In October–November 2010 the world championships returned to Lake Karapiro. They had been held in the southern hemisphere only once since 1978. For the first time the regatta ran over two weekends and featured a separate opening ceremony and four days of finals. Several thousand fans arrived from overseas, and a record total of 67,000 spectators attended.
Forty-nine countries took part. The New Zealand team had 51 competitors – the total number of rowers in the 1950 event. Winning 10 medals (three of them gold), its most ever at a world championships, New Zealand ranked third behind Great Britain and Germany. In all about 800 athletes, coaches and support staff attended the event. They stayed in comfort in hotels in Hamilton and elsewhere around Waikato. With local roads closed, competitors and spectators alike were bused to the venue from Hamilton and Cambridge.
Boats, blades and other equipment were shipped to Auckland in 17 containers. The 33 ‘adaptive’ events for rowers with a disability were raced over 1000 m, half the full distance. They started from a special pontoon built from the one used for the 1978 meet. This meant that, for the first time at a world championships, the adaptive races finished in front of the grandstand, not halfway down the course.
The world championships had a budget of nearly $6 million and employed 10 full-time staff. The 600 volunteers were crucial to its success, as they are to all events on this scale. The only blemish was the wind, which cut short the first day of racing and made some of the finals even more gruelling than usual. It also discouraged some spectators from attending the finals weekend, which contributed to a loss of $2.3 million on the event.
As in 1978, many of the structures were temporary. The 142m-long grandstand seated 10,000 people, 6000 of them under cover. The recently completed Don Rowlands Centre (opened in 2009 as a high-performance facility) hosted officials and the media. The athletes’ restaurant in the giant marquee alongside could feed 450 at a sitting. Rowers needing 8000 calories a day tucked into meals heavy on carbohydrates and protein. Options for spectators included sushi and noodles as well as hamburgers and fish and chips.
A week after the world championships, the 5-km Billy Webb Challenge was held for a third time on the Whanganui River. A 2008 race that marked the centennial of Webb’s title defences featured Olympic champion Olaf Tufte and world champion Mahé Drysdale. It was so successful that the challenge became an annual event, with a women’s race added in 2009. The winners in 2010 were Drysdale and fellow New Zealander Emma-Jane Feathery.