Foster still finds single skills wanting

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The Independent Online

Tim Foster's fall from grace continued when he lost to the Australian Duncan Free in the Diamond Challenge Sculls here. Foster, a member of Sir Steve Redgrave's gold medal-winning coxless four in Sydney, has had problems with a persistent back injury and he has struggled to adjust to the life of a single sculler.

After a series of disappointing World Cup results, he viewed the Regatta here as an opportunity to restore confidence. His emphatic victory on Thursday over Tony Larkman suggested he could be back to his best, but Free, who rows for the Surfer's Paradise Rowing Club Australia, stormed into an early lead and by the quarter mile stage had established a two-length advantage. His final winning margin was two thirds of a length.

Foster was not too unhappy, however. "If you have to be knocked out, at least Friday's a good day to go," he said.

The remaining three of the famous four are still alive. While Redgrave begins his quadruple sculls racing today, Matthew Pinsent and partner James Cracknell are well into the groove. They allowed a spirited London pair to lead them off the start, before powering through to win. Pinsent, who is doubling up, has been let off regatta duties this week, but fellow steward Richard Stanhope has no such luck. Between spells manning the boat tents he is stroking and steering Molesey's coxless four, a strong entry in the Visitors', recently opened up to non-student crews.

It was a day of mixed fortunes for Britain's single scullers yesterday. Guin Batten won her Princess Royal quarter-final easily, but will be hard pushed to beat the Olympic champion, Ekaterina Karsten, in the semi today. Matthew Wells made short work of his erstwhile junior doubles partner, Mark Langridge, and now faces the unfunded national trials winner, Dave Hallett, of Mic Mac, Canada.

The British heavyweight women's squad were on fine form, racing as Nautilus in the Henley Prize for eights and the new women's quadruple sculls cups yesterday morning. Both crews won comfortably, the quad marching through Dutch development scullers Hollandia 'A', and the eight demolishing a student London/Oxford Brookes composite. The eight, made from the squad double, pair and half, are set fair to meet Australia tomorrow: a final to watch, as yesterday first Australia and then Nautilus cracked the Barrier record.

The lightweights Peter Haining and Nick Strange, giving away over three stone a man, won a battle royal with a pair of Petars, the Croatian spares Milin and Lovric. The Croatian heavyweights led by a matter of feet for the first quarter mile, before a sustained push from the British broke through. The duo look like a different crew, following losses in Seville. "In three weeks we've turned the speed of the pair right round," said Haining, a former triple world champion lightweight single sculler, who predicted the semi-final against Germany's Dietlef Kirchoff and Robert Sens today would be close.

The end of the day was marred by equipment failure. One crew cracked an oar on the way to the start and sliding seats broke in two successive races. A fast Amsterdam student eight from Nereus came a cropper this way within 20 strokes, leaving the Yale second lightweight boat to row to a default win. In the next race the same jinx hit the Leander/Sudbury junior quad, giving Windsor Boys School B an unexpected victory which will pit them against their own A crew today.