Rowing: British men earn shot at Dortmund

Socialites may have been content to doze after a good lunch at muggy, breezy Henley yesterday, but rowing fans were kept awake by a series of bruisingly close races inter-spersed with appearances by Britain's men's squad.

Oxford Brookes and Molesey in the Grand, alias GB, led the Czech Under-23 crew over the 1m 550yd course, but failed to open clear water, winning by three quarters of a length. This earnt them a place in today's final against the latest combination from the German national team, Dortmund Training Centre, who came out on top in an intense scrap with Oxford University in the afternoon.

Oxford, angry at being kicked into the top event at the regatta when they wished to row in the next level down, the Ladies' Plate, pushed Dortmund to a much faster time than that of Brookes and Molesey, although conditions were not necessarily comparable. Like the Czechs, Oxford never allowed their opponents to get more than a length ahead, and closed to within half a length at the end.

Cambridge, containing many of the men who set a record in the Isis-Goldie race in March, started in the Ladies' Plate and conquered Brown Alumni of the US by three feet. This race raised the comatose from deck chairs as the former internationals and grey-hairs from Providence, Rhode Island, went stroke for stroke with the Light Blues all the way. Cambridge led by two feet at the Barrier, one foot at Fawley, were level after three quarters of a mile, led again by one foot at the mile, and were level again at the mile-and-eighth signal.

The eye could not split them along the enclosures, but the camera confirmed the narrowest of Cambridge wins. One Cambridge man said of Brown: "Great for 2,000 metres, but forgot Henley's a bit further." Cambridge meet Leander, who beat a superb Irish lightweight crew by two lengths, in today's final.

Britain's coxless four beat Dukla Prague comfortably in the Stewards'. Steve Williams, Peter Reed, Alex Partridge and Andy Hodge meet the Canadian national crew in the final. They made a brilliant start against Sydney RC and pummelled them by four lengths.

Less impressive were Kieran and Josh West, the GB pair in the Goblets. They were beaten easily by the lighter but more experienced South Africans, Ramon Di Clementé and Donovan Cech, the holders and Olympic bronze medallists.

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