James cracknell and Matthew Pinsent, who have won a World or Olympic title together every year since 1997, won their semi-final at the World Cup here yesterday.
The result sheet did not have them in the lead at the 500-metre mark, being headed by the Italians Giuseppe de Vita and Dario Lari and the Croatians Niksa and Sinisa Skelin.
This is not Pinsent's style. He likes to do what they did at last year's World Championships, blast out and control the race with the first quarter gone. But this is not a serious alarm bell. There are several possible reasons or excuses. A semi-final means finishing in the first three to qualify, and they finished comfortably first in the fastest time of the day. They are using a new ultra-stiff boat, a different design and marque from the one which helped to undo them in the final round of last year's competition. Also, the Italians are chancers, after making a splash on their home water (but are rowing really well). They may have been caught napping or the result sheet is at fault.
The most likely reason is the last. Cracknell says that he looked round at the 500 metre mark and saw that they were ahead. "Croatia had a slow start. We were given their time on the sheet, Italy got ours and Croatia got Italy's," he said.
He and Pinsent certainly look good and together, a crew in control who progress from race to race.
Ramon di Clemente and Donovan Cech, the world silver medallists from South Africa, won the other semi-final after being led by Yugoslavia for part of the race and challenged by the American pair. But they were three seconds slower than Cracknell and Pinsent. If the British are not first to 500m in today's final, we will have to re-examine that list. But they should win all the way.
The coxless four of Toby Garbett, Steve Williams, Josh West and Rick Dunn were second behind their old sparring partners, the Germans. The British were world champions two years ago (with Ed Coode replacing West) with the Germans runners-up, a position reversed last year. The Italians will be in the picture today as well, a seasoned crew who won the other semi-final. "It was a bit up and down," said the stroke Rick Dunn of the British performance. "The Germans got to me a bit. Glad that one's out of the way and we have a chance to put things right."
Ian Lawson from the British double scull who is going it alone here because his partner Matt Wells has a cold, has done brilliantly to reach the final after coming home second to Olaf Tufte, the 2001 world champion. Today they will line up against Marcel Hacker, the reigning world champion, the Czech Vaclav Chalupa and the battling Slovenians Iztok Cop and Luka Spik. All except Lawson has won a world medal, several of them more than one.
Cath Bishop and Kath Grainger won their semi-final of the pairs in a tight race with the French to reach the final, and Britain's second pair, Bev Gough and Ros Carslake, qualified with third place in the same semi-final.
Rebecca Romero and Debbie Flood followed the Romanians Georgeta Craciun and Aurica Barascu in the double sculls, with Sarah Winckless and Alison Mowbray going to the B final. The other semi-final, 20 seconds faster, was won by the Russians Larisa Merk and Irina Fedotova ahead of a German pair which includes Kathrin Boron, a gold medallist in this event four times since 1997.
"The wind is all over they place," said Romero and Flood's coach Mark Banks. "We started in a tail and finished in a head, so that certainly accounts for the figures."
Eight of the 12 British World Cup crews here have reached finals, while four others have also found success in the non-Olympic events outside the cup. These are Sarah Birch and Jo Hammond in the women's lightweight singles and Nick Wakefield in the men's equivalent, with Mike Dostal and Hugh Mackworth-Praed, the three of them candidates for the men's lightweight quadruple scull, relegated to the B finals. Mike Hennessy and John Warnock qualified in the lightweight pairs.