Beer, Bacon, and Boats at Benderson Park
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Nathan Benderson Park is the host of the Sarasota-Bradenton Head Race, an event that attracts local teams and some from Orlando. Seventeen different clubs attended the 2015 event, which was blessed with perfect weather after last year’s cancellation.
And new to the event: a Beer, Boats, and Bacon festival starting at the end of the day’s races. Open to the public, the promise of 80+ craft beers and local fare featuring bacon drew a huge crowd with an entry line stretching out of Regatta Island.
Sarasota County Rowing Club entered 15 boats, both from its competitive team and its recreational team. I had a blast rowing a composite women’s 4x—luckily, not in bow! The course challenges a coxswain and bow’s steering prowess. It runs opposite the normal traffic pattern, meaning the race starts by heading up the “return” canal. Racing boats have two choices: a hard inside turn that takes a path by the island, or a wider turn into lane 1. After a straight 2k south, rowers must negotiate two 90-degree turns, and two 70-degree turns before finishing just south of the recovery dock.
The close proximity of the start, finish, launch and recovery makes it easy to row in 2-3 head races in a single day—if that’s your sort of thing.
SCRC performed very well with a handful of first, second, and third place finishes. Next major for local rowing teams: the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tennessee.