Pinsent and Redgrave cruise

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reports from Tampere, Finland

Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent opened the World Championships here by easily winning the first heat of their coxless pairs yesterday.

Their victory means that they became the first British crew to earn a place in next year's Olympic Games regatta. Though the winning margin over the Dutch pair, Vos and Simon, was only one and a half seconds, the Britons had cut their pace to a cruise after 500 metres and still finished almost a minute ahead of new entrant, Kazakhstan.

This win also puts the world record holders directly into the semi-final on Thursday alongside Croatia, with Marko Banovic, from the Cambridge Boat Race winning crew, as well as a new crew from France and the 1994 bronze medallists from Australia.

Peter Haining had a similarly untroubled first heat in the lightweight singles scull, which was fortunate as it was his first outing this season. The man to beat is Ireland's Niall O'Toole, who has won the event throughout the summer, but it is still wide open.

The men's coxless four, with the Searle brothers in the middle and topped and tailed by Tim Foster, at stroke, and Rupert Obholzer, also won after allowing themselves to be led over the first quarter by a new Chinese four that quickly faded. Italy and France, last year's gold and silver medal winners respectively, also won heats.

The British four have done well in training and looked in control of the tricky headwind conditions. The men's lightweight eight won their heat by eight seconds from the Germans but were only concerned with the Danes who won the other heat by 10 seconds from Italy.

Today's racing opens with the prospect of a difficult first race for the new men's lightweight double of Carl Smith and Andy Sinton, who came together after Haining and Smith split at Lucerne.

The new lightweight four, another crew with Atlanta in their sights, open with an easier race, although Sweden will be hard to beat.