James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent, the deposed world pairs champions, return to a four-oared boat in the Fullers Head of the River Fours this morning. With Ed Coode, Richard Edgington and the cox Christian Cormack of Leander, they are the leading coxed four in the four-and-a-quarter-mile time trial from Mortlake to Putney.
The pair, who won gold medals in the coxless fours at the Sydney Olympic Games, lost their winning streak at the World Championships in Milan this summer, finishing in fourth place. By placing them in the coxed boat, Jürgen Grobler, the men's chief coach, has avoided a head-to-head with Britain's silver medal coxless four, composed of Steve Williams, Josh West, Toby Garbett and Rick Dunn, in their first race since the World Championships.
Last year the winning coxless boat was 17 seconds faster than the fastest coxed one, so that is the figure to watch. If the gap is significantly smaller today, there may be some interesting seat changes with only a few months to go before the Athens Olympics. Molesey also have a powerful coxed four entry with the GB internationals Tom James, stroke of the eight, James Livingston, Jonno Devlin and Phil Simmons. Their cox is Adrian Ellison, an Olympic gold medallist in 1984.
The leading women's quadruple scullers are Alex Beever, Rebecca Romero, Debby Flood and Alison Mowbray, but the boat that looks unstoppable is the Marlow composite, who start further down the order with Elise Laverick and Sarah Winckless from the GB quad, Cath Bishop from the World Championship pair, and the lightweight Tracy Langlands. University of London are the second women's quad in the starting order and will do well to make an impression on the senior internationals.
Leander's men's quad - Simon Cottle and Pete Gardner with the GB double scullers Ian Lawson and Matt Langridge - head the 500-boat procession at the start.