The World Rowing Federation (FISA) is aiming to stage next year’s Olympic regatta in Tokyo without motorboats on the water while crews are racing.
This would be a notable first in the modern Olympic history of the sport.
Wakes created by motorboats can sometimes adversely affect the fairness of the 2,000-metre course, potentially disadvantaging crews in certain lanes during what will be among the most important races of their careers.
In recent times, television and umpires have used motor-driven catamarans to keep pace with races.
A so-called “static umpiring” system, with officials stationary and positioned at regular intervals along both sides of the course, was already in use at the last Olympic regatta in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
It is anticipated this will also be the case in Tokyo.
However, key TV shots of the rowers in Rio, where the regatta took place in an open lagoon, used motorised catamarans.
At Tokyo, it is anticipated that the presence of an adjacent road at the venue, created from an existing water channel bisecting an island in Tokyo Bay, should obviate any need for camera-bearing catamarans to run alongside the course.
Meanwhile, rowing officials are hoping improved technology might enable the TV catamarans that generally follow behind the racers, capturing crews’ facial expressions as the action unfolds, to be replaced by unmanned, remote-controlled devices that leave no wake.
Drones may also be utilised to provide pictures of the highest-possible quality, if weather conditions permit.
This is not a given, however, because the course is under a landing path for one of the runways at Haneda Airport and it is understood airspace authorities have not yet decided to authorise drones.
Tokyo coverage will include so-called “helicopter shots” from a 2,000m-long cable camera similar to that used at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Fourteen events – seven men’s, seven women’s – will be contested at Tokyo, with the regatta scheduled to take place between July 24 and 31, 2020.
At Rio 2016, where men’s events outnumbered women’s by eight to six, Great Britain topped the medals table with three golds and two silvers, followed by Germany and New Zealand, each with two golds and one silver.