Henley Royal Regatta: Redgrave sees red in pairs: World-class field eliminate British scullers as the women make their debut over the full distance

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THE first women's races over the full distance were rowed at Henley yesterday. As expected the British scullers all went out against world-class opposition but the inspiration which flows from racing the best, and the prospect of some intense contests over the next few days will raise the quality of women's sculling in this country.

All the senior events except the Grand Challenge Cup for eights have now started and the stronger crews are beginning to filter through the draw.

In the Silver Goblets and Nickalls' Challenge Cup Matthew Pinsent and Steven Redgrave, perhaps wearied by the need to grind through the early rounds towards a meeting on Sunday with the only pair which has a chance of providing a good race - Campbell Clayton-Greene and Bill Coventry - chose to play with their opposition Robert Walker and Eric Moore, only briefly leading by more than a length.

Walker and Moore, hopelessly out- powered, also lost the ability to steer their pair and made several incursions into the Olympic champions side of the narrow course and were warned by the umpire, John Veats.

At the finish when the two boats were still entangled Veats declared the race 'clean'. Redgrave said: 'You must be joking.' But Veats would not be drawn knowing that Redgrave and Pinsent could have drawn clear with three hard strokes at any time.

Redgrave raced again later in the day as a substitute in the Leander, University of London coxless four against Nautilus, a lightweight world Student Games selection. Nautilus, of low weight but long memories, teased him by naming their boat Spirit of Eltang after a famous Danish lightweight who in 1986 beat Redgrave in the Diamond sculls. It did not work - the heavy four won by only a length but looked quite unpressed.

Lightweights made progress in the Stewards' Challenge Cup, the premier event for coxless fours, when the holders Notts County beat their clubmates Notts County B who had been moved up from the Wyfold Challenge, the second grade event, by the Stewards' management on inexplicable grounds as none of the B crew has the record or training to be competitive in what is meant to be an international event.

The Princess Elizabeth Challenge was reduced to the last four with fine races in prospect today between Eton and Radley and Kingston Grammar School and Brisbane Boys' College - the first Australian school crew to come to Henley. The Australians recorded the fastest time yesterday in variable conditions and may now be favourites to take home the trophy.

(Photograph omitted)