Rowing New Zealand will return home with no gold medals and no world champions for the first time since 2001, but eight-time champion Eric Murray insists there's no need to panic.
"We're probably just a little bit disappointed for the fact that we're just used to getting a tonne of medals," he told Newshub.
Murray, who combined with Hamish Bond in an 'unbeatable' pair for seven years, believes the team likely missed something crucial in the six weeks of preparation prior.
"Something just hasn't gone right, you know. We just haven't progressed or we've gone slightly backwards, and other people have - that's a programming situation.
"To be fair, as an athlete, you probably just have to take ownership and say, 'well, did we do everything we possibly could to get there?'"
New Zealand entered the regatta with three world champion crews, following a seven-medal haul in Florida last year.
But they picked up just three medals in Bulgaria - two silver and one bronze - and just two years out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it's resurrected claims that Rowing NZ has got its timing wrong.
"To lose and learn at this stage in the Olympic cycle is probably better than losing closer or on the Olympic stage itself," Murray said.
"Every year is pretty much an experiment, you change things… and then you see how it works out and then you review it."
Rowing NZ chief executive Simon Peterson admits it will take a good hard look at why it couldn't convert eight A-finalists to medals.
"Our high performance programme isn't immune to other countries catching up," Peterson told Newshub. "We need to be better next time around.
“It's a good hard lesson to learn and one our athletes will take on the chin.
Rowing New Zealand is also heading into new territory at high performance level, with the resignation of HP director Alan Cotter effective at the conclusion of the world championships.
"Alan's done 10 years of great service and the success of the sport during that time has been really significant," Peterson said.
Cotter's departure will see development manager Judith Hamilton take over as the interim HP director, until after elite selections in March 2019.
And Peterson believes now’s the right time for the organisation to change its approach.
"How we used to operate is not how we need to operate in the future," Peterson said.
"The delivery of our message needs to change, but our messaging around high performance expectations won't."
Regardless, Murray believes the athletes will ultimately drive their own return to the podium.
"Even if we didn’t have a high performance system, you would still have athletes competing who want to win," Murray said.
"You can’t be too hasty and say, 'oh right, we're going to cut everyone', because you're always up for selection, every single day - there's no complacency.
"We have been producing some really good results and sometimes you've just got to shake it off and say, 'okay, something didn’t go right, so let’s learn from that and make sure it doesn't happen again'."
The team are taking a three-and-a-half week break, before they return for the New Zealand summer season.
Men's Single Sculls - Robbie Manson - 5th
Men's Pair - Tom Murray & Michael Brake - 5th
Men's Double Sculls - John Storey & Chris Harris - 3rd
Men's Lightweight Double Sculls - Benjamin Van Dalen & Matthew Dunham - 4th
Men's Quadruple Sculls - Nathan Flannery, Mahe Drysdale, Cameron Crampton & Lewis Hollows - 4th
Women's Double Sculls - Brooke Donoghue & Olivia Loe - 2nd
Women's Pair - Grace Prendergast & Kerri Gowler - 2nd
Women's Lightweight Double Sculls - Zoe McBride & Jackie Kiddle - 6th