Brandin the class act

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The Independent Online


reports from Henley

With most of the Olympians on their way to Atlanta, Henley has been resounding to roars of triumph from spare men and wannabes who found consolation in bigger crowds and larger prizes on the world's oldest stretch of racing river.

The only event to go to the holder was the Women's single in which Maria Brandin, the World Champion, was made to work for her four and a half length win over Caroline Luthi, but can now return to Sweden to continue training for Atlanta.

Proper comparisons are impossible when the wind is swinging around but the winners of the five different events for eights seemed remarkably close in standard. Although Imperial College in the Grand were 12 seconds faster, Brentwood School of Vancouver was perhaps the most impressive in winning the Princess Elizabeth Cup for Schools. Tony Carr their coach for 30 years said: "This is the crew of my career."

Goldie, which is the Cambridge Boat Club in summertime, won the Ladies' Plate in comfort, beating Leander Club by 31/2 lengths. However, they must have cursed the missed opportunity to try for the Grand in which the British interest was left to Imperial College who looked almost as comfortable in racing away from the Dutch National lightweight squad to take the Grand for the first time in the club's history.

Luka Grubor, the Croatian International medallist, rowing in the number five seat, has won the Ladies' Plate here before and said: "I thought that was best, but this topped it out."

The Diamond Sculls went back to Delft, in the Netherlands, for the first time since 1923, with Merlin Vervoorn, a 20-year-old Chemistry student who turned down the chance to be an Olympic spare after losing the qualification trials to the British lightweight Peter Haining. Vervoorn, who came to Henley in preference, took his chance with a devastating burst at the threequarter mile which carried him past the Swiss Andy Bihrer, and allowed a cushion of 11/2 lengths at the finish.

The Prince Philip Cup, for the now unfashionable coxed fours, was closely fought between the US champions and Berliner Ruderclub, which came together first as the sixth-placed World championships German coxless four of 1993, and took another sixth place in the coxed four a year later.

The Americans, led from the bows by Mike Porterfield with two Olympic medals, were never more than threequarters of a length adrift, but were unable to close the gap as they had done in earlier rounds. Ulrich Britting, bow in the Berlin crew, who with dual citizenship had just missed selection in the US squad, said: "This is a wonderful moment at the best regatta in the world."

Yale University celebrated the centenary of their first visit to Henley by winning the Temple Challenge Cup with their freshman crew. But the best race of the day was the last when, in the Visitor's Cup, Argo the Dutch students crew with two losing finalists from the Grand crew passed Isis, with two Oxford blues, in the last few strokes to win by half a length.