FOR rowers it's been a long 12 months; plenty of training, but not a lot of competing - but at the weekend that will change as Lake Wendouree hosts the Wendouree Ballarat Regatta.
The annual regatta is always one of the biggest events on the calendar, but this year entries have exploded with more than 2500 competitors from all around the state set to take part in 145 different events.
And for those wanting to get even closer to the action, there's the added bonus of only the lake's second Omnium event, which sees competitors loop around the lake in a circuit on Saturday afternoon.
The race is held over an approximate 7km distance, starting from the St Patrick's College boat shed to the 1750m point on the Olympic Rowing Course.
Five legs are raced, starting with 500m then 600m, 1000m, 700m, and 1250m. Timing for each five legs is combined for a total score and a winner is attained in the different classes and grades.
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Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club captain Alicia Ivory said it was the first time the event had been run at this regatta.
"This is a new format where crews can race in between markers and times are taken," she said. "It's only been raced the once in Ballarat but the reports from it were terrific.
"What's really exciting is it gives everyone who's at the lake a chance to see it. You can turn up to any part of the lake and you'll be able to see the competitors."
Club vice president Rick Blanchfield said this would be the biggest regatta seen in five or six years at Lake Wendouree.
"We're pretty keen to get it underway, we've got some great numbers, 2500 competitors have put in an entry," he said.
"It's state-based, we have schools from all over and clubs from Melbourne, Geelong, Bairnsdale, Horsham, Dimboola, Warrnambool.
"It's the first opportunity also for the schools to race against each other and see how they are going in preparation for Head of the Lake."
Ivory said the challenges faced during the year had not been forgotten, with the club enacting a COVID-safe plan to keep everyone distanced and safe throughout the weekend.
"It's the volunteers who support the event and it's a great opportunity for the club members to get together," she said.
"We've had a few new members join up after lockdowns finished. We've delivered three new crews in the learn to row program and a number of those have joined up as members.
"We are also seeing other experienced rowers returning to the sport.
"It could have been a difficult year, but we are seeing an even stronger representation than before.
"It's a sport that's low impact and gives you a chance to get out and enjoy the lake, meet new people and connect with friends.
"We'd love to see everyone at the finish line and all around the lake supporting the rowers and the club."