Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Willem-Alexander Baan

There is a rowing course in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that is still fairly new, but has been in development for a while. It has been up and running for at least a year but what inspired me to write about it only now is that I was browsing though my pics and came across these moments taken on the course.

We met with the developers in the engineering building on the TU-Delft Campus late 2011. It was fascinating to hear how the course would help to solve the abundance of water problem that the Netherlands has. They are actually slightly below sea-level. The course is situated in a polder (dike) called the Eendragtspolder. Google maps has not yet updated that there it is now water-filled, so when I pulled up my GPS recordings from rowing on the course, it looked like I was going back and forth on land. Now Google Maps has Willem-Alexander Baan on it >

Driving directions to the course are tricky because there are moments you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, driving on farm roads. It is much shorter to get there by bike than by road! That's the Netherlands way for sure. But once you arrive at the open area the simplicity of it all is quite remarkable.

The boathouse plans, when I first saw them, were just too plain. I wanted to through in a little bling, a little Vegas. I guess still had the OKC boathouse in mind. But as it took shape and was revealed at the opening event in the Erasmussprints I took back my initial reaction and thought, wow this is really something.

I rowed in the Erasmussprints in a double with Marie-Anne Frenken. It was super fun. Just a 1000m. We got to row the whole sequence, which starts you at a channel on the side of the official race course. You launch away, or hidden which I think is kinda cool, as spectators only see the racing. Not us squawking and floundering on the docks waving oars around. You row about 1000m as warmup and can circle in this chanel or you enter the start and the racing course. Go down the course, and at the end simple keep circling round which brings you back to the launching area.

The boathouse at first glance looks like a long slab, but then the simple and smart details really make it a model of performance. Small brickwork meshed with metallic lettering; boat bay doors are painted with numbers nicely designed and many windows shape the slab. Boat racks are nicely designed and inside their is a large viewing area, and outside balcony overlooking the start. The boats on the bottom level are nicely racked and erg rooms has little windows that you can look out on the course. Makes erging and looking outside at rowing better than four white walls.

Opposite the course is a nice little restaurant and training area called the Landal De Koornmolen. They offer little bungalow style housing, have a heated swimming pool, full gym and I really enjoyed the food and dining experience at Brasserie 't Graanhuys >

So yes, there are windmills in the distance which means the wind blows more than I would like. I think this course is going to be a nice challenge when racing but definitely going to make a mark in your experiences and not a bad place to visit. The FISA 2016 World Rowing Championships are set on this course, (2012 FISA Congress) and this course will be part of future bids to have Rotterdam on the mark as an Olympic city.