The Benderson Chase

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Pictured: The Benderson Chase at Nathan Benderson Park in 2019. Photo courtesy of https://ncfcatalyst.com/10th-annual-sarasota-invitational-regatta-held-at-nathan-benderson-park/.

This past weekend, one of the great burgeoning traditions in Sarasota took place: the Benderson Chase. The two-day regatta, formerly known as the Head of the 941, launched in 2013 and is one of the largest regattas in the state. This year, the race, hosted by Nathan Benderson Park and Sarasota Crew in partnership with Visit Sarasota County, featured an estimated 450 boats and over 1,000 rowers on the lake in Nathan Benderson Park. “We’ve been hosting the race for ten-plus years now and it’s really continued to grow in the last few years post Covid,” says Rick Brown, Director of Operations for Sarasota Crew. “The race will feature teams from all over Florida, a team from The Bahamas and even a couple individuals from Pittsburgh. It’s a fun fall event for the rowing world with the unique course set up that we’re able to have here.”

Part of what makes this event so unique is the lake itself in Nathan Benderson Park. While the 400-acre lake is roughly 2,000 meters long, making it perfect for the traditional 2,000 meter sprint races that occur in the spring, the Benderson Chase is a 5,000 meter head race. Not only is the Benderson Chase more than twice the distance of a typical sprint race, it also is not in a straight line. Boats are forced to navigate around the back channels of the lake, making strategic decisions about which line to take. Boats take off at staggered times, racing against the clock instead of each other.

“For this race, we actually race around the lake.It adds to some of the fun–we go through the back channel around the island on the lake and the bridges, then there’s a choice of which way you can go coming out of that channel,” says Brown. “A lot of rowers enjoy having to navigate the course and not just racing for 5,000 meters in a straight line.”

Pictured: The Benderson Chase at Nathan Benderson Park in 2019. Photo courtesy of https://ncfcatalyst.com/10th-annual-sarasota-invitational-regatta-held-at-nathan-benderson-park/.

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