Four years have flown by for Rowing New Zealand officials.

That's the time between putting their hand up to host the world championships and reality hitting home tomorrow when racing begins at Lake Karapiro.

Chief executive Tom Mayo remembers getting grey hairs for a time in 2008. Recession time.

"We had to start door-knocking and say 'we need your support to cover the world champs'," he said.

Support came and after today's opening ceremony, racing starts in earnest tomorrow morning.

First up for New Zealand's contingent of 55 rowers will be lightweight coxless pair James Lassche and Graham Oberlin-Brown.

They are not among the more fancied of the home town squad but with entries in 18 events, there is an expectation that a strong return in recent years will be maintained.

"We're travelling pretty well," RNZ high performance manager Alan Cotter said.

"The athletes and coaches are happy."

Cotter was cox of the eight which won New Zealand's only medal, a bronze, the last time the worlds were at Karapiro, 32 years ago.

Much more is expected this time.

"We got five medals last year so we'd certainly like to add to that because of the home advantage.

"It's the crowds, the familiar surroundings, comfortable with the food, that's the environment we've got going for us."

As of yesterday, 44,500 tickets had been sold and organisers are eyeing more.

It will be the first chance for friends and family to see what all the fuss has been about as New Zealand's elite have put themselves among the leading nations in recent years.

"I guess there is more expectation," Hamish Bond said.

With coxless pair chum Eric Murray, Bond is one of the four New Zealand crews defending world titles won in Poland last year.

"Everyone's got friends and family coming to watch who hasn't been able to see them race internationally before.

"A lot of my family have never done that and obviously I want to do well. I don't want to turn up and get second for the first time in two years."

To the coxless pair falls the mantle of New Zealand's best gold medal chance.

That might have been single sculler Mahe Drysdale, chasing his fifth world crown, but his campaign has been undermined by back problems.

Bond and Murray have beaten their fiercest rivals, Andy Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed in their last 10 clashes.

There will be some rousing collisions on the water next week, but that shapes as perhaps the most sizzling of final confrontations.

Last year, Britain and Germany won nine medals altogether in Poland; the United States and Italy seven apiece.

However New Zealand and Germany shared the top of the gold medal podium with four.

Expect no surprises in terms of how the bulk of the medals shake down. Germany are defending their mens' eight, double scull and lightweight men's coxless four crowns; Britain's solitary gold came in the coxless four.

Their manager, David Tanner, has a yardstick.

"My reckoning is when you come to a worlds, then if you've got two medal chances you'll get one medal," he said.

And hidden not far beneath the surface for all nations next week there is an end game.

Qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012 is next year.

The worlds may be the big deal among the rowing cogniscenti; but the Olympics brings the fame.

"It's all about heading towards London," Cotter said.

* * *
Ready to race
* The world championships start tomorrow with heats across 10 classes, from 10.05am
* Semifinals begin on Wednesday, with finals spread over four days, from Thursday to Sunday.
* New Zealand are defending four titles won in Poland last year - the men's coxless pair (Eric Murray and Hamish Bond), the lightweight double scull (Storm Uru and Peter Taylor), the single scull (Mahe Drysdale) and the non-Olympic lightweight single scull (Duncan Grant).
* About 800 athletes will contest the regatta, which will be assisted by around 600 volunteers.