Rowing: Pinsent takes heart from victory

Britain's recently re-formed coxless four is at sixes and sevens at the first World Cup regatta. James Cracknell is at home on an exercise bike while his rib stress fracture cures, and with Ed Coode replacing him the crew won their heat yesterday to qualify for tomorrow's final.

The mood is optimistic, but the row was not comfortable. Coode, in the bow seat, had his back into a headwind, Steve Williams, at two, caught a crab 700 metres into the race, Alex Partridge, at three, is still getting used to how slow a four is after the eight in which he won a bronze medal last year, and Matthew Pinsent, in the stroke seat, is glad to put a winter of altitude camps on rowing machines and a bout of tonsillitis behind him.

The crew took the lead from the start, and by halfway only the Danes stuck with them. In customary Pinsent style, the second half of the race was economical, enough to beat the Danes by a length but lacking body coordination if not bladework. The Danes ranked 12th last year, while the Germans, the world silver medallists, won the second heat in a much faster time.

Pinsent gets the best out of any occasion. "It was nice to win again," said the man who was pitched back into a four when his promise of Athens gold in a pair was dented by fourth place in the World Championships last year. "We came here to concentrate on the ingredients of winning rather than the winning itself. Since we are new and are possibly not in our final line-up, we have a chance to learn more about the others than they have about us."

Coode, Williams, Partridge and Pinsent had the best result of the day, the only British crew of 11 to qualify directly for a final. But they have been together for only 10 days and have changed the seating order in that period. Williams, the only one of them who has rowed in the GB four since 2001, dismissed his crab as a stroke "well held in".

"I'm not going to read too much into the first race," he said. "Potentially we have a lot more power than the other four if we can harness it." The men's eight, with two changes since the Olympic trials three weeks ago, led until almost halfway before losing to the Romanians by nearly three seconds. The result is a repêchage today, another race for experience before almost certainly racing Romania and the other heat winners, Germany, in the final. The four, bless them, might have gained more from the weekend if they had been pressed by the Danes to a similar route to the final.

Conditions were difficult, a fractious headwind making comparisons of performance hard. In the absence of Rick Dunn and Toby Garbett because of Dunn's illness, the Oxford students Peter Reed and Dave Livingston kept honours alive by reaching the pairs semi-final through the repêchages yesterday. Elise Laverick and Sarah Winckless won their double sculls repêchage, and Ian Lawson scraped home to qualify for a semi in the single sculls. Matt Wells, Lawson's old partner in the double, is in a repêchage today with his new partner, Matt Langridge.

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