Rowing: Britons outclass Spik and Cop

Matt Wells and Steve Rowbotham came into their own in the Double Sculls at Henley yesterday when they rowed the world champions Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia to a virtual standstill. Spik and Cop led from the start and were one second outside the Barrier record of one minute 58 seconds set by Adam Clift and Steve Redgrave way back in 1982.

But Wells and Rowbotham, winners of the bronze medal in the World Cup at Poznan a fortnight ago never allowed them more than half a length lead. They attacked before the mile signal and went ahead by two feet. A little further on, Spik and Cop let their rating right off and almost stopped 300m short of the line.

Spik was disarmingly honest when asked what happened. "Nothing,'' he said with a grin. Cop said: "We couldn't find our rhythm and we couldn't keep with the British crew. We are not used to match racing.'' The verdict of "not rowed out'' seems unfair on both crews, obscuring a great race as far as the mile and eighth signal.

The saga of the Searle brothers' revival came to an end a third of a length short in the Visitors' for Coxless Fours. Jonny, Greg and their crew-mates Jan Herzog and Richard Wearne were led by Oxford Brookes and Reading University, GB's potential under-23 coxless four, by never more than a length. As in all races which got them to the final, they dealt a superb tactical hand, this time a series of boat-lifting spurts along the enclosure, but it wasn't quite enough.

Britain's Eight lost the Grand to a superb Netherlands crew by a length. Oxford Brookes won the Temple half a length ahead of Cornell, their first success in five finals since their last triumph in 1995.

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