventing her from competing at the Championships this year, Zoe was able to get out in a single scull and reports back her findings.

“The course in Sarasota-Bradenton reminded me a bit of the Sydney 2000 Olympics venue,” she said. “There is a separate warm-up lake and a main racing lake, adjoined by a return canal, creating a regatta island in the middle housing the boat park, finishing tower and other facilities.

“As it is a sizeable manmade lake within an extensive park setting they have had the ability to do this on quite a grand scale.

“One big thing that really stood out for me during my visit was the passion and deep thought that has been put into planning the Championships. They have certainly tried to recreate what they felt were the most successful aspects of other recent championships – for example they loved seeing the athletes cooling off in the water in the boat park area in Aiguebelette, so put in an athlete’s beach area.

“In addition, they loved hearing about the ‘Dorney Roar’ at London 2012 and, therefore, wanted to make sure that they would have spectators on both sides of the lake in the last 250m to create a wall of noise and a great atmosphere for the athletes and spectators alike.

“I feel the space they have allowed for the lake will make for a very pleasant rowing experience. They have created space for a relatively large ‘run off’ after the finish, which will be very nice for the bigger boats that won’t need to hold it up hard at the end of the race.

“The warm-up lake side of the course is the side the prevailing wind comes from. Although this would produce a cross wind on the course I was reassured by all of the staff there that the lake is normally mirror flat and still.

“In terms of wind and water conditions, it is essential to mention the ‘wave attenuator’, which is the structure that separates the two lakes and is cleverly designed to ‘absorb’ any waves so not to produce any reflected wash (from launches for example).

“They have certainly tried to recreate what they felt were the most successful aspects of other recent championships”

“The only permanent structure on the ‘regatta island’ is the finish tower, which is a grand building of white stone/concrete and glass over six floors. Everything else, such as grandstands, boat racks, athlete changing and dining facilities and all spectator vendor facilities, will be constructed specifically for the Championships.

“My particular favourite from the plans that I saw were the lakeside beach areas – firstly, for the spectators, they have planned a lakeside beach bar where rowing can be watched from a deckchair with a full bar service. Secondly, and more importantly in my opinion, they have relocated the athlete rest area from behind to boat park to alongside the lake, where an air conditioned tent will open out onto an athlete-only lakeside beach.

>>>See the Great Britain team for the 2017 World Rowing Championships

“Assuming, and hoping, that the Championships aren’t bothered by any further storms, the athletes should expect the weather to be hot and humid. I am confident that all the athletes will feel well prepared for this following their training camps in Europe, which have (as far as I can tell from Instagram) been full of hot and sunny weather.

“The staff behind the scenes have worked hard to make it a really big spectator event. In addition to catering for the diehard rowing fans they have tried to make it attractive to those who don’t normally attend rowing events and create a big community event. I suspect that around and between races the spectators will find lots of fun things to do without having to leave the venue.”

The 2017 World Rowing Championships run from 24 September – 1 October in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. You can follow all of the action on British Rowing’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels, as well as watching the finals live on the BBC.

*Please note: the impact from Hurricane Irma to the Sarasota and Bradenton area was less severe than expected and we are pleased to report the damage has been minimal. Both Counties have returned to normal operations, are open for business and are looking forward to putting on a successful event.