The coxless four, who also included Tim Foster and James Cracknell, controlled their semi-final from the start, clocking 5min 57.85sec.
Italy fought hard in the last 500 metres to finish second in 5:58.43, but they must have been aware that the British crew were not at full power. "It is the final on Saturday that counts and there was no point in lots of fireworks today," said Redgrave, who is one race away from his sixth world title.
The final, in which the French should provide the strongest opposition, coincides with the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. "It's a very difficult situation," Redgrave said. "We'll concentrate on our race, but we'll be at home very much in our hearts."
Withdrawing from the competition was not an option. "The world championships are a one-off event," Redgrave said. "People in the crew may not be again in the position to be in a world final. I'm sure everybody at home would feel the same."
Searle made the final of the single sculls at his first attempt in a thrilling race inwhich he moved from fifth place to second.
"I kept my eyes in the boat knowing that my training times compared well and that they'd struggle to live with me," he said.
The British double sculls of Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten continued to exceed expectations by cruising to victory in the semi-finals and securing the preferred central lane in the final.
The women's pair had to reorganise at short notice when Cath Bishop went down with flu. Francesca Zino was promoted from the eight to row with Dot Blackie in the semi-final and the pair were in second place until the final sprint when they were passed on the line by Russia.
A third spot was enough to take Jane Hall into her first world final in the lightweight single sculls.
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