A close call in coxless pairs

Rowing
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The Independent Online
The Henley stewards never give a race verdict of less than one foot, but it still took them five minutes of deliberation over the finish photo to separate Martin Cross and Richard Stanhope, both 39, from a Swiss pair, Benedict Schmidt and Camille Codoni, averaging 16 years and two stone a man their juniors in the quarter-finals of the Silver Goblets event for coxless pairs yesterday.

The Swiss got the result but the Molesey pair were accorded the best cheer that Cross could remember since he first won here in 1975, "and that is more important to me than the disappointment of losing".

There were few clues on race prospects from the race timings because the wind swung about from head to tail and the rain bucketed down between bursts of sunshine.

At the worst of the downpour University of London and the Oxford reserves, Isis, swapped the lead three times in their heat of the Britannia Cup, which had to be postponed after Rob Allen in the No 3 seat for Isis went down with a bout of food poisoning on the previous night. The two crews are sharing digs.

In the Princess Elizabeth Cup for school eights, Brentwood School of Vancouver Canada set the standard with a comprehensive drubbing of Hampton, one of the strongest British schools. St Paul's came through on a "row over" after the King's School Chester No 4 man, Markus Baker, had caught a crab and severely damaged his back bringing the crew to an abrupt halt.

In the women's sculls the Swedish world champion, Maria Brandin, pushed hard all the way against New Zealand's Sonia Scown, rating 35 strokes to the minute against 30, and won as she pleased. Today she meets Rachel Stanhope, 31, who is three stone lighter but still prevailed over Tish Reid who was racing for Olympic selection three weeks ago.

Stanhope, who trains by cycling half an hour each way to and from work and retired after the 1992 Olympics, was led by two lengths to beyond half way. Then a 20-stroke burst brought her back in touch and, as she observed, "I saw her head go down." Stanhope sculled on to win by four and a half lengths.

In the Diamond Sculls James Martinez, 31, second in the US Olympic trials, lost by one foot to Merlin Vervoorn, the Dutch reserve sculler after a great race with never more than half a length in it.

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