Rowing: Canadians resist Leander's surge to plot final course

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Leander and the Canadian under-23 eight hurled themselves into a headwind and a good scrap in the Grand Challenge Cup yesterday. The Canadian team immediately showed in front but encountered the wrath of the umpire, Mike Sweeney, who had some difficulty in persuading cox Ronan Sabo-Walsh to move back on to his station.

The Canadians built a lead of three quarters of a length in the first quarter-mile, while Sweeney repeatedly hollered at them to "move" as they veered towards the centre several times, washing down their opponents. Just as the Canadians seemed to have the race in the bag Leander raised their heads and their rating. Their magnificent burn closed most of the gap between the two boats, but the Canadians had just enough left to hold Leander off by a canvas and progress to a final today against the University of Southern California.

Leander appealed, claiming the Canadians continuously washed them down, but the umpire judged that the early infringements did not affect the outcome of the race. You could argue that Phelan Hill could have done Leander a favour by sticking closer to the booms on his Berkshire station. In the other half of the Grand, the Californians, who beat the Danish national squad, were rowing in a boat used by Estonia to try to qualify for the Olympics – this was hardly surprising, since most of the crew are from Estonia.

The Canadians ended Leander's attempt to win all the top three events for eights, but their other two eight-oared boats survived semi-finals after the Ladies' Plate crew beat Osnabruecker and the Thames Cup crew beat Agecroft. The latter charged into the lead but paid the price in turbulent water and headwind further on.

Two junior composite quads provided the day's best drama. Sir William Borlase's and Leander and Peterborough City and Nottingham RC dead-heated in the Fawley Cup in the morning, and less than two hours later Peterborough won the re-row in strong winds. They went on to win the semi-final against Malvern Prep of the US.