Blades dripping in sunshine, after the fog – a word from Sarasota, Florida

Our American consultant, ex-para Olympic coach Pat Brown, checks in on the state of rowing in Florida and has us looking forward to the World Champs in Sarasota!

In February, I found myself in Boston to visit with colleges and clubs and attend CRASH Bs. It’s inevitable that when you are in Boston at that time of year, people will want to talk about the weather. Its wet, cold, unpredictable and it really puts a damper on any rowing. There is always a running guess as to when the first water practice of the year will be, and it’s scary to think it might not be until April.

Attending several practices and CRASH B’s, I saw my fair share of erging. On the plus side the weather creates a time when the focus can be on developing strength in the weight room and a stamina on the erg, since there is not much else to do as you wait for the ice to melt. I was excited to leave the northeast at the end of the week, but as can be expected, I was stranded 3 extra days due to weather delays.

It was without hesitation that the week after CRASH Bs I took the opportunity to fly down to Florida to make the rounds with numerous clubs, colleges and meet with programs racing at the 9th annual Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) which will launch the spring regatta season at the Nathan Benderson Park.

The event itself attracted more than 1600 athletes, 75 clubs and 3500 + spectators from all around the country and I was caught a bit off guard by how much rowing is actually taking place in Florida. For me, Florida has always been a place you go for winter training in hopes of getting a few days on the water before the Spring season starts. In Florida, “spring Season” starts in January. Instead of talking about snowfall and ice, the conversation was about the best water to row in Florida, the best rivalries and numerous stories of all the great racing that already has taken place this year.

Rowing in Florida is growing at an amazing rate. The state has a patch work of lakes that provide calm stretches of beautiful water to row. There are 142 universities and twice as many high schools which provide an ever-growing population of new rowers. And to top it all off, the state has committed to building one of the largest man made rowing venues in the country at Sarasota’s, Nathan Benderson Park, which will host the 2017 World Championships and 2018 NCAA championships. The enthusiasm for the sport is almost overwhelming and can’t be truly appreciated until you see the turnout for the junior events at the Sarasota invitational which includes a tailgate-esque atmosphere created by the spectators. Yet with more of a rowing style twist than NFL keggers!

As the northeast continues to hunker down and wait out the winter on the erg, I couldn’t help but smile at one coach who commented “we take every Tuesday off the water and erg, otherwise we could easily go the entire season without ever using them”. It was a pleasure to see the development of facilities and growth of rowing in what could become a real heartbeat location for the sport.

I am writing this at the airport waiting to depart on a flight that will certainly not be delayed due to weather and with the first World Rowing Champs in the US for nearly 20 years fast approaching, the Sarasota Invitational was a great event to whet appetite for all the team at BAT Logic. See you again soon Florida.