Redgrave and Pinsent head men of the river

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Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent chose to lead from the front when they made their debut in their eighth season together as the stern pair in the Leander crew which started and finished in first place in the Tideway Head of the River Race in London yesterday.

University of London, starting second, left a huge gap of 25 seconds, instead of the normal 10, and Leander were left to race through in a vacuum and probably won by seven seconds in 17min 28sec. Maurice Hayes, the London coach, said: "Leander would definitely have reacted well to pressure, and we wanted to find our own rhythm and to row our own race. It was only eight seconds last year and we wanted to get closer this time."

However this tactic suited the Leander crew which, if it had a second item on the agenda, was concerned to look as compatible as could be, behind the two men who are searching for companions of the right calibre to make up a four for the coming season. They have said they will not race the pair, in which they won two Olympic Championships. Leander, coached by Jurgen Grobler, will be the starting point for assembling the four as the other likely candidates are scattered throughout the other clubs.

Rupert Obholzer, who was at six in the London University crew which provisionally finished second, may be available after the National Trials, when he will race with Tim Foster, who will stroke the Oxford crew in this week's Boat Race.

Behind London University, London Rowing Club and Nottinghamshire County both passed Molesey, who were without their normal kingpins, the Searle brothers. Greg Searle is concentrating on single sculling and Jonny is waiting for a back operation. Molesey dropped out of the first 10, while Oxford Brookes swept up from 13th to finish in the top six.

The foreign entries were not at full strength, with Tegel and Wiking from Berlin both dropping slightly and only Zurich SC Switzerland improving from 16th into eighth. In the provisional results, Tideway Sculler School had come up from 17th to ninth but as the World Lightweight Single Sculling champion, Peter Haining, was stroking the crew and has not yet registered to race with the Amateur Rowing Association the crew may be disqualified.

The conditions over the course were good in spite of the slack tide, which should have helped the crews starting among the new entries, most notably Imperial College and its sister club, Queen's Tower. Imperial lost by only two lengths in 10 minutes to the very fast Cambridge Boat Race crew last weekend and can expect to move up into the top 10 when the full results are published.

The Women's Boat Race in Henley this afternoon will be dominated by the 6ft 4in Sarah Winkless, the Cambridge president. Oxford have no old Blues returning except the president and cox, Abi Chapman, who steered the men's race in 1995 and the women's in 1996.