James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent opened their season by coasting home to win their heat of the pairs in the first round of the World Cup here yesterday. Hot sunshine and humidity on Mussolini's former flying-boat airport dictated economy of effort, just enough to qualify for today's semi-final.
Last year's world silver medallists, Ramon di Clemente and Donovan Cech of South Africa and Sinisa and Niksa Skelin of Croatia, won the other heats in faster times. It was also the coxless four's first outing, and Toby Garbett, Steve Williams, Josh West and Rick Dunn led their race to qualify for a semi-final ahead of France, Egypt, China and Uzbekistan. Italy, ranked third in the world last year to Britain's second, were marginally the fastest heat winners.
The top women's crews also won to progress to the semifinals - Rebecca Romero and Debbie Flood in the double sculls, Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands in the lightweight doubles and Cath Bishop and Kath Grainger in the pair. Romero's usual partner, Frances Houghton, is sitting exams, while Bishop makes a welcome return to the team after retiring to join the Foreign Office after the 2001 season.
The lightweight double scullers Matthew Beechey and Steve Lee and three lightweight single scullers - Mike Dostal, Nick Wakefield and Hugh Mackworth-Praed - also qualified for the semi-finals.