Batten leads charge as Thames set pace

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The Independent Online

A successful day of racing at the Henley Women's Regatta saw just four trophies go abroad, an encouraging sign of the strength in depth of women's rowing in this country. The strongest club overall was Thames Rowing Club, with five crews in finals, four of which became champions.

The Olympian Guin Batten, in the colours of Thames, won the open single sculls with ease, beating the lightweight and previous England Commonwealth sculler Victoria Wood. Both women now move on to the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, where they face the might of the international champions Ekaterina Karsten and Katrin Rutchow.

Guin's sister, Miriam Batten, added to the family silverware with a win in the open quadruple sculls, the Olympic silver medallist stroking an Upper Thames/Henley composite of high-pedigree former internationals who have come out of retirement.

They beat a young Australian crew from Sydney Rowing Club, who had formed the quad after just failing to make their Under-23 national squad, and included a stroke girl more used to rowing with one oar. Now both finalists look forward to Henley Royal Regatta, where they compete in the new women's quad sculls event.

The lightweight oarswomen Jo Nitsch and Sarah Birch raced the Zimbabwean lightweight pair in the openweight coxless pairs final, winning by three lengths, while international Alison Eastman swept past Helen Mangan to take the lightweight single sculls title.

Junior sculling was once again a Henley Rowing Club affair, the local club winning both the junior double and junior quadruple scull titles, as they did in 1999. The junior singles win went to Ireland in the form of Eimear Moran from Offaly, who recorded a fast time in this relatively new event.

The large crew boats were dominated by overseas entries, Yale University leading the veteran women of Community Rowing, Boston, to take the Open Eights victory. In the club eights, the home-grown Twickenham could not catch St Catharine's, of Canada, who train at the same base as the Canadian national team. St Paul's School, of the United States, equalled their record time of five years ago in winning the School/Junior eights, beating the fancied Headington School Oxford after a great tussle which saw neither crew drop below sprint rates. The only eights win for British women was in the all-UK club final, victory coming for Edinburgh University over their student rivals Bristol, by a quarter of a length.

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