Pinsent and Cracknell lead British challenge to Americans

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The Independent Online

Britain's world-beating rowers face a tall challenge this weekend as they square up to top-class crews from thirty-two countries in the Seville round of the 2001 Fisa World Cup. The addition of an extra regatta to the series, held in Princeton two months ago, put the Americans top of the leaderboard, and has successfully lured them across the Atlantic to defend their position against strong British and German teams.

Britain's world-beating rowers face a tall challenge this weekend as they square up to top-class crews from thirty-two countries in the Seville round of the 2001 Fisa World Cup. The addition of an extra regatta to the series, held in Princeton two months ago, put the Americans top of the leaderboard, and has successfully lured them across the Atlantic to defend their position against strong British and German teams.

Flagship status in the British squad goes to the men's coxless pair of James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent, who left the United States with a maximum eight points, and are favourites to retain the top spot in Spain. The new combination is still settling down, and every race at this level is a chance for the Olympic champions to learn their strengths and weaknesses in the small boat.

The women's pair, Cath Bishop and Katharine Grainger, also on a steep learning curve, won gold from Germany's Pyritz twins on the second day in Essen three weeks ago. They face them again, together with the Van Daelen twins who had the British pair on the run during the Saturday final, but the biggest test will come from Romania, including the apparently unbeatable Olympic champion Georgeta Damian. Grainger's Olympic quad companion Guin Batten returns to the single scull, and the double-scull baton is taken up by the youngsters Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood.

The Spanish regatta offers the first chance to see the new-look British men's eight, now that its four Cambridge University Blues have finished exam duties. As defending Olympic champions, the British will be the crew everyone wants to beat, and face three other Olympic finalists, including the ever-fast Croatia. The women's eight is a less sparkling affair, with just four entries, but with one of those being the Sydney gold medallists, Romania, the British eight has an early chance to test their pace against the best.

Tim Foster, recovering rapidly from injury, takes second place to the Olympian Matthew Wells in the men's single sculls. The British scullers will be well matched by several former world champions, and the current World Cup leader, Olaf Tufte, of Norway. If Foster proves race-fit, he may be able to move back into a crew boat for the World Championships. One of these could be the men's coxless four of Ed Coode, Toby Garbett, Steve Williams and Phil Simmons, who have a chance to salvage their pride after a disappointing result in Essen. They will be kept on their toes by a young second-string British combination, who join an interesting line-up full of new crews and faces.

There are no entries in the men's lightweight squad's preferred non-World Cup event of the eight, so three coxless pairs are rowing in Seville. The more prestigious lightweight men's coxless fours race has two British development crews entered, who will struggle in a strong international field. Lightweight women's double scullers Helen Casey and Jane Hall also face stiff competition.

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